Tag Archives: Greece

Happy 99th Birthday, Robert Lax!

30 Nov

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

BeforeMidnight

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??

A Tribute to Constantine P. Cavafy

18 Nov

220px-Cavafy1900What an impressive mustache! Cavafy via Wikipedia

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.

~ from the poem “Ithaca” by Constantine P. Cavafy

Born in the Egyptian province of Alexandria, Constantine Peter Cavafy was born to Greek parents in 1863. Riffing on last week’s British invasion theme, I’ll note that he actually spent some time in the Beatles‘ hometown of Liverpool. Cavafy’s life, like Kerouac’s, was one of movement. From Liverpool, he moved back to Alexandria, and then from there to Constantinople and back to Alexandria. He also spent some time in France.

Cavafy worked as a journalist, and it wasn’t until he was in his forties that he wrote his most important works of poetry — giving all us late-bloomers hope! He urges us to embrace life’s journey in his passionate 1911 poem Ithaca, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. He urges us to slow down, to explore, to learn, to experience, to savor. It is the perspective one gains on the journey itself that matters.

Tonight PEN presents a tribute to Cavafy, featuring André Aciman, Michael Cunningham, Mark Doty, Olympia Dukakis, Craig Dykers, Edmund Keeley, Harry Kremmydas, Daniel Mendelsohn, Orhan Pamuk, Dimitris Papaioannou, and Kathleen Turner. For more information on the New York tribute, visit the PEN America website.

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You may also like:

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

The Day We Said “No” during World War II

28 Oct

If there had not been the virtue and courage of the Greeks, we do not know which the outcome of World War II would have been Winston Churchill

Today is Oxi Day. The day Greeks said “No” during World War II.

You can read my post on the history of this day here.

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

From the Ottoman Empire to Greenwich Village: Coffee Houses’ Literary History

23 Sep

It’s Coffee Week! Sunday, September 29, is International Coffee Day, so I’m devoting the entire week to all things coffee.

First, a bit about Coffee Day, via Squidoo:

After a comprehensive research, it looks like that people started to talk about this festival as early as 2005, but there has been virtually on mentioning of this term until 2009 when a few local coffee shops began offering free drinks and discount coupons. In 2010, there has been news on national newspaper that briefly talks about activities on the day.

My conclusion is that the history of this festival is relatively short and my own conspiracy theory is that some sort of a national coffee association started to promote it as a way to generate more business.

So why devote a whole week to International Coffee Day 2013?  Well, one of my missions here on this blog is “embracing the beatific.” For me, part of that means noticing and celebrating the little things in life. So often we get hung up on fancy restaurants that serve rich meals that we take the ordinary for granted, even though it sustains us. A cup of coffee can be a great comfort. A pot of coffee can be shared amongst friends. It can fuel a writer’s creativity.

As usual, I’ll be putting a literary spin on things.

Let me kick things off by first telling you a little about the history of coffee. From what I’ve read, coffee originated in Africa, and by the sixteenth century had found its way over to the Middle East. From there it reached Europe and Asia, only coming to the Americas later on. Having first been cultivated by Arabs, coffee shops were prevalent in the Ottoman Empire. In fact, they became so popular in Mecca—not simply because they served coffee but because they became gathering spots, where people could discuss politics—that they were banned in the early 1500s. Imagine coffee shops as speakeasies!

It was about 1645 when the first European coffee shop opened, and that was in Venice, Italy. Apparently, Greeks had an impact on coffee culture, which is no surprise really when you think about the Greek Empire’s impact on history. Johannes Theodat was a Greek who set up the first coffee shop in Vienna. In any regard, coffee houses became the place for artists and writers to meet in nineteenth-century Europe. Again, it wasn’t so much about the coffee—though certainly there was an art to making a good cup of coffee. Much like Starbucks is today, coffee houses back then were places writers could go in, order a cup of coffee, and spend hours writing or conversing. Low on cost, high on value.

Here in America, we can thank Italian Americans for setting up coffee shops in places like Greenwich Village and North Beach. And wouldn’t you know it, these were the places the writers commonly associated with the Beats hung out. Tiny tenements made for cramped quarters, so eager to socialize on the cheap these poets and novelists met up at coffee shops in the 1940s. By the ’50s, they were doing poetry readings there. Today, many cafes offer poetry readings and live music.

Greek American Fashion Week: Hair by Christo Curlisto

18 Sep

C3That’s hairstylist Christo on the right.

If you want to know why the hair coming down the catwalk at the 2013 Greek American Fashion Week runway event looked so great, it’s because Curlisto salon did the hair.

Curlisto is a salon that specializes in curly hair but provides services for all hair types. As the salon’s website says:

Christo awakens his clients to the hair they’ve always dreamed of and could only hope to achieve. With his keen insight into the special needs of curly hair and his desire to allow his clients to celebrate their individual style, Christo’s philosophy centers on providing clients with the flexibility to wear their curly hair the way they want and choose to; that is why Curlisto was created….

Curlisto focuses on first nourishing the hair with ingredients that specifically remedy curly hair challenges. Each client’s curls are unique, with specific texture, structure, and wave. Curlisto methods of reviving hair with special treatments are the basis from which an individual’s particular needs are met. Cutting curly hair is an art….

The hairstyles at Greek American Fashion Week were indeed works of art. They worked with the models’ natural hair textures to create eye-catching hairstyles. Whether rocking unrestrained locks, perfectly coiffed bouffants, or elegant updos, the models had hairstyles that brought out their natural beauty and complemented their wardrobe.

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Curlisto was founded by Christo:

At the age of 12, Christo started his apprenticeship at his family’s salon in the Greek island of Cyprus. During his teenage years, he ventured to Paris and advanced as a young talent for his Parisian clientele. By his early 20s, Christo led a team of platform artists around the world to educate salon professionals. His passion for hair also led him to develop his own line of hair care products that are now widely distributed in Europe, Asia and South Africa. In 2002, Christo opened Christo Fifth Avenue Salon so he could expand his empire and service his A-list and royalty clientele.

Christo’s hair expertise has appeared on Bravo’s “Guide to Style,” TLC’s “Date Patrol,” PIX11, ABC, CBS, FOX 5, and Telemundo. His work has been featured in such print publications as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York, Vanity Fair, American Salon, Glamour, Teen Vogue, and Marie Claire.

Curlisto Salon is conveniently located in Midtown New York and offers a variety of services from cuts and styling to hair treatments. The salon also sells its high-quality hair products, for men and women, that extend beyond “curly” to “wavy,” “medium,” “tight,” and “coily,” in addition to “straight.” These products are great for curly Greek hair as well as other hair types. The website also features how-to videos so you can replicate the looks on your own. Thanks to Curlisto, you can have runway-worthy hair every day!