Tag Archives: Peloponnesus

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.

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Sunset at Lagouvardos Beach

8 Aug

 

 

 

I took these photos on my last trip to Greece.  They’re pictures of the sun setting over Lagouvardos Beach in the Peloponnesus.

It’s rare that I catch the sunset in any meaningful way in the States, but watching the sun set into the ocean is the Greek way of life.  A lot of homes are built with large balconies and a lot of tavernas sit ocean-side so watching the sun set is a natural part of everyday Greek life.  We watch the sunset with the same awe that we watch fireworks.  It captivates our attention as it slowly sinks deeper and deeper into the ocean.  We try to guess when the last sliver of it will disappear until morning.  We savor the color-shifting sky, full of wonder.

Greek American Film Directory Louie Psihoyos Saves the Whales

7 Jul

Al Gore & co. made it trendy to go green in the millennium.  Back in the mid- to late-19980s, when I was growing up in a small suburb in northern New Jersey, America’s environmental concern was a little more specific.  We all wanted to Save the Whales.  In 1986 the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling.

For photographer and documentary film director Louie Psihoyos, that dream apparently never went away.  Psihoyos’ Oscar Award-winning film, The Cove, uncovers the all-too-real tragedy of dolphin hunting.  (Oceanic dolphins are part of the suborder Odontoceti, toothed whales.)

The film director more recently discovered that the Santa Monica sushi restaurant The Hump was using the meat of protected sei whales in their dishes.  Whale meat is illegal in the United States and was being imported from Japan, which is still a whaling nation (along with the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Iceland and the aboriginal communities of Alaska, northern Canada, and Siberia).  The meat was linked back to seafood vendor Ginichi Y. Ohira, who pled guilty for knowingly selling the whale meat for unauthorized purposes.  He faces arraignment in September.  As for The Hump, it closed its doors, saying:

The Hump hopes that by closing its doors, it will help bring awareness to the detrimental effect that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystems and species. Closing the restaurant is a self-imposed punishment on top of the fine that will be meted out by the court. The Owner of The Hump also will be taking additional action to save endangered species.

One such action will be to make a substantial contribution to one or more responsible organizations dedicated to the preservation of whales and other endangered species.

It’s nice to know that photographer/film director Louie Psihoyos hasn’t given up the cause of saving the whales.

Psihoyos was born in Dubuque, Iowa, one of the oldest cities west of the Mississippi River.  (Note to self: today publishing is one of the fastest-growing industries in Dubuque, Iowa.)   He is the son of  a Greek immigrant who fled the communist occupation of the Peloponnesos region of Greece during World War II.

Check back tomorrow to hear the story of a dolphin myth from the Peloponnesus!