Reviews

Vassiliki Rapti, Transitorium – Praise from award-winning Greek poet Elsa Korneti

Poetry that combines life’s playfulness and existential seriousness; here, the toughness of stone, of matter, as well as the mistiness of the dreams that permeate it coexist. more.

Penelope Karageorge, The Neon Suitcase - Praise from award-winning Greek poet Elsa Korneti

This is poetry in which playfulness, the burden of existence, the hardness of stone, matter, but also the drizzle of dreams that penetrate all co-exist. more.

Penelope Karageorge, The Neon Suitcase - Praise from author Sophia Nikolaidou

Rapti nails the words and balances the lines.

Penelope Karageorge, The Neon Suitcase - Announced in the National Herald

For people who are not artists, creativity is something between the finger-painting they did in school and rocket science they will never grasp. That is what makes it so enjoyable to hear from people like writer Penelope Karageorge talk about the process that leads to such delights as her new poetry anthology, The Neon Suitcase, published by Somerset Hall Press. more.

Penelope Karageorge, The Neon Suitcase - Announced in The Hellenic Voice

With devastating wit and compassion, prize-winning poet Penelope Karageorge travels boldly into the figurative highways and byways of the human heart. In third poetry collection The Neon Suitcase, she writes about life in the psychic border between Greece and the American Dream. more.

Paul Lorenz and David Roessel, Editors – Americans and the Experience of Delphi. Reviewed by Amy Muse

In 1927 and 1930, a group of Americans created the Delphic Festivals, which not only revived but reinvented ancient Greek theatre. Their generation was the first to see what tourists now think of as Delphi: the procession of treasuries, Temple of Apollo, and surprisingly intimate 5,000-seat theatre with its majestic view over the valley of olive groves. more.

Thirty Years in the Rain: The Selected Poetry of Nikiforos Vrettakos. Reviewed By Dave Bonta

Diamond-like and deceptively simple: that’s how Rachel described the dozen or so poems I had time to read to her from this book today. I concur. These poems combine the plain-spoken lyricism of, say, José Martí’s Versos Sencillos, the fierce affirmation of Jorge Guillén’s Cántico and the pellucid quality and light-drenched landscapes of Eugénio de Andrade’s best work. more.

Vassilis Vitsaxis – Thought and Faith: Comparative Philosophical and Religious Concepts in Ancient Greece, India, and Christianity. Reviewed by Thomas Cattoi

This massive study by the former Greek ambassador to the United States is an encyclopedic attempt at a comparative reading of classical Greek philosophy, early Christian theology, and different currents of Indian thought. This type of grand synthesis is shunned by the majority of English-speaking scholars who are more likely to address methodological questions (as in Francis Clooney's seminal Theology after Vedanta, 1993) or explore more specific themes, such as "salvation"' or "truth" (as in the Comparative Religions Ideas Project edited by Robert Neville). Vitsaxis works in a 19th-century tradition of Continental scholarship that is not afraid to channel the history of thought into sweeping overarching systems; his organizing concept is an old-fashioned perennialist conviction that one may trace the same philosophical themes within different schools. more.

George C. Papademetriou, Editor – Two Traditions, One Space: Orthodox Christians and Muslims in Dialogue. Reviewed in The Hellenic Voice

For centuries Orthodox Christians and Muslims have co-existed in close proximity to each other. This volume gathers scholarly studies about their historic connections, as well as contemporary efforts at dialogue that promote understanding between adherents of these two world religions. more.

Deahn Berrini – Milkweed: A Novel. Reviewed by Ipswich Chronicle

She dug clams commercially. Her sister shucked clams for the Soffrons. And, referring to her Greek background growing up in Ipswich, she said, “It’s in the water.” more.

Deahn Berrini – Milkweed: A Novel. Reviewed by Sasha Mishkin

"It's never too late to write," said Deahn Berrini, a newly published author by Somerset Hall Press, who realized later rather than sooner, that doing what you love is more fulfilling than doing what is practical. Her novel, “Milkweed,” unravels the fascinating tale of a Vietnam soldier's return home, and the psychological scars he brings with him. The symbolic title stems from the name of the milkweed plant because it is essential to the survival of monarch butterflies. When the butterflies are unable to rely on the plant, they struggle, like the soldier in the story. more.

Deahn Berrini – Milkweed: A Novel. Reviewed by Charlene Peters

The seeds of Deahn Berrini’s idea to become a published author were planted early. She recalls, as a toddler, longing to be able to read what was in the bookshelves of her childhood home in Ipswich. In fifth grade, her teacher suggested she publish the storybook she wrote for an assignment. When she finally decided she wanted to write, Louisa May Alcott and Sherlock Holmes were influences, to be sure. But her true inspiration? “Harriet the Spy.” more.

E.D. Karampetsos - Dante and Byzantium. Reviewed by Gregory B. Stone

The aim of E.D. Karampetsos’s Dante and Byzantium is to show that certain fundamental aspects of Dante’s comedy, on both the aesthetic and the philosophical-theological levels, are best understood in the context of the postclassical Greek traditions in which they are rooted. This is a laudable effort to show Dante’s syncretism and openness to influences from the Near East. “Byzantium” here is used in a broad sense to signify not only Byzantine art in the proper historical sense but also Greek-language philosophy and theology of late antiquity – namely, the writings of Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Karampetsos, asserting – without substantiating evidence – that Dante had contempt for the Greeks (37), argues that Dante represses a profound and hidden debt to “Byzantine” ideas and styles. He similarly argues that modern Dante scholarship, with some exceptions, “sees only the Latin texts, as though Byzantium and a thousand years of Greek history never existed” (142). more.

E.D. Karampetsos – Dante and Byzantium. Reviewed by Penelope Karageorge

In Dante and Byzantium, E.D. Karampetsos, poet, scholar, teacher and literary and spiritual explorer, provides a fascinating journey in his search for the ties that bind the great poet Dante - Creator of the Divine Comedy - to the Byzantine world and influences. What makes this scholarly work so intriguing is Karampetsos’ curiosity and daring. He unites and makes relevant his own first experiences of Byzantine iconography as viewed in a small church in Montana - and his mother’s own experience of the icons - to the great art of Florence and Ravenna, and Dante’s masterpiece. more.

Lili Bita – The Thrust of the Blade. Reviewed by Prof. Ekaterini Georgoudaki

The Thrust of the Blade, a collection of 31 poems divided into two parts, deals mainly with sickness, decay, death, violence, pain, loneliness, and unpleasant memories. A characteristic statement made in “Arson”: “the world is a crown / of thorns / the sun is a cannibal,” conveys the prevailing mood in the collection. In this kind of world life starts and ends with the physical body. There is no reference to the spiritual aspect of life, to the existence of a soul, and no hope is expressed for life after physical death. more.

Lili Bita – The Thrust of the Blade. Reviewed by Rochelle Holt

If it’s possible to surpass the diversely brilliant poetry and fiction volumes (including the author’s compelling memoirs, Sister of Darkness), Lili Bita, also a renowned actress, has outdone herself. The Thrust of the Blade is both erotic (if lust that imposes will on flesh) and political with allusions to Lili Bita’s Greek heritage in poems that also reference and lyrically translate film, painting and relationships with the past that haunt any human being’s present. more.

Tanya Contos – The Tide Clock and Other Poems. Reviewed by Barbara Bialick

The beauty of The Tide Clock poems is the feeling you get as you undulate up through the lives of the people of the sea, where life and death are intrinsic to the scene (like shards of glass or a seal’s carcass)—then you sadly partake of the collectables and dryness of the landlocked, for whom death is sickening like a dead grandmother’s “mummy”-like wig in an attic found by a curious little boy. Similarly, “great grandmother cannot sleep…”as you lie on her old bed: “In her portrait she wears black bombazine/and a Byzantine virgin-martyr’s air of noble resignation.” In contrast, near the ocean: in “Midnight Swim”, “The new moon slices the sky like a scythe/and scatters its harvest of hundreds of stars/across the dark water in sight of the beach.” more.

Roger Finch – Stations of the Sun. Mentioned in Harvard Magazine

From the author’s long experience of living in Japan (he has been a professor of linguistics at Surugadai University since 1977), and traveling widely in the Far East and Europe come the themes of his third poetry collection: love, friendship, encounters with strangers, discovery, loss, death, memories of the past, separation, and longing for his homeland. The prosodic base of most of his poems is inspired by Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Quechua poetry. more.

Tanya Contos – The Tide Clock and Other Poems. Reviewed by The Midwest Book Review

Experienced at life and at poetry, Tanya Contos brings readers her latest anthology, "The Tide Clock." Focusing on the sea that Contos has lived nearby for much of her life, she uses humanity and characters to imbue real meaning into her poetry. "The Tide Clock" is a fine and moving collection, and a must for anyone looking for nautical-oriented work. "Slide Show": After the fiftieth photo/from a trip you had long forgotten/coast of Cornwall '87/gray rocks/green sea/pink face/the screen goes blank/the fans blows hard/the wind off Land's End lashes you/and this uptown space you share/with someone new who asks too much/is way too bright/too dark/too small. more.

Dean Kostos, Editor – Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry. Reviewed by Yiorgos Anagnostou

Greek-American poetry circulates in and across numerous venues, at times in quiet undercurrents, often in splashing waves that leave a mark on the U.S. literary landscape. Commonly discussed under the national rubric American, this poetry enjoys astounding recognition. Highbrow magazines host it. Committees award its merits. Anthologies include it. Reading and performing spaces make room for it. Translators toil between its stanzas, between its languages. Still, incredibly, the category Greek-American poetry is not as visible as the expectations set by its towering presence in the national literary scene would promise. Just imagine, Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry (Kostos 2008), the collection that concerns me in this essay, is the first anthology of its kind. Why is this the case? And what is Greek-American poetry anyway? more.

Dean Kostos, Editor – Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry. Reviewed by Rosemary Cappello

Like the pomegranate, a fruit that is composed of ruby-red seeds – unusual seeds of a consistency that foretells their destiny – this anthology is made up of innumerable poems that have sprung from the same origin. Each seed is like a fingerprint, no two exactly alike, each a distinct and individual piece; yet, a similarity exists inasmuch as each of the 49 poets represented here were either born in Greece or born elsewhere of Greek forebears; thus Greek culture informs their work. more.

Dean Kostos, Editor – Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry. Reviewed by Dimitrios Kalantzis

My earliest confrontation with being Greek-American occurred in the back seat of a taxi en route from Athens to Piraeus. My grandmother had met my siblings and me at the airport and was taking us to my father's childhood home in Aegina. In an attempt at small talk, the driver asked her if the children were "xena," a word that connotes both foreigners as well as strangers. In an apparent verbal faux pas, my grandmother replied. "No, they're ours." I'm not sure if my grandmother was being coy or not, but looking back, the experience appears emblematic of the identity issues one faces particularly as a first-born American. In America, I am the son of immigrants, not entirely American, and in Greece, I am a stranger. more.

Dean Kostos, Editor – Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry. Reviewed by Andrianne Kalfopoulou

A defining element of the literature of contemporary American ethnicity is evidence of a re-envisioning of the writer’s ethnic past within its newly acquired American context. As such Dean Kostos’ anthology of 164 Greek-American poems Pomegranate Seeds, An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry is a rich addition to the voices of hybrid and hyphenated American identity. In his preface Kostos makes the point that he has “assiduously avoided embracing any style over another” but finds “surreality” to be a recurring quality in the poems, and suggests an explanation in the possible role mythology might play in the collective imaginary of a Greek American psyche; on an “unconscious level myth’s metaphorical archetypes and dark, irrational focus still inform our writing” (21). Indeed myth and its many-peopled presences surface and resurface in this collection, from John Bradley’s modern-voiced Icarus “always warning me/about something or other” and Yiorgos Chouliaras’ “Theseus’ Mythology of Consciousness” to Lili Bita’s “Iphigenia,” Ioanna Carlsen’s “When Hermes Whispers” or Emily Fragos’ arresting “Spindlers” to name some of the poems and poets); the variety of ways mythology and history are used to locate the speakers in their relation to pasts reinvented in modern idioms is striking, and indicative of the resilience of these ancient tropes in their new world settings. more.

Dean Kostos, Editor – Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry. Reviewed by Irene Koronas

In his preface, New York poet and anthology editor Dean Kostos gives us reason to explore and investigate not just the history of Greek-American poetry, but, also, the contents of this anthology. The poets and poems are as diverse as America, and as steeped in pride as Greece. “We too are inspired not only by our ancient heritage, but also by its subsequent manifestations, when Greek culture commingled with others.” The connection among the poets is their heritage, and their voices are, at once, strong and humble. Thereafter, a brief biography of the forty-nine poets in the anthology sets up an understanding of each poet’s relationship between two cultures. more.

Dean Kostos, Editor – Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry. Reviewed by Vassilis Lambropoulos

Difficult as it is to believe, this is the first anthology of Greek American poetry to be published, and it makes for a unique compilation. Indeed, in terms of richness and variety, this is an incomparable volume. Its editor should be congratulated for an outstanding selection. more.

Dean Kostos, Editor – Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry. Reviewed by Anastasia Stefanidou

The very first anthology of Greek American poetry, Pomegranate Seeds is a definite landmark in the history of Greek American literature. With obvious dedication and critical ingenuity, Dean Kostos offers a book that has long been missing, especially when considering the century-old presence of this poetry in the United States. An author of three poetry books (“Last Supper of the Senses,” “The Sentence That Ends with a Comma” and “Celestial Rust”), as well as a translator, reviewer and teacher of poetry, Kostos edited a volume which privileges the versatility of American poetry. At a time when there is a proliferation of multicultural and ethnically-oriented poetry collections and anthologies in the United States, Pomegranate Seeds fulfills a fundamental need in Greek American literature. Additionally, it demonstrates the diverse artistic power and boundless vision of 49 contemporary authors, most of whom were born in the United States, while a few in Greece or Cyprus. Almost all of them have received poetry awards and been published by American presses. more.

Dean Kostos, Editor – Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry. Reviewed by Robert Zaller

Diaspora poetry is a rich but largely submerged tradition in modern verse. Its patron saint is Konstantine Kavafis (1863-1933), who lived in Egypt, wrote in Greek, and evoked the lost, cosmpolitan world of Hellenic culture. The special quality of Kavafis’ work was its nostalgic homelessness, the sense of the poet as situated in an imaginary country of time and space, and standing, as E. M. Forster so well observed of Kavafis himself, “at a slight angle to the universe.” Diaspora poets, then, live in an elsewhere, no matter where they happen to be physically situated. They adjust to a new place, accept its customs, and sometimes adopt its language. They’re both the here they’ve come to and the there they’ve come from, painfully present in both situations and painfully absent from them. They live in vacuo, a suspension both personal and literary. Their country of origin no longer recognizes them as a part of its literature; their country of adoption will accept them only insofar as they deny the truth of their condition. Some of them put on a protective coloration; some of them assimilate. The Diaspora poet, in short, must forget himself to be acknowledged by others. It isn’t usually a happy tradeoff. more.

James Hatch – The Green Behind Every Shape. Reviewed by Irene Koronas

Hatch does not struggle with his process, but, he does write in flashes, his words congeal quickly, the verse scratches and chips away the surface of lives and objects; his subjects bend, twist and rise on cloudy vellum; a master of revision, these poems have an organic taste, they scent and swim before us with the faint touch of classical. “But no. he did, he does turn round, return, and shed, a gold solarity, again delivering to you his last, annealing kiss.” from the poem, “A place of thought,” Hatch sculpts on marble, like working on David. more.

George P. Liacopulos, Editor – Church and Society: Orthodox Christian Perspectives, Past Experiences, and Modern Challenges. Reviewed by Joseph A. Loya, O.S.A.

This Festschrift, honoring the Rev. Dr. Demetrios J. Constantelos, is a substantial orchestration of letters, papers, and essays from twenty-six contributors, plus a short photo album. Near the beginning of the work, the editor thoughtfully included Demetrios’s favorite poem by Georgios Drosines (1859-1951), here excerpted: “I don’t want to be the sparkles reflecting on the sea … I’d rather be an oil lamp with my humble flame so small shining the light within me” (p. xliii). This flame was ignited and is fueled within the honored scholar, educator, pastor, and ecumenist by the haunting World War II memory of the German occupation of Greece and a false portrayal by a graduate-school professor of Orthodox Christianity’s supposed lack of concern for physical and social well-being. The rays of this small flame spread to dispel the darkness of ignorance and error regarding the nature of history, philanthropy, Holy Tradition, and the interrelation of faith and culture. more.

Lili Bita – Women of Fire and Blood: Ancient Myths, Modern Voices, Reviewed by Rochelle Lynn Holt

In Women of Fire and Blood (Somerset Hall Press, 2007), author Lili Bita includes a section she calls “Instead of a Preface: A Confession,” in which she writes: “Apollo says, women are the mere receptacles of masculine seed, the passive carriers of life… Pericles says, silence brings dignity to women.” Bita rejects this negative hearsay to commune directly with Media, Clytemnestra, and Helen of Troy. more.

Dean Papademetriou and Andrew Sopko, Editors - The Church and the Library, Reviewed by Grace Ji-Sun Kim

This is a wonderful collection of essays that honors George Papademetriou's life and work for the church and the academy, serving as a priest and teaching theology at Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology, where he was also librarian. Papademetriou's interests lie in theology of reconciliation, religious dialogue, and Orthodox theology, and many of the essays included in this book reflect these themes. The volume explores Dervish Mysticism and Orthodox Hesychasm, interreligious dialogue, and dialogue for peace among the three monotheistic religions. An article by Ziakas posits that the common parent of Jews, Christians, and Muslims has been both a cause for celebration and a locus of differences. This shared heritage brings forth similarities, such as faith in the God of revelation, but allows for preservation of distinctive identities through unique ways of viewing the sacred persons of the Bible: Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Mary (p. 138). more.

Lili Bita – Sister of Darkness. City Suburban News

Philadelphia-area author, actress, and musician, Lili Bita is a contemporary cultural ambassador. The brilliant interpretations of Greek culture and history in her acclaimed one-woman shows, “The Greek Woman Through the Ages” and “Freedom or Death,” have brought the legacy of Hellenism around the world. Her own poetry and fiction have won praise from such figures as Nikos Kazantzakis, Anais Nin, and Kenneth Rexroth. Tasos Athanasiadis, the former director of the Greek National Theater, calls her “among the most talented women of her generation.” Now, Lili Bita’s long-awaited memoir, Sister of Darkness, has appeared from Boston’s Somerset Hall Press. In it, she tells the story of her birth and childhood on the idyllic island of Zakynthos, a childhood shattered first by the Italian and German occupation, then by civil war, and finally by the great earthquake that destroyed the island and its centuries-old culture. “Zakynthos was the most beautiful of islands,” Lili says. “I knew from an early age that I would have to leave it, but also that I would always carry it with me. And I have.” more.

Lili Bita – Sister of Darkness. Reviewed by Prof. Ekaterini Georgoudaki

In her memoir, the well-known writer and actress Lili Bita reconstructs her life form the time of her birth on the Greek island of Zakynthos to the time of her escape from an abusive marriage to a Greek man in the USA. Its form is linear and chronological. It has four parts, each one with a different setting: the Island, Athens, Munich, and America. As the narrative moves in time and space, she faces more obstacles to her development, but also has more chances to expand her experiences and develop herself. The emphasis in the memoir is on her personal life and interpersonal relationships, which are presented against the historical background of the times. more.

Demetrios J. Constantelos - Christian Faith and Cultural Heritage: Essays from a Greek Orthodox Perspective. Reviewed by Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou

Christian Faith and Cultural Heritage: Essays from a Greek Orthodox Perspective a new book by the Rev. Professor Demetrios Constantelos, is a welcome addition to the long list of books that explore the interrelationship among religion, culture, and reason, and also among Hellenism, Judaism, and Christianity. This book utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge, and should be of special interest to people of the Orthodox Christian faith, and those of Greek ancestry who live in the United States, Canada, Australia, and other English speaking countries. more.

The Golden Anthology: Compiled & edited by Dean Papademetriou. Reviewed by Lyn Breck

The cover of this poignant story introduces us to Private First Class John C. Papademetriou. His open face, sincere smile, and dark eyes engage us all the more because, as a Greek-born child, he is dressed in the picture in an American soldier’s uniform. A larger picture develops as we discover John’s birthplace in his Greek village, his parents and siblings, his extended family, and the endearing vignettes of his childhood. We are also confronted with the reality of the times in which he lived, including the shadows of Hitler and Mussolini cast across the European nations. We discover John at the age of 12 on the wrong side of a firing squad, and learn how he escaped death. more.

Lili Bita - Sister of Darkness. Reviewed by Rochelle Holt

Born on the Greek island of Zante, Lili Bita has been known for many years as both an actress whose one-woman shows have toured worldwide and as a poet whose published volumes are passionate and sensuous in their acquiescence to the plentiful paradox that abounds in the life of any liberated woman. The multi-talented artist has now created a memoir that proves her again inimitably heroic and undaunted in her depiction of herself, a strong woman and a warrior who overcame the enmity of oppression. more.

Lili Bita - Women of Fire and Blood. Reviewed by William Burrison

Lili Bita’s Women of Fire and Blood (Somerset Hall Press, 2007) has some fractured, fairytale, revisionist fun with her collection of poems about eleven antique female figures of Greek folk and literary lore: Medea, Daphne, Hypatia, Eurydice, Jocasta, Helen, Cassandra, Hecuba, Iphigenia, Clytemnestra, and Phaedra. All are, more or less, mixes of the mythic/supernatural and the real/historical. more.

Nikiforos Vrettakos - Thirty Years in the Rain. Reviewed by George Economou

Of the stellar generation of Greek poets who emerged in the 1930s, the three with the highest international visibility have been the two Nobel Prize-winners, George Seferis (1963) and Odysseus Elytis (1979), and Yannis Ritsos, who received the Lenin Prize in 1977. Much of their work has been widely translated into English in anthologies and journals as well as in book form, while the poetry of their distinguished contemporary, Nikiforos Vrettakos, who died in 1991, has been translated into numerous foreign languages but has appeared only occasionally and sparsely in English. The publication of the sixty-six poems in Thirty Years in the Rain constitutes a corrective first step in the right direction. more.

Robert Zaller - Islands. Reviewed by Dean Kostos

Robert Zaller’s meditatively luminous fifth collection of poems—Islands—is a sequence that functions as a manifold, each part amplifying the whole. Yet the opposite is also true: as the reader starts to hear the overall timbre of the book thrumming below the surface of the language, individual poems voice their distinct qualities. Each one can almost be heard as a persona poem—each island (I-land?) allowing Zaller to articulate aspects of the self. more.

Stelios Ramfos - Fate and Ambiguity in Oedipus the King. Reviewed by Lili Bita

This book is a magnificent reflection on the Ancient Greek play by Sophocles. The play tells the story of Oedipus, who inadvertently yet inexorably kills his father and marries his mother. Each chapter superbly explains the meaning of the text while using the text to analyze complicated philosophical thoughts. The language is eloquent and helps the reader understand one of the most famous plays of all time. Whoever desires to enrich him or herself with the wisdom of classical drama will benefit tremendously from this book. more.