Workshop participants and Pokkoli Members in the news

More news from Pokkoli People

Sergio Baldassarre presented his new film The Party's Over at the DETOUR film club in Rome and at the Glottodrama Conference in Rome
View it here at https:/​/​​watch?v=-ylTWNJTEBY

Linda Lappin won the Daphne Du Maurier Award for excellence in Mystery and Suspense Writing for her mystery novel SIGNATURES IN STONE, A BOMARZO MYSTERY set in the Bomarzo Monster Park, among the favorite sites visited by Pokkoli workshop participants over the years.
Susan Tekulve's new novel In the Garden of Stone has won the South Carolina First novel award.

Find your muse in Greece this summer! See our recommended workshops

A.E. Stallings, leader of the Muses Workshop at the Athens Centre

Greece A Love Story, Women Write About the Greek Experience,
including essays by Pokkoli member Linda Lappin & by
Susan Tiberghien of the Geneva Writers Group

Greece, it has been said, is where art became inseparable from life. The country evokes a richly embroidered tapestry of images, from old monuments rife with history to idyllic isles of glass-blue sea and blinding white stucco dwellings. Greece enchants its visitors with its beauty, tradition, and spirit.

In this eloquent collection, women share firsthand experiences of the people, history, and landscape of Greece. Their essays go beyond ordinary travelogue to capture the ways in which Greece has shaped lives or influenced decisions. In expressing their love for the country, these women share stories as visceral as they are poignant, as entertaining as they are endearing.

Essays by: Linda Lappin
& Susan Tiberghien
and by Alison Cadbury,Liza Monroy
Ashley Black,Katherina Audley,Cynthia Greenberg,
Amanda Castleman ,,Simone Butler,Linda Hefferman, Marilyn McFarlane,Sara Woster,Colleen McGuire,
Pamela S. Stamatiou,Davi Walders,Diane LeBow,Ronna N. Welsh,Tara Kolden

Crete, home of the spirit

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Workshops and Retreats in Europe 2015

June 23rd - July 3rd 2015
@ the Aegean Arts Circle

Join DAVID LAZAR, Poet, Essayist, and Founding Editor of Hotel Amerika, and poet and essayist ADRIANNE KALFOPOULOU, author of Ruin, for a ten-day workshop on the enchanting island of ANDROS, in Greece

Whether you are heading off to Andros to the Aegean Arts Circle, or just dreaming of a trip to Greece, the Pokkoli Library Recommends "Broken Greek" an insightful, intelligent memoir on place and identity, by Adrianne Kalfopoulou.

Poet Adrianne Kalfopoulou takes a gap year between college and grad school to connect with her roots, staying with her grandparents in Athens. She is immediately immersed in the chaotic tangle of Greek life and the ordered labyrinth of the Greek language, which at first she speaks imperfectly, especially in moments of great stress, like when she is insulted by drivers who ram into the side of her car and they are clearly at fault. Later, when she finishes her studies, she returns to live and work in Athens and raises a daughter there. In this intelligent and insightful memoir, we maneuver familiar territory of expat memoirs set in Mediterranean countries: the nightmare bureaucracy, that multicursal maze with no exits, which must be dealt with at every breath you take, the terrible traffic, the misogynous, maniac drivers, and the fact that there is no word for 'efficiency' in the native language. But these are viewed from a fresher perspective, not the usual clear cut line of demarcation of " us" and "them. "She comes to see that there is a fragile order in the chaos, based on a mutual making way for each other, even in the face of what seem to be outrageous demands, an attitude so different from the American ideal in which society functions as long as everyone follows the rules and keeps within a tidy space. More than once she is accused of being uncivilized when clinging to a rigid concept of the rules, and the conflict between these two systems reaches boiling point. . Am I Greek or am I American? can I be both? There is a passionate humanism in this memoir. And you will also learn why Greeks drive the way they do.

Publisher: Plain View Press (October 1, 2006)

Reviewed by L. Lappin

Kalfopoulou's essays in Ruin link meditations on teaching, friendship, motherhood, love, the financial meltdown in Greece, the shared language of politics and advertising, Occupy Wall Street, and the Parthenon Marbles into a relentless interrogation of identity and loss. Kalfopoulou’s Athens and New York are twinned sites of perpetual dislocation, palimpsests of political, economic, cultural—and personal—crisis. The refugee, the immigrant, the fragmented ‘I’ charted in these essays—all are studies in exilic living, pilgrims wandering the wreckage of late capitalism

In his new collection of essays, Occasional Desire, David Lazar meditates on random violence and vanished phone booths, on the excessive relationship to jewelry that links Kobe Bryant and Elizabeth Taylor, on Hitchcock, Francis Bacon, and M. F. K. Fisher. He explores, in his concentrically self-aware, amused, and ironic voice, what it means to be occasionally aware that we are surviving by our wits, and that our desires, ulterior or obvious, are what keep us alive. Lazar also turns his attention on the essay itself, affording us a three-dimensional look at the craft and the art of reading and writing a literary form that maps the world as it charts the peregrinations of the mind.

STUDY WITH A. E. STALLINGS @ THE MUSES' WORKSHOP, THE ATHENS POETRY CENTRE JUNE 16 -28, 2015 Imagine yourself writing poetry in Greece. Imagine yourself inspired by the country of Homer, of Sappho, of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, in the city where Socrates, Aristotle and Plato walked the streets and taught in the Agora and the Academy. The summer poetry seminar is a two week session focusing on the writing and appreciation of poetry in the land where western literature was born, and which has continued to inspire English-language poets through the ages, from Byron and Rupert Brooke to James Merrill and Seamus Heaney. The Athens Centre has been sponsoring poetry programs in Greece since 1970; well-known writers who have taken part in the programs over the years include Gregory Corso, James Merrill, Alan Ansen, Rachel Hadas, David Mason, Christopher Bakken, Katerina Angelaki-Rook, Tassos Denegris, and many others.

An Interview with A.E. Stallings of the Athens Poetry Centre

Linda Lappin talks with A.E.Stallings about her life in Greece and the workshop she teaches for the Athens Poetry Centre.
Poet and workshop leader Alicia Stallings, author of The Archaic Smile (University of Evansville Press, 1999, winner Richard Wilbur prize) and Hapax (Northwestern University Press, 2006), talks about the Muses’ Workshop and its focus on myth.

Lappin: There’s an emphasis on myth and mythology in your workshop, which is indeed dedicated to The Muses. Why?
Stallings: Because we are in Greece, I wanted to use what was around us. Mythology pervades Greek life. My children are named Jason and Atalanta, and their friends on the playground are named Electra, Achilles, Andromeda. It’s also a way to enter into contact with modern and contemporary Greek poetry: poets like Cavafy and Seferis make use of mythology. And it’s a key to understanding modern life in Greece. It brings together many elements in the classroom. Many of my students have been writing confessional poetry. For them, using myth in different sorts of ways and seeing different examples of myth-based poems introduces a new dimension, and can help open them up to new subject matter.
Lappin: Some people may remember studying the Greek myths or the Odyssey at elementary school, with antiquated Victorian translations, high flown language, or modern bland prose versions. In class, you were saying how important it is to approach this material with fresh eyes and a spirit of innovation.
Stallings: In working with myth, you have to feel free to make variations. You don’t have to approach the material in a fusty way, or feel reverent and respectful. Ancient writers didn’t feel that way. They experimented and could be both playful and raunchy. You can take the standard story and give yourself permission to play with it. The Greek myths are very contemporary. Consider the story of Phaeton and the chariot of the sun. It’s the story of a teenager who has been given the keys to his dad’s Porsche and doesn’t know how to control it. Or take The Odyssey—among other things, it’s the first western.
Lappin You say that Greek myths still pervade contemporary Greek consciousness and Greek life. In the current economic and political crisis, do you see any myths operating?
Stallings I’d have to think about this.
Lappin: I was thinking the other day about the sacrifice of the young Athenians to the Minotaur…
Stallings : Actually, that might make a bit of sense… There is a resonance of events. You need to read the current crisis against a larger backdrop of modern Greek history: the founding of the Greek republic, a sort of colonialism that took place. Some people wondered if Greece was ready for democracy. Loans were made on calamitous terms. In any case, it is a gerontocratic society. Young people have no power, no say, an insecure future. Like Kronos, Greece eats her young.
Lappin: In your own work, are there myths that have shaped your life or your vision of your art?
Stallings: I have written a lot about the underworld. Hades and Persephone. Orpheus and Eurydice. I am fascinated by the Underworld. The classical, pagan view of the afterlife seems much less abstract to me, more real than our Christian heaven and hell.
Lappin: I share your fascination. I find your images of the Underworld extremely striking, particularly in the poems “Hades Welcomes His Bride” and “Persephone Writes a Letter to Her Mother “ in Archaic Smile, or “Dogdom of the Dead,” and “An Ancient Dog Grave Unearthed During the Construction of the Athens Metro.” Especially in the first two poems, you give Hades such vivid physical reality, it’s the world of roots and snakes and burrowing right under our feet. In a forum I found on the Internet, you mention that for a while you lived in a basement flat, and that this subterranean environment might have unconsciously influenced you. I’d be interested in hearing more about your fascination for the underworld and its meanings for you.
Stallings: I think if I fully understood my fascination with it, it would subside somewhat. Part of it may be how the dead continue to exist, but as shadows of themselves, like dim but stubborn memories. I like the realness of its geography, how it is a place to be travelled to but not (usually) returned from. I sometimes think, looking back at early poems of mine about the underworld that they are as much about depression as death. But that’s an idea that has only come to me lately. And I think writing about the underworld is fun, too, as well as frightening.
Lappin: You’re a classics scholar and a great admirer of the Odyssey, which you use in your writing classes at the Muses Workshop. I was wondering how you relate to one of its main themes: exile or dislocation. What’s the hardest thing you have had to deal with as an expat writer?
Stallings: Losing track of American vernacular and being out of touch with popular culture. You’re not watching the same television shows, keeping up with the same trends.
Lappin: That might not be bad for an artist.
Stallings: Of course, yet sometimes I find myself re-reading a line I have written and will ask myself, “would someone really say that?” You have to keep in touch with the language. As an expat and also as a mother you are isolated.
Lappin: Elsewhere you have described yourself as a “Mommy poet.”
Stallings: I am. With small children it’s a struggle to find time and quiet in which to work.
Lappin: Do you feel part of the American writing community, the poetry community?
Stallings: With social media, internet, Facebook, Skype, it’s easy to be included in the conversation and to keep in touch. But it’s also good to be independent of it all.
Lappin: Do you teach elsewhere in Athens or Greece?
Stallings: I run this workshop (normally 3 weeks in summer) and teach at some workshops/​ residencies in the US. I do a lot of literary translation, and also some of what I call “hack work” –reviews, articles, essays. I am a professional writer. If someone says, write me a 500 word blog on Greek food and pays me, I’ll do it. After all, I have to pay my Bulgarian baby sitter who looks after my children when I am teaching or when I need time to write! But both writing and translation take time and energy away from my main work.
Lappin: In this very intense week of the Muses Workshop, we’ve worked a lot with rhyme and form: sonnets, sestinas, pantoums, and villanelles. Would you elaborate a bit about your emphasis on form in your writing classes?
Stallings: I run a poetry boot camp! Many people misunderstand the use of form and think it entails submitting to restrictions. But instead it means giving up control. Not submitting to restrictions, but to destiny or chance that helps choose the next word. Rhyme is also an engine of syntax. And it helps make lines memorable.
Lappin: What writers do you read for inspiration?
Stallings: Among many others, Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Wilbur, Don Paterson, Seamus Heaney. And ancient writers. My favorite poet is A.E. Housman.
Lappin: You have translated both texts of classical antiquity as well as modern Greek poetry, and have received a grant for your translation work. In class you said that translating was a form of very close reading, and a way to know another writer’s work intimately. Aside from Cavafy or other early modernists, are there any contemporary Greek poets whom you have translated whose work you find especially inspiring?
Stallings: I suppose you could include Angelos Sikelianos in the early modernists? There are many wonderful contemporary Greek poets. Interestingly, two of the most prominent are women: Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke and Kiki Dimoula. I have not, however, attempted to translate any living writers. (Indeed, Anghelaki-Rooke translates herself!) I suppose one advantage of working with a living writer is you could pose queries to them. But the disadvantage is you might not like the answers.
Lappin: In class, we looked at the many hand written and typed drafts of Elizabeth Bishop’s famous villanelle, The Art of Losing, which I believe went through eleven drafts. Do you think word processing has made the labor of writing poetry easier—not having to retype every fresh revision? Do you work with a word processor or write long hand?
Stallings: Some people have a fetishistic approach—they have to use a certain pen, etc. I am not like that. People need different things. I write long hand and then on the computer. I actually have some theories about using computers to write poetry. I think that looking at a back-illuminated screen ties up your visual attention in a way that looking at a page doesn’t. I always print out and revise on the printed page. Sometimes in revision, you can lose a certain freshness, and if you’ve just deleted blocks of text, it’s hard to go back and find your earlier versions. I tell my students to always keep a copy of their earlier versions.
Lappin: You’ll be bringing out a new book soon…
Stallings: Yes, it’s called OLIVES—which can also be O LIVES.
It is forthcoming with Northwestern University Press, and should be out early in 2012.
Lappin: A word of advice to writers?
Stallings: You have to give yourself permission to write bad poetry. Clean the brown water out of the pipes. It’s often in revision that a poem goes from bad to good or from good to great.


founder and director of Centro Pokkoli. Instructor for "Survival Italian," Italian culture and cuisine workshops. Glottodrama instructor and video maker. Learn more about him here.