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

(World Literature Today, Sept-Oct, 2008. Vassilis Lambropoulos teaches at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. )

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.

It includes forty-nine living authors who were born in the United States, Greece, and Cyprus. Some were born in the States and raised in Greece, others the opposite, but now they all live in America. While a few write in Greek and most write in English, they are all intensely aware of the Greek language. That language is heard in many pieces in a variety of registers (from colloquial to learned) and periods (classical, Byzantine, and modern). It can be the language of ancient thought, the Orthodox Church, or contemporary journalism. Poems draw on poet Korinna, philosopher Heraclitus, historian Thucydides, the New Testament, and many other Greek sources.

Especially impressive is the dialogue of the Greek Americans with poets of the last two centuries who wrote in Greek, such as A. Kalvos, Penelope Delta, C. P. Cavafy, G. Seferis, O. Elytis, Y. Ritsos, and M. Sachtouris. It is not an accident that many of the latter belonged to the Greek diaspora as well, coming from places like Alexandria and Smyrna. In addition to the diaspora, the landscape of the book spans the entire Greek geography, from the mythical Olympus and Hades to the modern Missolongi and Kalamata. In it, the islands figure quite prominently, from the Ionian Zakynthos to the Dodecanesean Patmos and from Lesbos to Crete. Some historical figures like Aristides, Diogenes, and Alexander make an appearance. However, the part of the Greek heritage that exerts the greatest influence on this poetic corpus is mythology. We encounter gods and goddesses (Hermes, Artemis), heroes (Achilles, Odysseus, Theseus), and several legendary women (Helen, Persephone, Iphigenia, Cassandra).

This vast linguistic, geographical, historical, and mythological material is cast in a great variety of poetic voices and styles. Traditional and experimental, rhyming and free verse, conventional techniques and deconstructive strategies coexist, giving the volume a kaleidoscopic quality. The American literary tradition, like the country itself, is present on every page, yet it is refracted through Hellenism, an interlocutor who speaks a foreign yet thoroughly familiar tongue. This is American poetry of great vitality and resonance that converses with Greek literature, old and new, to form that fascinating cultural hybrid, Greek American writing. Those who admired its latest novelistic exploration, Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex, will be impressed by the many middle, mixed forms that identity takes in this anthology.

Writers are anthologized alphabetically; this unobtrusive order allows readers to enjoy the book from a variety of angles, as it truly deserves to be approached. Pomegranate

Seeds can be savored by a very broad audience, including followers of poetry, lovers of Greece, students of myth, specialists in the diaspora, and scholars in American studies.

COPYRIGHT 2008 University of Oklahoma COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning