Important aspects of so many of our cultural institutions in North America and Western Europe can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks. We were taught that inescapable truth in our school classrooms and we have read it in our history books. And yet, for some reason, we in the West have been less mindful of modern Greek history and modern Greek literature in particular. There may have been a brief brush with Seferis during a second- or third-year poetry course at university, yes. And one perhaps recalls a fleeting encounter with Cavafy in an anthology of modern world literature in translation. Perhaps. But most of us are woefully ignorant of the great wealth of poetry that has proliferated in Greece since the mid-1700s. Manolis’ book of translations of the works of many, many diverse poetic voices from the modern era in Greece thus constitutes a great gift. He has given us—handily assembled between the two covers of Neo-Hellene Poets: An Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry, 1750-2018—a ready resource to which we may now turn in order to make up that glaring lacuna that exists in our cultural education. Poems that are orderly and formal, and poems that are unruly and unbounded; works steeped in tradition and works that are wildly innovative; verse that is serious and sentimental, and verse that is droll and irreverent; it’s all there. The modern Greek poetic tapestry is multi-coloured, artful and highly textured and it deserves far more attention that it has gotten to date from scholars and from other members of Western societies who turn to poetry for pleasure and inspiration but cannot read or speak Greek. We must be thankful to Manolis for opening a door that has been effectively closed for three centuries. At last, English speakers and readers can feast at a long-overlooked table, a table well laden with many exotic literary delights. Mr. Waiter, would you please bring us the wine list?
P.W. Bridgman, author, poet.