Highlighted by The Suffolk University Poetry Center
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Meet Our January Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight: 
George Kalogeris 

Highlighted by The Suffolk University Poetry Center

George Kalogeris is the author of a book of paired poems in translation, Dialogos (Antilever, 2012), and of a book of poems based upon the notebooks of Albert Camus, Camus: Carnets (Pressed Wafer, 2006). His poems and translations were anthologized in Joining Music with Reason, edited by Christopher Ricks (2010 ). He was awarded the Meringoff Prize for Poetry from the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. He teaches English Literature and is the Director of the Classics Minor at Suffolk University. He serves as Co-Director, with Jenny Barber and Fred Marchant of the Poetry Center.
Poetic Profession  

Behind the words there is a poem

Behind the poem there is a voice

Behind the voice there is a breath

Behind the breath there must be silence

Behind the silence is where the voice

That speaks the poem is coming from


Inside the thirst there is a well

Inside the well there is no light

Inside the dark there is an echo

Inside the echo there must be longing

Inside the longing is where the water

No bucket can hold is coming from. 
Ambassador of the Dead 
               
My parents were never crazy about Cavafy—
They didn’t know much about poetry, at all,
And barely had time to read anything but the papers;

Though sometimes a poem they liked would appear in their
Beloved Hellenic Voice. (A poem that was always
In rhyming stanzas, and deeply nostalgic.) Or else

I’d show them one of the Modern Greek poets that I 
Was trying to translate, and ask for their advice 
About a line. “Is this for school?” they’d say.

My parents were never crazy about Cavafy—
To them he was too refined, too ALEX-AN-
DRIAN, and they were only peasants, xhoríates.

And there was no Ithaka for them to go back to.
When I’d beg them to read the Greek, they’d balk when they got
To his purist kátharévousa diction—they just

Couldn’t stomach its formalist starch. His poems were never
Demotic enough, never trapézeiká:
Songs to be sung across the kitchen table.

And if I read them Elytis, Odysseus Elytis
Too was too elitist to trust, too drunk
On the island sun of his own Ionian vision

To people for whom elevation meant being raised 
In the steepening shadows of Pélopónnesós.
(“The great Odysseus,” my father would chide.)

And if Yannis Ritsos spoke their working-class language,
And his poems weren’t hard to follow, still, once they heard
That Ritsos was Marxist that’s all they needed to know.

But read us some more Seferi, I hear them say,
As I sit and write at a green formica table,
The same one where we sat together and ate

In another century. Was it Mandelstam
Who said that poetry, to him, was bread
From the kitchen table, but that his words were dead

If he tried to start a poem by looking up
At the stars? Osip Mandelstam, who wrote:
The evening stars against the horizon glistened

Like salt on the blade of an axe. I think my parents
Would’ve liked that verse, and called it trapέzeiká.
Saying that, their shades appear in the table’s reflection,

Looking up as if they were thirsting for something to drink.
Read us some more Seferi. Noblesse oblige
Sefériádes, that haughty diplomat who,

In his British banker’s suits, had seen the world.
French Symbolist figs and Earl Grey with Eliot.
And stones too heavy to lift without his learning.

But also deep silence as old Europe explodes.
And crowded refugee ships as a form of transport.
Ambassador of the high Modernist, ancient Dead.

Read us that one about Stratis, you know, Stratis
Thalássinós, I hear my parents intone,
Their voices, as soft as the hiss of the surf in Seferis,

Calling from the floor of the Dead Sea, though the smooth
Formica shines green as the placid Aegean of poems.
And then my mother returns to her ironing board, 

The iron dipping like a prow that’s driving
Through choppy waves, the pile of freshly laundered
Butcher’s aprons as white as white-washed Piraeus.

And now my father’s back at his block, still reading
The smoking entrails. He has turned the victim’s head
So that its eyes are facing Erébus. Or Smyrna.

I’m spreading handfuls of sawdust, and watching it soak up the blood.



 
 

The Suffolk University Poetry Center is located in a dedicated room of the Mildred Sawyer Library, encourages and supports the study and practice of poetry and related creative writing among our students. As the permanent home of the Zieman Poetry Collection, and through its various activities, including readings, workshops, and discussions, it provides Suffolk and the Boston community with a unique opportunity to explore imaginative literature beyond the classroom.  The Center sponsors readings by internationally renowned writers, providing a forum for their work and engaging them in active dialogue with students, faculty, staff, and guests.  The Center also provides a locus for scholarly and artistic lectures, panel presentations, and workshops. These workshops and discussions are open to Suffolk students, faculty and staff, and the public.  The Poetry Center offers opportunities for students to examine the current collection, and also provides the university with a foundation for expanding its collection of valuable literary materials, including signed first editions or signed broadsides.

Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight is a monthly installment from Mass Poetry. Each month we shine the spotlight on a poet affiliated with, and nominated by, one of our poetry partners.
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