As National Poetry Month continues, celebrate with the works of some Greek-American poets. Though often inspired by the rich history and culture of Greece and Cyprus, Greek-American poets whether writing in Greek or English or both have a unique voice all their own. Here are a few Greek-American poets to add to your reading list.
Stephanos Papadopoulos, born in North Carolina, and raised in Paris and Athens, is the author of three poetry collections. His first book, Lost Days, was published in 2001 and is available in an audio edition from Rattapallax and co-publisher Leviathan. Hotel-Dieu, the poet’s second collection was published in 2009 and features some remarkable poems influenced by the currents of ancient and modern, Greek, American, English, and French literature and culture. Papadopoulos published his third collection, The Black Sea, in 2012. This ambitious work tackles the traumatic events of the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Pontic Greek genocide through sonnet-monologues, powerfully bringing history to life. Of Pontic and Cretan origin, Papadopoulos wrote the poems on his travels to the Black Sea region where the Pontic Greeks once thrived as a community. The book was written with a Civita Ranieri Fellowship received in 2010. In 2014, the poet won the Jeanette Haein Ballard Writer’s Prize.
Tryfon Tolides, born in Korifi Voiou, Greece, emigrated to the United States at age 6 with his family. His debut poetry collection, An Almost Pure Empty Walking, includes beautiful poems drawing on life in Greece and the immigrant experience in the United States. First published in 2006 by Penguin, the book is part of the National Poetry Series, selected by Mary Karr. Poems by Tolides have appeared in literary journals and magazines including America, Mondo Greco, Poetry Bay, and the Washington Square Review.
Nicolas Calas, the poet, art critic, and essayist was born Nikos Kalamaris in Switzerland and raised in Athens. Descended from a wealthy family from Syros on his father’s side, Calas was also a great-great-grandson of Markos Botsaris through his mother’s family, the Phanariot Caradjas (also spelled Karatzas). Rejecting his family’s wealthy background, he espoused radical political views as a student at the University of Athens and became a Trotskyist. His early poetry from this time period was influenced by the modernist styles prevalent in the 1920’s and 1930’s, including futurism, expressionism, and surrealism. His first poetry collection was published in 1932, but failed to find an appreciative audience. In the volatile years leading up to World War II, Calas divided his time between Athens and Paris, then moved to Lisbon to await a visa for the United States. Calas made New York his home from 1940 until his death in 1988. He became a citizen of the Unites States in 1945. Calas returned to Greece in the 1950’s and resumed writing poetry, publishing two books under the pseudonym Nikitas Randos, Odos Nikita Randou (Nikitas Randos Street), winner of the 1977 Greek State Prize for Poetry, and Grafi kai Fos (Scripture and Light) in 1983. The two poetry collections along with the re-release of his early poetry, spurred a resurgence of interest in Calas as a poet and a greater appreciation of his work in Greece. The Nordic Library in Athens houses the Nicolas and Elena Calas Archives. Lena Hoff, archivist of the collection, wrote the biography Nicolas Calas and the Challenge of Surrealism, published in 2014.