Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do



Sam Hamill expresses in two of his two poems, ‘Amerika’ and ‘A Pisan Canto’ a very strong opinion about where America stands right now. By invoking images linked to Fascism, he wishes to avert the worst of all possible developments that would befall America, if the current Bush administration is allowed to continue waging war. As the leading spirit of Cooper Canyon Publishing House, which he founded 32 years ago, he now heads Poets against the War. He has a natural connection with Greece, having published several volumes by Odysseus Elytis, whom he visited extensively in Athens in 1983; and also considers George Seferis to be one of his major influences. His translation into English of the 3rd century masterpiece “Lu Chi’s Art of Writing” was recently published in Greek. He is also author of 14 volumes of original poetry and nearly 30 volumes of poetry translated from Chines, Japanese, Latin, Estonian, and ancient Greek. He has published also 3 collections of literary essays. He is most interested in connecting Poets against the War with this quest for an Olympic Truce.

Mary Lathrop – playwright in Seattle, online editor for Poets against the War, is one of those amazing individuals with an ability to use the stage in order to depict life in a dynamic way. Her plays have been produced in, among other places, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle. Underlying all of her plays is a remarkable determination to listen to the human voice. She emphasizes every spoken word, even those that can only be heard faintly when eavesdropping, so crucial does she consider that which those others have to say. If the painter Jacques Levine could depict modern life as ‘reason being eaten up’, that bitter humor of Expressionism adopted to describe the American way of life, then Lathrop has succeeded in transforming the theatre into a gallery of opportunities where many heroes can observe what is happening at the auction of life.

Giulio Stocchi lives in Milan where he has been a member of Italy’s poetic movement for many years. He has written protest poems that are a part of the great manifestations in Italy, but also more sensitive verses such as ‘Girls in the twilight’ which entails a dialogue with the great paintings of Botticelli.

Stevan Tontic from Sarajevo had to live in exile during that terrible war linked to ‘ethnic cleansing’ and the world’s response to the catastrophe. In Berlin he created a book of poetry called Odyssey to Penelope. There are seven poems telling all about him being in exile while his love remains behind in Sarajevo.

Sonja Skarstedt from Montreal, Canada was an active publisher until 1999, and now devotes most of her creative time and energy to painting and writing (poetry, plays). She maintains an abiding respect for Louis Dudek, pre-eminent man of Canadian letters (1918-2001), who influenced many Canadian poets, including Leonard Cohen. Her poems such as ‘Panoply’ or ‘The Pen As Spade’ (dedicated to Seamus Heaney) reveal her poetic gift even while containing the occasional boldfaced statement (e.g. ‘that fine killing machine of the Americans’).

Michael D. Higgins, former Minister of Culture and member of the Irish Parliament, is an outspoken critic of cultural policy in Europe. His unique lyrical voice shines through in ‘Exiles’ (included on his Christmas and New Year’s greeting for 2004), in which he defines how these times are marked by the alienation and exile, not only of individuals, but entire social groups.

Brendan Kennelly lives and teaches at Trinity College, Dublin. Already when he wrote his Cromwell poems (1983) he knew that what mankind faces is not merely injustice, but violence coming from a special kind of hatred. As he puts it in the introduction to his epic poem ‘Judas’ (1991), “a learned hate is hard to unlearn”, to signify that only when listening even to a voice of Judas can that other side of man be understood. In search of these other voices Brendan Kennelly listens keenly to the stories children of the streets have to tell. He also feels poetry and poets should not take themselves all that serious, for very so often they become specialists of their own distinction without listening to others. During his participation in “Myth of the City” and reading thereafter in Athens he showed what it means to go further than most men when it comes to question oneself while not running around the world with a dagger in one’s heart. That does not make sense at all. After heart surgery he published “The Man made of Rain” (1998). He has made an adaptation of “Antigone” and “The Trojan Women” to which Seamus Heaney referred when drawing his own inspirations out of Greek mythological plays. Brendan Kennelly is best known in Ireland for his voice and human kindness. Very telling are in that sense the essays collected about his work with a foreword by Michael D. Higgins under the title “Dark Fathers into Light” (1994) and the anthology about “Dublines” (1996) which he edited together with Katie Donovan.

Armin Groepler lives and works in Berlin as teacher of song. Originating from the former East Germany, he has brought with him a rich repertoire of the ‘Liedergut’ – that heritage of songs known in Germany to have evoked and provoked many poets, singers and opera composers like Schuetz. To hear his voice resonate in a song is to experience the astonishing liveliness of the vocal tradition that comprises both the refined and popular heritage of people’s songs. Lately he has started to write a book containing his reflections on the arts.

Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke of Athens is renowned for her poetry’s expressive, natural philosophic tone, outlook and the power of her poetic reasoning. Furthermore, she facilitates intercultural understanding through her outstanding translation skills. She is fanatic only about one thing: that is, any and all Fanaticism. Her voice resounds across the room when she is reading both her own work and the work of those whom she has translated. Time and again, she persists in translating the work of a foreign poet until the Greek audience she loves so much, can understand what that poet is saying in relation to Greece. One prime example of this is Seamus Heaney, who refers to many Greek themes in his poetry and whom Katerina has translated into Greek — but under one abiding condition: that she selects the poems that can be translated. For there exist in life many poems which cannot be translated but only understood when being described in the most natural way.

Pedro Mateo, Spanish poet living in Athens, expresses the kind of love for the streets that strangers so often perceive more vividly than the local inhabitants. While teaching Spanish at the Cervantes Institut in Athens, he is one of those who have successfully infiltrated the Greek world, deciding to stay without giving up his Spanish language and poetry. He remains a strong optimist, yet he does not refrain from expressing the situation as he truly sees it.

Charis Vlavianos is a professor of literature, philosophy and aesthetics at Deree College in Athens. At the same time, he is the initiator of the renowned poetic journal Poesie and editor of the publishing house Nefeli. His poetry reveals a strong intellectual mind confronting a haphazard world, with an outcome of delicate clarity.

Socrates Kabouropoulos studied both chemical engineering and film. After his studies he served as managing director of a development agency in Kisamos prior to joining the National Book Centre of Greece. In his capacity there, he has conducted studies on literacy and developed a CD making available to all publishers, booksellers and libraries which books have been published in Greece. Full of appreciation as to what others can think, write and say, he keeps close track of cultural developments. He also writes poetry and short reflective essays that open new perspectives into the Greek world.

Hatto Fischer relates poetry to philosophy as the logos of knowledge about time, place and action in order to better understand the ‘unknown’. For years now he has brought together poets and other experts, in particular planners, architects and philosophers, to discuss urban living conditions. As such, he is the coordinator of POIEIN KAI PRATTEIN, a non profit Urban Society located in Athens.

Athens 2004

Note: in the meantime Sonja Skarstedt has unfortunately died due to cancer which she faced bravely, Brendan Kennelly has retired from teaching, while all the other poets are getting on with both their writings and lives.

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