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a writer's life Greece Marketing Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd. Publishing Stained glass Telltale Press Writing

Slow progress and wide heart lead

Seven items from the imaginary news desk at Kenny Towers.

  1. A nice, not to mention speedy, review of TRUTHS A Telltale Press Anthology in London Grip. If you’d like to buy a copy, simply get in touch with me through this site. In other poetry news, I have a poem called Commuted on the Amaryllis site,  and another War Diary in 1/72 scale accepted by Arachne Press anthology provisionally called An Outbreak of Peace.
  2. And talking of self-puffery, here’s a conversation I had with the multi-talented Louise Tondeur about marketing.
  3. Two books of poetry are currently lighting up my life. Eleni Vakalo, Before Lyricism, translated by Karen Emmerich, which drips with timeless vitality and sheer Greekness which I love. One day I must post more about the riches of Greek poetry since Cavafy.  And Janet Sutherland‘s Bone Monkey, which was recommended to me by my poet pal Charlotte — I have the sense in reading Janet’s poems that she sees the world a bit like I do, except she has words for what I’ve not been able to say, so for me her poems are revelatory. I am just about to order her other two books now. Some writers make you fall in love with reading all over again, and Vakalo and Sutherland are two of those.
  4. I think I have started a new play, but I don’t want to hex myself by saying more. It seems to want to be another black comedy.
  5. I have lost count of the number of agents I’ve approached with my children’s book. Not a glimmer so far, and the majority are so swamped they simply don’t reply. As the book has been read to actual schoolchildren who have lapped it up, clearly lateral thinking and persistence must now be deployed (after a brief spell of shaking my fist at the indifferent gods of publishing).
  6. In the other part of my double life as a creative, I found out a concept I’d done with my pals in the Paris agency, Life Animal Health, about the animal disease rinderpest, has won a prize in the French Empreintes awards.
  7. I have been learning how to make stained glass windows. My class on a short hiatus before restarting. The design part I find fairly easy, but the practical stuff I find a bit of a ‘pane’. Cutting different thicknesses and types of  lead (I love the name of one – ‘wide heart lead’), cutting glass, sometimes overlaying two lots of glass one on the other, grinding glass, soldering (I’d never done this before), and generally getting my finicky hands dirty, have all challenged me. I love it though. My design was quite complicated, so despite working on it for weeks every Friday morning, it is still not finished. The tutor, Ben Conti, a very patient and skilled man and has not let me compromise my vision. My fellow students all lovely. I’m planning a bench at home.

Below… A workbench snap a few weeks ago. Ben seems to think it will be done one day, but stained glass is, for me, a work of glacial progress…. But once the mammoths have thawed out, it could look nice all buffed up and completed.

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Categories
Greece Music Performance

Singing from the soul of Greece

 

What can you say about a singer who can moves you to tears even when you can’t understand the words. I’ve just returned from ‘The Songs of Greece’ a performance by Eleni Galanopoulou and Glen Capra, with Kostas Katoinis adding some deft and beautiful guitar to the arrangements, and featuring  a selection of songs by Hazidakis, Karonakis and Thodorakis.

Eleni Galanopoulou has a voice that is possessed of an electrifying hurt glory; and magical ability to trigger a whole range of emotions just by the sound her voice makes. Why else would I be sniffing and dabbing my eyes and feeling uplifted and affirmed in a grey and rainy lunchtime in Brighton? And I wasn’t alone in reacting this way in the Unitarian Church’s lunchtime concert.

I have worked with Glen Capra on a few projects, including the CD of Clameur. And it is a privilege to see his musical partnership with Eleni Galanopoulou evolve into a masterclass of sensitive and complementary listening and musicianship that sets the jewel of Eleni’s voice perfectly. ‘I know how and where she breathes’ he told me afterwards, and this attention to detail shows in the performance.

This is the only the second time I have heard Eleni sing, the previous time was in Kavala, Greece.  At the time, I said jokingly to Glen that it was as if the soul of Greece is singing to you. Now I don’t think this is a joke at all. There are very few voices like this, with a fiery beauty that seems to magically transcend the individual singer. Eleni Galanopoulou has one of them.

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Glen Capra and Eleni Galanopoulou

 

 

Categories
Greece Poetry Travel

The treasures of Greek poetry

Just back from a couple of weeks in Thassos, the northernmost Greek island of the Aegean, and Kavala on the mainland. While Lorraine and I did lots of site-seeing, notably at the site of Phillipi a short drive from Kavala, and also, rather bravely, going on a jeep safari to the top of Mount Ipsarion on the green and lovely island of Thassos, we did a fair bit of lounging about too. Much of what I go to Greece for is to sink into the timelessness of olive groves, glassy seas, mountains, pine forest and fingers of cypress trees pointing up into the blue. One of the things that makes my holiday, however, is sampling the more recent treasures of its poetry.

My love affair with Greece, which I have visited well over a dozen times, started with the book My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. As a boy I re-read it and sequels such as Birds Beasts and Relatives several times. Gerald Durrell wrote about Corfu (Kérkyra) in a humorously idealised way that felt safe, funny and, for a boy that was interested in natural history, was fascinating for all the right reasons. I had read versions of the Greek Myths and children’s versions of the Illiad and Odyssey too, but these didn’t seem to connect with Durrell’s world. Later I graduated onto the work of his older brother Lawrence Durrell, whose travel writing is extraordinary and I loved his sequence of novels The Alexandria Quartet. Currently out of fashion, I remember The Quartet as being unlike anything I had read before or since.

In my twenties I began to read Greek poets in translation, starting with C.P. Cavafy, who appeared as a figure haunting the Alexandria of Lawrence Durrell. I followed it with reading George Sepheris (who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1963) and who was in the characteristic dialogue of a modern Greek writer with Classical Greece. Then an Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry translated by Kimon Friar published by the Efstathiadis Group I purchased on my first visit to Greece in 1992, introduced me to dozens of fabulous poets. This collection opened a door to the soul of Greece just as easily as I could hear the cicada from the comfort of my sun-lounger. Recently I have been reading lots of the poet Odysseus Elytis, (Nobel Prize 1979) who I fiercely admire. Greek poetry often speaks more viscerally to me in a way that English poetry of the same period does not. Perhaps it is because of the inevitable focus on islands it contains, and my connection with the channel islands means I tune into this.

And although I was reading Elytis again this trip, it was the new translation of The Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy, with a parallel Greek text by Evangelos Sachperoglou published by Oxford World’s Classics that snared me all over again, and I find it the best translation of Cavafy I have read. I find three broad streams in Cavafy’s work. Those poems when he returns to what are to this reader at least fairly obscure historical events; his sensuous, erotically charged love poems, drenched in the poignancy of remembering lost youth and abandon. Then there are the times when he makes concrete an emotion with disarming directness.  An early poem called Candles, for example, uses the image of a line of candles to express anxiety about the passage of time.  Or this poem Walls. I was discussing this with Eleni, a Greek friend and singer based in Kavala, she read it again and said: “but this is what is happening to us now!” For her, the current economic travails of Greece were reflected in this poem written before 1910. It’s worth quoting in full:

WALLS

Without consideration, without pity, without shame,
they built around me great and towering walls.

And now I am sitting and despairing here.
I think of nothing else: this fate is gnawing at my mind;

for I had many things to do out there.
When they were building the walls, how could I not be aware?

Yet never did I hear clatter of builders, or any sound.
Imperceptibly, they shut me off from the world outside.

Two men