Poet Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke passed away in January of this year, but February 22 would have been her 81st birthday. In honor of the late poet, The National Herald takes a look back at her life and recommends her books for everyone’s poetry reading list.
According to her biography, Anghelaki-Rooke, was born in 1939, in Athens, the daughter of Eleni (nee Stamati) from Patras and Yannis Anghelakis from Asia Minor. Her godfather was Nikos Kazantzakis, a close friend of her parents. As a young child, she suffered from an illness that left her with a limp and a stunted arm. She attended primary and secondary school in Athens and followed courses at the Universities of Athens and Nice, completing her studies with a degree in translation and interpretation at the University of Geneva.
Fluent in French, English, and Russian, besides her native Greek, she published several books of poetry and translations of classic poets, and taught at several American universities, including at Princeton University, where she was poet in residence. She married Rodney Rooke in 1963.
Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni expressed her condolences to the family of poet, following her death, noting that Anghelaki-Rooke’s poems “were translated into more than ten languages. She was loved by readers of different generations and honored by her fellow-poets,” ANA-MPA reported.
Mendoni also requested of the Interior minister that the funeral service expenses be assumed by the state. Anghelaki-Rooke was buried on the island of Aegina, next to her husband, Rodney Rooke, the minister said.
Besides working as a translator, Anghelaki-Rooke produced pistachio nuts on her property on the island of Aegina, where her parents had bought an old house in the 1920s and planted pistachio trees, according to her biography. Though she lived mostly in Athens, she felt most at home in Aegina.
Among her honors, Anghelaki-Rooke won the Greek National Prize for Poetry and the Greek Academy’s Poetry Prize. The Scattered Papers of Penelope is the first full retrospective collection of the poet’s work available in English. The book draws on the rich traditions of Greek myth, history, and art. Translated from the Greek by a selection of noted scholars, including the book’s editor Karen Van Dyck, Anghelaki-Rooke’s poetry is powerful. Greek history and myth are re-examined, while prose poems tackle themes including modern violence and dictatorship. Lyric descriptions of domestic life on the poet’s home island of Aegina are also featured among the poems in the collection.
The Greek version of Anghelaki-Rooke’s Beings and Things on Their Own received the 1985 Greek National Poetry Award and is available in English translation from the New American Translation Series.
Translating into Love Life’s End was translated into English by the poet herself, with help from Roger Green and Rodney Rooke, her husband.
Among her literary translations were works by Saul Bellow, Joseph Brodsky, Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas, Leonid Andreyev, Vasily Grossman, Mikhail Lermontov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Alexander Pushkin, Varlam Shalamov, and Andrei Voznesensky. Stephanos Papadopoulos is also the editor and co-translator with Anghelaki-Rooke of Derek Walcott’s Selected Poems into Greek (Kastaniotis Editions, 2006).
Works by Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke are available online and in bookstoresyou’re your local library.