Tag Archives: Odyssey

“Tomorrow Jams More” Nuyorican Recap

3 Apr

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When RA Araya puts on an event, you want to be there. He’s the glue. He’s the person pulling creative types from various artistic backgrounds and bringing them together for events that are so full of joyous community spirit and memorable work. The result is that he creates once-in-a-lifetime events — no two are the same! — that leave you energized and inspired. You’ll also probably leave with a new friend or two.

I call RA my Allen Ginsberg. Like the Beat poet, RA is a poet who works tirelessly on behalf of other poets and writers. He gave me my first ever reading for Burning Furiously Beautifuland I owe much of the opportunities I’ve had to read in New York City to him.

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This past Saturday, RA organized fbp’s “Tomorrow Jams More” plus open mic and Katie Henry Band at the world-famous Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

flash-back-puppy (fbp) and the Katie Henry Band rocked the room. It was a total jam session. The two bands merged and morphed and picked up new musicians along the way and exchanged instruments at various points:::

Chris Barrera was on vocals and guitar; RA Araya on harmonica; Ciro Visconti II on lead guitar; Jonathan Toscano bass; Misia Vessio on drums and vocals; Rick Villa on timbales, congas, and bongos; Jonathan Fritz on guitar; Katie Henry on piano, guitar, and vocals; Antar Goodwin on bass; Adrian Norpel on guitar; Pablo O’Connell of the DSA on oboe. They created something beautiful separately and together.

 

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As the band jammed, readers took to the mic.

I was the first reader up! RA had specially requested that I read Homer in his original Ancient Greek (well, technically, Homeric Greek), so I read the opening of The Odyssey. Moving from the ancient Greek bard to another intrepid traveling poet, I then read from the Kerouac biography I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr. I closed my set with the debut of a poem I recently wrote having to do with the Syrian refugee crisis.

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photo of me by Sue J. Chang

Ronnie Norpel read a riveting section from her novel Baseball Karma & the Constitution Blues! I don’t want to spoil it but buy her book! Later, she came back and did some comedy. Ronnie is also the host of one of my favorite reading series: Tract 187 Culture Clatch. Held at The West End, the reading series often has a theme. I read a while back at the We’re All Kerouacky reading she organized. This month it’s baseball. Ronnie is amazing. She is a genuine soul who makes you feel instantly connected and included. My hope is that she writes a memoir next!

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Lama John Heaviside performed poetry. This was the first time I’d heard his poetry, and now I’m eager to hear more! His poetry had grit and power. He knew how to work the audience.

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Beatrice Pelliccia performed in Italian and English. Half the time I didn’t know what she was saying (the Italian half, of course!), and yet I was still so absorbed in her performance. She brings a real passion to her work.

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There were also several poets not on the program who ventured to the open mic. I loved, loved, loved listening to them read.

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Adrian Norpel

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Antar Goodwin

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The Katie Henry Band was phenomenal. Katie Henry’s vocals are powerful, taking you on a journey as you listen. You can listen to her here. Hailing from Vernon, New Jersey, Katie “discovered” Eric Clapton when she was six years old. Today, she is a regular on the tour circuit on the East Coast.

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Thanks to all who read, performed, cheered, and chatted!

 

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My Literary Highlights of 2015

31 Jan

Even more than art, literature is fundamental to my life. Reading was so important to my development as a child and continues to expand my horizons to this day. I earn my living as a writer and an editor, but even my social calendar revolves around literary events. Literature is very much a part of my identity, and I make a priority for it in my life.

 

BurroughsAnne Waldman, Penny Arcade, Jan Herman, Steve Dalachinsky, and Aimee Herman read at Burroughs 101, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Anne Waldman pictured)

HettiePam Belluck, Hettie Jones, Margot Olavarria, Marci Blackman, and Beth Lisick read at Women on Top, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Hettie Jones pictured)

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Big Sur (an adaptation of Kerouac’s novel) on Netflix

brunchEpic four-hour brunch at The District with two writer friends, talking about “ethnic” literature, faith, and relationships.

SunsetAfter Sunset: Poetry Walk on the High Line.

Budapest1My friends surprising me by taking me to a book-themed restaurant on my first night in Budapest.

BookCafeBrunch with friends at the most exquisite bookstore, Book Cafe & Alexandra Bookstore, in Budapest.

ElenaReading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, a recommendation from my friend Jane.

BEABook Expo America.

AmramDavid Amram telling stories about Jack Kerouac and other literary figures and amazing us with his music at Cornelia Street Cafe.

MisakoBrunch with my friend Misako Oba, whose new book of photography and memoir, which I helped edit, was published.

DurdenDrinks with one of my favorite people at Durden, a bar based on author Chuck Palahniuk’s novel-turned-movie Fight Club.

PoetryNew York City Poetry Festival with my writing group partner.

OdysseyWatched Homer’s The Odyssey performed, put on by the Public Theater, in Central Park.

Reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” (coauthored with Paul Maher Jr.) at WORD Bookstore in Jersey City.

HobartTeaching a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

WritersThe Redeemed Writer: The Call and the Practice, a conference I co-led in organizing through the Center for Faith & Work. (Pastor David Sung pictured)

BrooklynBrooklyn Book Festival.

ReggioBrunch at Caffe Reggio, where Jack Kerouac and friends used to hang out.

BindersFullOfWomenSpeaking on the panel Lessons Learned: Published Authors Share Hard-Earned Insights with Nana Brew-Hammond, Kerika Fields, Melissa Walker, Ruiyan Xu, and Jakki Kerubo at BinderCon.

LibraryMeeting regularly with one of my best friends to read and write together at the New York Public Library.

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Checking out the Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum with a friend who is a huge Hemingway fan.

OTRSpotting a first edition copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.

Light

Reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

Like literature?

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Barnes & Noble.

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Amazon.

My Pinterest posts called Lit Life.

I’m on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Happy Bloomsday 2014!

16 Jun

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Doesn’t James Joyce look dapper?!

Happy Bloomsday!!

James Joyce set his rambling modern novel Ulysses on June 16, and today literary lovers around the world celebrate the iconic Irish author with marathon readings (it is about 265,000 words long!) and pub crawls. The raucous literary holiday takes its name from the central character of the novel: Leopold Bloom. The title of Joyce’s book, on the other hand, comes from the Latin version of Odysseus. Apparently, this is because he discovered the story of The Odyssey through Charles Lamb’s children’s book adaptation, Adventures of Ulysses. Just like that cunning Greek Odysseus embarked on adventure that introduced him to a wide variety of characters, Leopold Bloom traversed Dublin and met characters that paralleled those found in The Odyssey.

I thought it would be fun to share a few beautiful and provocative quotes from James Joyce’s Ulysses:

  • “Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.”
  • “People could put up with being bitten by a wolf but what properly riled them was a bite from a sheep.”
  • “She would follow, her dream of love, the dictates of her heart that told her he was her all in all, the only man in all the world for her for love was the master guide. Come what might she would be wild, untrammelled, free.”
  • “The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”
  • “A region where grey twilight ever descends, never falls on wide sagegreen pasturefields, shedding her dusk, scattering a perennial dew of stars.”

Those last two quotes remind me of one of my favorite lines from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road:

  • “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”

I’ve written about James Joyce’s influence on Jack Kerouac a few times before so today in celebration of Bloomsday, here are the links:

For Bloomsday activities around the globe, check out The James Joyce Centre Dublin. I want to highlight a few that I found particularly relevant to the themes I write about:

  • In Athens, there will be a free screening of a poetical film based on Joyce’s Greek notebooks.
  • In Manhattan, Symphony Space is putting on an event that features Malachy McCourt, Colum McCann, Cynthia Nixon and others.
  • In Brooklyn, there will be a pub crawl.
  • In St. Petersburg (the Florida city where Jack Kerouac died), there will be readings and performances.

Have you ever participated in a Bloomsday event? What is your favorite quote by James Joyce?

Is Jack Kerouac a Modern Heir of James Joyce?

12 Feb

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In The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review, Rivka Galchen and Pankaj Mishra took up the question: “Who Are James Joyce’s Modern Heirs?

The names Lydia Davis, Nadine Gordimer, Kenzaburo Oe, and José Saramago are mentioned between these two award-winning authors, but more than specific names Galchen and Mishra delineate ideas of what Joycean literature is.

Galchen writes:

The text — and it feels more like a “text” than a book — radiates in a way we associate more with parable than with mortal prose, even as any sense of grandness also feels undermined and played with and brought down to size. “Ulysses” thus manages the strange magic of being a mock epic of epic proportions. It reveals a world holy and human.

She goes on to write thoughtfully about language, epics, radiance, and rumor.

Mishra, in turn, writes:

Few declarations of aesthetic autonomy have resonated more in the last century than Stephen Dedalus’s in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”: “You talk to me of nationality, language, religion,” Stephen tells an Irish nationalist, “I shall try to fly by those nets.” The novel concludes with Stephen’s decision to make a writing career for himself in Europe: “Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”

He argues that Joyce’s modern heirs are political writers.

As you’ve probably already guessed, I’d submit Jack Kerouac as a potential heir to James Joyce. Let me lay out a brief argument in support of this thesis:

  • Galchen suggests Joyce’s work “radiates in a way we associate more with parable than with mortal prose,” and in some ways this is what Kerouac’s work does. Readers have often criticized On the Road’s rambling prose, replete with multiple road trips, but I’d argue that the work is actually more effective because it is not a simple from-point-A-to-point-B story. Readers do best in thinking of it not just in terms of story but parable.
  • She says Joyce’s work has the “strange magic of being a mock epic of epic proportions.” Kerouac’s narrator Sal Paradise is like Odysseus/Ulysses, a flawed man on a journey. In self-mythologizing himself over the course of several novels, Kerouac created the epic Duluoz Legend.
  • Mishra quotes Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as saying “Welcome, O life!” as he desires to encounter “the reality of experience.” Kerouac echoes this in going out on the road for seven years, seizing life and writing about it.
  • Kerouac is an heir to Joyce’s language, as I pointed out in this post.
  • And his most famous passage closely resembles one of Joyce’s passages in Ulysses.
  • He suggests that Dedalus’ decision to exile himself as an artist in Europe is political. In contrast, critics at the time of On the Road’s publication noted that unlike the Lost Generation, the Beat Generation stayed in America. Kerouac was known to have deep respect for the American flag and his journeys across America show his love for the country. Whether one wants to argue if this is “political” or not, he does represent himself as an artist in America.

What do you think? Is Jack Kerouac James Joyce’s heir?

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!

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.

Friday Links: Homer and Kerouac

26 Jul

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Happy Friday! Any exciting plans for the weekend? I’ll be at the New York City Poetry Festival. Poet RA Araya invited me to read as part of the line up for Miguel Algarin’s Brooklyn Poetry happening on Saturday at 11:40 at the Algonquin stage on Governor’s Island. If you want to come, take the first ferry out of Battery Park. It’s free! The ferry’s free, the poetry reading is free. If it’s anything like last year, you can envision yourself lofting in the grass and losing yourself to the Siren-pull of beautiful words. Speaking of Sirens, I’ll be reading from The Odyssey in its original Homeric Greek (help!) and from the book I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

In light of this, here are a few Friday links on the topic.

Literary Elitism vs. Populism (Is Homer much better than Kerouac?)

The New Yorker rejects Homer and Kerouac

Paul Maher Jr.’s Jack Kerouac’s American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of “On the Road”

“Like Odysseus in Homer’s poems, Kerouac in The Duluoz Legend is a restless adventurer that embarks on an epic journey — an Odyssean archetype of the indomitable wanderer in modern guise,” writes LewRockwell.com

“Dean Moriarty was the Odysseus of Tennyson not Homer, sailing away again from his island-kingdom not because he loved his family less, but because he loved more the drumbeat of heroic adventure in his breast,” writes HistoryJournal.org

Steve McCurry looks at Travelers’ Tales

“[T]he Odyssean archetype of the indomitable wanderer has persisted down to modern times in works as diverse as James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain,” and even in the film “O Brother, Where Art Though?” in 2000,” writes Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Everything since the Greeks has been predicted wrong, he says, because geometrical systems of thinking are fundamentally flawed. On the Road, then, is not just a travel memoir, a series of successive “kicks” from travel and all its accompaniments; it is Kerouac’s aesthetic manifesto that he sets up in opposition to the dominant idea of beauty-as-geometrical-harmony. This is why On the Road arrives out of nowhere and goes nowhere. That is why if you look for structure, for symmetry, for a narrative with a categorical beginning, a clear ending and internal consistency throughout, you will be disappointed,” writes anenduringromantic

“I listened to Snyder attentively. I wanted to understand more. In preparing to write the nonfiction saga of our long walk across Turtle Island –  Odyssey of the 8th Fire – I’d been informed by books telling of our human journey: Homer’s Odyssey, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways,  Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and Paolo Cohelo’sThe Pilgrimage. Inevitably, Kerouac’s On the Road also touched me with its entraining cross-America accounts of reaching outward, inward, downward, upward,” writes Steven McFadden

 

 

Save the Date: I’m Reading at the 3rd Annual New York City Poetry Festival

9 Jul

photo-1photo of me from the 2nd Annual New York City Poetry Festival

I’ll be reading at this summer’s 3rd Annual New York City Poetry Festival!

Poet RA Araya invited me to read from Homer’s epic road trip The Odyssey in the original Homeric Greek and from my book coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” as part of Miguel Algarin’s Brooklyn poetry series.

I’m SUPER excited. You may remember what a lovely time I had at last year’s New York City Poetry Festival. And that I read from the Kerouac book at Miguel Algarin’s birthday bash and read from Homer at RA’s own birthday reading last year.

Here are the details:

  • July 27, 2013
  • 11:40am
  • Algonquin stage
  • Colonel’s Row, Governor’s Island (New York, NY)
  • Free!

Hope to see you there! I’m looking forward to hearing all the other brilliant poets.

You can always check out the Appearances section on my website (tab above) for my past and upcoming readings, tours, and teaching engagements.

Brunch with Artists & Entertainers at the Lotos Club

7 May

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Last month Scripps College invited me to attend a lovely brunch amongst friends and fellow alumni at The Lotos Club:

Alumnae Panel: The Arts and Entertainment Scene in NYC

Mitra Abbaspour ’99, Associate Curator, The Museum of Modern Art

Barbara Barna Abel ’84, Casting Director and Coach, ABEL intermedia

Elizabeth Robbins Turk ’83, Artist, 2010 MacArthur “Genius” Award Winner

Moderator: Veronica Gledhill ’06, Senior Fashion Market Editor, New York Magazine, Online and 2012 Outstanding Recent Alumna

with an update on the College
from President Lori Bettison-Varga

Oh, how I wish they’d do more of these. It was truly inspiring to hear these women tell their stories. They were so impressive yet so humble and honest in talking about their individual journeys as artists.

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Elizabeth had secured The Lotos Club for the event, and I could’ve sat in that sumptuous library all day long. But I guess that was the point:

The selection of the name The Lotos Club was to convey “an idea of rest and harmony.” The spelling of Lotos comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Lotos Eaters, two lines of which were selected as the motto of the Club:

 In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon

The endless afternoon setting provided the ideal atmosphere to indulge in creative and stimulating thought and conversation.

Of course, as a good Greek, I should point out that Tennyson’s poem was inspired by The Odyssey.

The circular staircase was breathtaking. I had to stop and take a photograph.

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The Lotos Club has an impressive history and has counted amongst its members President Taft, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde’s brother Willie.

 

Gift Guide for the Greek Lover

6 Dec

Whether you’re giving a Greek American a taste of their homeland when they can’t make it back for the holidays or satiating a Hellenophile’s interest in Greek culture, there are countless foods, books, beauty products, and jewelry that will suit your needs.  Plus, select a gift made in Greece and you’ll also be supporting the struggling Greek economy.  Here’s just a small selection of Greek gift ideas, some made in the States, some in Greece, and others elsewhere, but all unique and lovely.

Gifts for the Greek food lover:::

 

Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors by Janet Fletcher

 

How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking by Michael Psilakis

A selection of delicious dressings and marinades from Sophia’s Gourmet Foods

A selection of three different flavors of honey from Odysea Shop

Traditional Greek preserves (rose petal and pergamot) by Monastiri

Kalamata olive oil

Ouzo candies

Pavlidis Dark Chocolate

Pastelli with honey

Bonus tip! – Gifts appear so much nicer when they come as a set.  You may want to give a cookbook with some Greek spices.  A duo or trio of a certain type of product (such as honey or olive oil) is a great way for the recipient to try out a few flavors.  Or, you may want to give a gift basket of assorted Greek candies.

 

Gifts for someone who loves Greek literature:::

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antigonick by Sophocles, translated by Anne Carson, illustrations by Bianca Stone

The Greek Poets: Homer to Present by Peter Constantine

 

The Odyssey: A Pop-up Book by Sam Ita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holidays on Ice by David Sederis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bossypants by Tina Fey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

Subscription to Greek America Magazine

Bonus tip! – Trying pairing the book with a book light, a notebook and pen, a bookmark with a quote by a Greek philosopher, or a coffee mug (maybe even with a bag of Greek coffee).

 

Gifts to make someone feel like a beautiful and pampered Greek goddess:::

Beauty products from Korres.  I would especially recommend Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial. You can read my review here.

Olive oil body lotion by Olivia

Jewelry by Konstantino

Bonus tip! – Include a lovely handwritten letter.  A bottle of Greek wine (here’s my review of the Greek American wine Pindar) or some fine Greek chocolates (here’s my review of the Greek American chocolatier Chocolate Moderne) would also make someone feel loved and pampered.

 

As the Greek proverb says, “A gift, though small, is welcome.”