Tag Archives: Greece

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

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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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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!

 

Photos from the Greek American Fashion Week Kick-Off Event

6 Sep

I’m about to head out to the Greek American Fashion Week Runway Event, so I’m leaving you with a few photos I snapped at the Greek American Fashion Week Kick-Off Event that was held on Wednesday night at the Lower East Side’s lush rooftop bar The DL.

Parked outside was the aptly named Nomad truck, “the wandering fashion boutique” … and you know my obsession with sweet rides.

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The rooftop of The DL was turned into a pop-up shop with fashion by the likes of Dani Djokic and Panda Rhand.

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In case you’re wondering, I wore a black shift with buttons down the side to the kick-off event. My hair was in a low side bun. I had neutral eye makeup with strong brows and dark, berry lips, inspired by Michelle Williams and Emma Watson.

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I felt like I was at my house in Greece with all the palm trees on the rooftop!

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Pizza was provided by Patsy’s (so good with that fresh basil!) and dessert by A2 (the peanut-butter cupcakes were to die for!).

Lomogram_2013-09-04_09-20-54-PMIn full disclosure, the organizers of the Greek American Fashion Week invited me to cover the Greek American Fashion Week events.

 

Photos from the 2013 New York City Poetry Festival

31 Jul

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I feel incredibly honored to have been invited to read at the 2013 New York City Poetry Festival. I had such a blast hearing so many great poets read at last year’s festival, and it never occurred to me that just a year later I would be joining them on stage. I have poet RA Araya to thank for continually supporting my writing. He invited me to read Homer in the ancient Homeric Greek and from the literary biography I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr. entitled Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” so I read two road trip pieces.

For my Homer selection, I chose the opening passage from The Odyssey. Growing up in the Peloponnesus, my father had to memorize part of the epic poem in school. To this day, he still can recite the lines! I studied Classical Greek at Pomona College (while a student at Scripps), which is different than Homeric Greek. We never really read aloud in class because it’s a “dead” language, one that is no longer spoken but read by scholars. There are debates about how ancient Greek dialects were spoken, as the pronunciation is, according to some scholars, different than modern Greek. I am therefore definitely not adept at reading in the ancient tongue, but if someone asks me to read something specific, I do my best. Fortunately, there are many great English translations of The Odyssey out there too!

It was a no brainer to choose one of the passages about poetry from Burning Furiously Beautiful. In telling the story of the making of the novel On the Road, it was important that the literary biography also explored Kerouac’s poetry and his friendship with other poets. Although he is mainly remembered as a novelist, Kerouac wrote poetry throughout his life, including the period when he was on the road. There’s a really strong section in the book about how Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg influenced each other’s writing, and I wanted to read that, but in the end I found a passage in Burning Furiously Beautiful that seemed to better encapsulate the mood of the Poetry Festival. In the passage, Kerouac has been walking along the highway, hitchhiking, and finds himself composing a poem about everything he sees around him. It reminded me of how out on Governors Island we were all a bunch of writers lofting in the grass and translating the world around us into poetic language.

I read directly after RA, who opened up the event with his famously short-but-sweet poem, and then came Hillary Keel, Sarah Sarai, Carmen Bardeguez-Brown, Kate Levin, Carlos Manuel Rivera, Sparrow, Bonafide Rojas, and Keith Roach. They were amazing! Seriously. Hilary read in German and a couple of the other poets read in Spanish, and I suspect our reading—under the name Miguel Algarin’s Brooklyn Poetry—was the most linguistically diverse at the Festival. I had traveled over the Governors Island with Kate, and I think this was her best reading yet. In addition to poetry about Manhattan and our value as people, she read from her punk novel, which I would’ve thought was a poem if she hadn’t said otherwise. I always enjoy hearing Sarah read, and in particular enjoyed her poem about meeting an angel at a bus stop. The poet who had me in stitches, though, was Sparrow. I’d heard him sing at RA’s birthday party last year, and I loved hearing his one-liner poems this time around.

Special thanks too to our stage manager Liz von Klemperer, who did an excellent job. There were a lot of volunteers who kept the entire event running smoothly. The New York City Poetry Festival is put on by The Poetry Society of New York and is organized by Stephanie Berger and Nicholas Adamski. For the full lineup of the two-day event, check out NYCPF 2013.

I also want to thank my family and friends who trekked out to the island—some coming from as far as Jersey and Brooklyn—to support my reading. The photos here were taken by Leslie Marks, except the last one which is a self portrait. For more photos of me and all the other amazing poets, check out asterix611’s flickr.