Tag Archives: Greece

Consulate General of Greece in New York Proves That Current Greek Art Matters

26 Oct
The new art exhibion Colors of Greece at the Consulate General of Greece in New York is a phenomenal display of artistic diversity. I was thoroughly impressed by the variety of subject matter and aesthetic style of Greece’s contemporary artists.
Contemporary Greek art—be it visual art, as it was in this case, or the literary arts—matters to me a lot. Now, more than ever.
As a Greek, I am proud of my country’s rich Classical history. Our ancient art and architecture is revered the world over, and for good reason. To this day, I still stand in awe every time I look up at the Parthenon. How could anyone not? And yet, as well-meaning individuals speak to me about Olympia and Homer and all the beautiful work of Greece’s centuries’ old history, a part of me feels frustrated that only the Greece of the past is recognized. It is as if the Greece of today is nonexistent in their eyes. I think most Americans would be hard-pressed to name any Greek artists living today.
This saddens me because Greeks and Greek Americans have done much to enliven the postmodern art world. As a scholar of the Beat Generation, I have often turned to the art of the 1940s and ’50s. Specifically, I have researched the abstract expressionists who hung out at the Cedar Tavern and mingled with the Beats. Several of the most famous abstract-expressionist artists were Greek American: Wiliam Baziotes, Theodore Stamos, and Peter Voukos. Another famous artist of that time period was neon-sculpturist Stephen Antonakos. Today, there are artists like Maria Fragoudakis, who continues the collage and pop-art work of that era. These artists have done exceptional work that does not hinge on their being Greek.
Colors of Greece, likewise, demonstrates the vast scope of Greek art in 38 works. The artists cast their eye far and wide, landing on people swimming in blue, blue bodies of water; dramatic flora; city streets; the human face. Their style is photorealistic, figurative and full of emotion, abstractions. In a small exhibit hall it may perhaps seem jarring to view dissimilar works, and yet that is what makes this exhibit so special. It only captures a small sliver of the variety of work Greek artists today are doing. 
At a time when contemporary Greece is looked at through a negative political and economic lense, drawing attention to contemporary Greek artists’ work is a political statement. The Consuate General of Greece in New York shows that there is more to Greece than what you see on the evening news and read in history textbooks. There is a Greece that is vibrant, full of life, energetic, and colorful. There is a Greece that sees beauty among the ruins. It is the artists who perhaps will raise Greece up, who will innovate, who will create a new Greek generation.
Colors of Greece runs until October 30, 2015. Free of charge, the exhibit is open to the public from 9:00am to 2:30pm at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, located at 69 East 79th Street.
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Also, I’m pleased to announce Hellas, a 2016 wall calendar that I created using photographs I took while in Greece this past summer. You can purchase it here.

How Is It Possible that Close to Half of College Graduates Don’t Read?

23 Sep
“I’m not as big of a reader as you,” my brother said to me over the phone.
Dismissive of his reading habits as he was, my brother is a reader. He was telling me about a book he by a woman he’d heard about on a podcast. Felicia Day‘s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). This wasn’t a once-in-a-blue-moon event. He’s not a prolific reader by any means, but he loves a good book. When I’d asked him the year before what he wanted for Christmas, he wanted a Malcolm Gladwell book. Back when he lived in Greece, he asked me to bring him books. He always wanted Dr. Pepper, but I couldn’t bring that on the plane.
These days I sent a lot of books to my mother since it’s difficult for her to get books in English where she lives in Greece. She reads them slowly, savoring them. My father, on the other hand, reads like I do: if he likes a book or thinks it’s important, he will sit and read it until he’s done. My sister, too, reads regularly. It’s a family trait. I come from a family of readers. A long line of readers, perhaps. My grandmother always had biographies laying about her home.
Last year a report came out that said that 42% of college students will never read another book after they graduate. Forty-two percent! I don’t know how that’s even humanly possible. I can certainly understand that there is a percentage of college graduates, depending on what they studied, who might not read literary fiction or nonfiction again. I can imagine some might read graphic novels or chick lit or Tom Clancy novels or self-help books, low-brow books.
The fact that close to half of college graduates don’t read books seems impossible to me. It seems like a deliberate, adamant choice not to read. It seems like they’re anti-book. Are they never, not even once, curious about a bestseller? Not even Harry Potter, Twilight, or Fifty Shades of Grey? Do they not feel the least bit embarrassed if they haven’t read classics like The Great Gatsby? Do they feel no shame in not being able to answer what the last book they read was? Or do their friends never mention books? Do these people never step inside bookstores? Do they never read a business book to advance their careers?
I just don’t get it.  

This May Improve Your Mood about Your Social Media Presence

12 Aug

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This is me reading at Ronnie Norpel‘s fantastic reading series Tract 187 Culture Clatch at The West End —/ photo by author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Over the years, I’ve blogged about everything from twitter to pinterest, in the effort to help fellow writers think about their social media presence. Why? Because every conference and expo I’ve attended has drilled the need for social media into my head. Swirling around my brain, I hear platform, platform, platform.

But platform is about so much more than social media.

According to Rob Eagar’s article “Stop Grading an Author’s Social Media Presence” on Digital Book World, publishers are “misguided” in how they look at an author’s social media presence. He suggests what authors and publishers should focus on is:

  1. Email list and performance
  2. Monthly website visitors
  3. Speaking schedule or webinar participants
  4. Previous sales history

I’d highly, highly suggest reading the full article. What he says makes a lot of sense.

Does this mean we abandon social media?

By no means! It means social media is simply one tool in our toolbox. Okay, toolbox metaphors aren’t quite my lingo—nor my “brand”—but the point is that publishers, agents, librarians, and readers value the fact that an author uses social media, so we should maintain our online presence, but we should also look to diversify. Give a reading. Engage with people who leave comments. Send out a newsletter. Host a webinar. Maintain your backlist. Participate in a panel.

That’s what I’m doing at least. Or at least trying to do.

You can find the facebook page Paul Maher Jr. and I run for Burning Furiously Beautiful here.
My Twitter handle is @stephanieniko.
I pin about Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation and lit life and 1950s fashion and nighttime road trips and the Greek beauty and deer on Pinterest.
I write articles for other publications.
I am reading at Word Bookstore in Jersey City.
I am teaching a writing class at the Festival of Women Writers.
I am participating on a panel at BinderCon.
I am co-organizing the faith and writing conference called The Redeemed Writer: The Call and the Practice.

There’s so much more to writing than, well, writing. I enjoy it, though. It’s stretching me as a writer, as an entrepreneur, and as a person.

Happy Earth Day! …Unless You Like Greek Yogurt

22 Apr


Happy Earth Day! …Unless, like me, you love Greek yogurt.

I just found out it takes 90 GALLONS of water to produce one teeny tiny container of Greek yogurt.

But if you are looking for a few Greek yogurt recipes, try these delicious recipes I made:

Happy 99th Birthday, Robert Lax!

30 Nov


Robert Lax was born on this day in 1915 in Olean, in the Southern Tier region of New York.

Lax studied poetry with Mark Van Doren at Columbia University and graduated in 1938, right before Jack Kerouac arrived on campus. Similarly, they both took on a life of wandering. Lax worked for some prestigious magazines — The New Yorker and Time — and then joined the circus as a juggler.

Eventually, he found his way to the Greek island of Patmos. The island is known as a place of pilgrimage, as the apostle John had lived there. Lax himself went on to live here for more than thirty years, living the life of a hermit and writing beautiful poetry.

Kerouac indeed did end up getting in contact with his fellow alum. You can read his letter to him in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956.

Remembering Alan Ansen

12 Nov


On this day in 2006 we lost Alan Ansen.

Today we celebrate his life and work. Ansen, a graduate of Harvard, was secretary to none other than the great W. H. Auden, who had come to New York City in 1939. He hung out with Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs,  Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso, and is even written into their works. By the 1960s, he had moved to Greece, where he lived on Alopekis Street in Athens, and hung out with other expatriate poets such as James Merrill (who went on to get the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1977), Chester Kallman (one of Auden’s lovers), and Rachel Hadas (who went on to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship).

Ansen passed away in Athens at the age of eight-four, but leaves behind his poetry and prose. Check out:

I think reading someone’s work is one of the best way to celebrate their life. Do you have a favorite poem by Ansen?

Remembering Juggling-Poet Robert Lax!

26 Sep


Born in Olean, New York, Robert Lax studied poetry at Columbia, worked for The New Yorker, cofounded the Catholic publication Jubilee, joined the circus, spent thirty-five years on the Greek island of Patmos, and took up a type of meditation founded by Eknath Easwaran before returning to Olean just weeks before he passed away there on this day in 2000.

Lax never achieved the level of success that some of his colleagues did. He was friends with Columbia alum and Trappist monk Thomas Merton and the abstract expressionist Ad Reinhardt, both of whose work reached a wider audience. Yet early on in his career, Kerouac wrote to Lax, praising his work. The New York Times Book Review favorably reviewed Lax’s poetry book Circus of the Sun.

Lax’s work was collected by editor Jim Uebbing as Love had a Compass: Journals and Poetry. Here’s the overview from Barnes & Noble:

Every generation of poets seems to harbor its own hidden genius, one whose stature and brilliance come to light after his talent has already been achieved. The same drama of obscurity that attended the discovery of Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens is suggested by the career of Robert Lax. An expatriate American whose work to date—more than forty books—has been published mostly in Europe, this eighty-year-old poet built a following in this country among figures as widespread as E. E. Cummings, Jack Kerouac, and Sun Ra. The works in “Love Had a Compass” represent every stage of Lax’s development as a poet, from his early years in the 1910s as a staff writer for the “New Yorker” to his present life on the Greek island of Patmos. An inveterate wanderer, Lax’s own sense of himself as both exile and pilgrim is carefully evoked in his prose journals and informs the pages of the Marseille Diaries, published here for the first time. Together with the poems, they provide a portrait of one of the most striking and original poets of our age.

Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly said:

Lax is a somewhat legendary poet known primarily for two reasons: he traveled in a circle in the 1930s that included Thomas Merton, John Berryman, Robert Giroux and Ad Reinhardt; and he has lived and written on the Greek island of Patmos since the early 1960s. This combination of famous friendships and personal obscurity has added heat to his reputation but not much lighthis poetry has been obscured by his myth. This volume, however, will likely introduce Lax’s considerable poetic power to a wider audience. Uebbing’s introduction captures the essence of Lax’s work: “A simple response to a simple moment”; “much of his work is almost devoid of imagery.” Lax’s early poems are a mix of emotionality (“for we must seek/ by going down,/ down into the city/ for our song”) and formal experimentation (“black/ black/ white/ white/ black/ black/ white/ white”). But his finest work can be seen in the previously unpublished sequence of poems, Port City: The Marseille Diaries. Drawing on the people and places he encountered during an extended, down-and-out time in the city during the 1950s, in “Port City” Lax finally declares his mission: “I will sing you/ of the moments/ sing you/ of those/ possibly/ meaningless moments.”

Lax’s funeral was held at St. Bonaventure University. Excerpts of his poem were distributed.

Victory Hellas!

25 Mar


Happy Greek Independence Day!

Find out about Agia Lavra, the church where the revolution began, in my Church Hopping column on Burnside Writers Collective.

And read my previous post on the history of March 25 being Greek Independence Day here.

The Mardi Gras of Greece

28 Feb


This weekend is the big Carnival weekend in Greece. Don’t let New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro get all the glory. Patras is the number 3 for Carnival.

Usually you can make it to more than one Carnival because Greek Orthodox follow the Julian calendar, while Catholics use the new, Gregorian, calendar. However, this year our calendars coincide.

Carnival is basically a time to many go wild right before the seriousness of the 40-day fast of Great Lent leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Though it’s certainly tied to Orthodox Christianity, practicing Orthodox believers don’t participate in its more reckless aspects that are tied to Dionysus. The parades and floats, though? Those are fun!

THE Beach to Visit in 2014

21 Jan


Greece—specifically Arillas Beach in Corfu—is listed by Fodor’s as one of the 15 Best Beaches for 2014. …And so is the Jersey Shore, with a shout-out to Ocean Grove. It’s like they’re just listing the beaches of my childhood.

Can I give you an insider tip, though? For a less touristy, more authentic beach visit, check out Lagouvardos Beach. It’s in the Peloponnese, on the mainland of Greece. It’s become especially popular with surfers.

It also happens to be where Before Midnight was filmed.

And just check out these pictures I took there at sunset!

What’s your favorite beach? Coney Island??