POET OF THE MONTH
OPA How long have you been writing Poetry? We would like to know the early stories about your growing up as a poet or writer in general. Who are your favorite Poets? What are some of your favorite genres to read and to write? Had they inspired you a lot, do you believe in inspiration as a guiding force behind writings at all?
CHRYSSA I’m a reader first of all. I was attracted by poetry since I was eleven years old, meaning my first years of adolescence. I was not a conscientious reader of poetry though; since I always was a bookworm I was reading everything I could even if it was difficult to understand for my age. I was not considering the poetry books as books to read; they were more something like a distraction for me, a subtle delight, a consolation, something I was reading to feel not to think about. So without knowing it I was always reading poetry the right way, through my heart. I started to read first the Greek traditional poems and song, which were simple, direct and were about stories of people with repeated patterns, metaphors , structure and rhythm. Those poems had many elements of myths and a sense of fairytales which attracted my innocent soul then. Afterwards I started to read all the classical and contemporary Greek poets like Kavafis, Seferis, Elytis, Palamas, Skarimbas, Ouranis, Solomos, Kalvos, Mavilis, Krystallis, Valaoritis, Polidouri, Varnalis, Ritsos, Empeirikos, Vassilikos, Sikelianos, Livaditis, Karouzos, Demoula, Anagnostakis, Kaknavatos, Lapatiotis, Sachtouris, Sinopoulos, Karouzos, Kariotakis, Sinopoulos, Kavvadias, Eggonopoulos etc. They are so many and important poets… Greek poets are great! In the last fifty years two Nobel prizes (Seferis, Elytis) and two Lenin prices (Ritsos, Varnalis) were awarded to Greek poets. When I discovered the exceptional ancient poets, first of all Homer and Sapfo, I started to read them passionately too. I still “feel” them all and many others… I was learning to speak French during my early years so I was reading French poetry from the prototype too. In my eighteen years I had next to my pillow the Bible and Rimbaud… My mother was a theologian so my youth was filled with the serene byzantine hymns, great pieces of poetry too… Romanos o Melodos was writing about God like a man in love to his beloved one. In the University I “met” Nazim Hikmet, Khalil Gibran, Poe, Shelley, Kipling, Wilde, Parra, Pessoa, Bukowski, Plath, Mayakovski, Milosz, Cummings, Dante, Shakespeare, Elliot, Goethe, Kafka, Dickinson, Blake, the Beat poets, Tagore etc. I was very lucky to have learned many languages so I was reading poetry from the prototype.
During all my adolescence I wrote only two poems which I hated right afterwards and I tore apart the sheet of paper whereon they were written. But I remember to recite “poems” all my life… Everything, I was singing it like a poem inside my soul and mind. I remember myself to recite on the shore to a girlfriend in rhythm and rhyme all the Ancient Greeks history as we has learned it in school. To console myself I was talking poetically to me in sorrows, I was expressing with verses my joy. As my mentor Faidon Theofilou named my kind in one of his numerous books, I just was an “oral poet” all my life.
This continued till recently… It is only ten years ago that I felt the need to present my poetry on internet, on facebook poetry groups, on my blogs, in many international anthologies, literature journals, magazines and of course in my Greek books. But since then I create poems all the time like a fool. I wrote more than 3000 poems during the last years and I translated many of them or I wrote others directly in three languages, English, French and German, but mostly in English.
There is not parthenogenesis in literature. But after all this I read I don’t know who could have been my model poet. I think that inspiration is the moving force as also the sense of metaphor and the ability to create images. I think a poet remains a fascinated child looking for new experiences around him all his life. I also think a poet is characterized by high compassion, intuition and awareness. A great love for beings and nature.
I wrote poems using many genres of poetry. I prefer my brief allegorical poems. Most of my poems verses use a kind of haiku style.
OPA What has been the toughest criticism given to you as a writer? What was the biggest compliment? Did those change how or what you write? What has been the strangest thing that a reader has asked you?
CHRYSSA They say I write too much. I often become verbose. I don’t like it, but sometimes I need it. A Greek American professor of literature last year told me I am a born poet and I write the way I speak. He said it is the easiest thing for me to write verses that others work and study too much to create. He also compared me with Emily Dickinson. Another Greek author and poet I respect too much told me once that my writing resembles to the writing of Anna Akhmatova and another respected poet told me that some of my love poems are as if they have been written by Joyce Mansour (smile). I do not even believe I’m an important poet! But I know they said their opinion frankly so I feel proud though humble. A mother asked me once to write a poem about her dead daughter and not to tell anyone I was the poet; she wanted to present the poem as hers in the memory of her daughter. I felt much moved and I did it. She still feels so grateful to me! She says the poem was telling exactly what she was feeling and she never could express wordily.
OPA What is your favorite poem you have ever written? Compared to when you first started writing, have you notice any big changes in your writing style or how you write compared from then to now?
CHRYSSA I feel all my poems are my children and a mother could not say one of her children is better than the other. But I remember very dearly the first poem with which my mentor Faidon Theofilou presented me to the public in his famous blog and from which my blog took its name. The title of the poem is “Apolestheen” meaning in ancient Greek “I’m lost”. This poem had been also published in English and in Greek in an international anthology of the Canadian editor Brian Wrixon with whom I published poems in more than fifteen of his anthologies. Well yes my style is dynamic as it should be the style of every living poet. My poems have been developed from a classical and strict structure into a more liberal structure and a surrealistic style. I feel freer to use strong words now and to touch non conventional themes.
OPA What has been your favorite part of being a poet or and author? What has been your least favorite?
CHRYSSA I feel more a poet than an author although my readers say I write prose skillfully. I like the thickness of motions and images in a good poem. I don’t like to be verbose in strong emotional themes…
OPA Did you get to quit your day job and become a writer and or author or do you still have a day job and writing is something you do for fun? If you still have a day job, what is it?
CHRYSSA Well I am a succeeded and prized professor of Physics, I do not even see Physics as a job although I gain money from my teaching. Physics has always been a great love for me. Poetry is not at all for fun though. I respect my Art and I feel complete through it. I cannot live without Physics or Poetry anymore. I’m in love with both of them (smile).
OPA Besides writing and reading, what is your most favorite thing to do?What genre are you most looking forward to explore during your writing career? Why?
CHRYSSA I also like, as I said before, Physics as teaching or educational research. I was specialized in Space Physics but lately I am interested in NT education. But before all I feel I am the mother of my four children. My family matters above all to me. I am a dynamic poet and I develop my views about my Art day by day. I do not know to where I’ll go as a poet , I know what my inspiration tells me to do right now and right now I am preparing to write something like a poetic novel, a big story in poetic word. I feel this is a challenge for me, how to remain brief in words and also write something extended as a whole. I think this could be a bet for every poet.
OPA: Do you think literature or poetry is really essential in our life? If so why? How does it relate to the general history of mankind?
CHRYSSA Oh Poetry is that beautiful useless thing we could not live without. It is the key to express wordily emotions and problems which tyrannize our inner and outer world respectively. This way we could deepen the understanding of our personality and strengthen our passion for life.
OPA Our readers would like to know your own personal experience regarding the importance of literature and poetry in your life.
CHRYSSA I live and communicate through poetry, I bear my solitude through the Arts, I think there is nothing more important than this.
OPA Do you think people in general actually bother about literature in general? Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature?
CHRYSSA Yes, literature and science which is the flag of the consumerist world in fact construct our culture together and the one influence the other. There were and there are a few people only who love and understand serious literature, because a few people only can understand metaphor and use their imagination to elaborate images. Serious literature had always nothing to do with majority.
OPA If humanity makes an attempt to understand tradition and modernism, do you think literature can play a pivotal role in obtaining understanding? If so, how? Again how can an individual writer relate himself or herself with the tradition and modernism?
CHRYSSA I only could say that poetry can empower understanding because “it is only in the Arts where the processes and products of the imagination are encountered and explored in consciousness, where they become objects of inquiry, unlike in the sciences where the metaphors that are used remain hidden” (Stewart and Walker, 2005), only in the Arts a person exceeds the culture by which he/she has been created using the most impressive tool of the human spirit, imagination. All this, considering tradition as the old and modernism as the new view among ideas.
OPA Do you think society, as a whole, has a factor in shaping you as a poet, or your poetry altogether?
CHRYSSA I do not write nor ever I wrote for the public mind, I write for myself, AND again NOT by griping about what happens to me but by describing my substance or juxtaposing it with the substance of others. I LIVE through this, nothing CAN satisfy ME more. So although I am a product of my society, I think my Art helps me keep my Otherness intact.
OPA Being a scientist and specially working in the field of cosmology, can you relate poetry with the cosmic existence of the eternity?
CHRYSSA As a scientist I have been specialized in Space Physics, yes. I understand eternity in its material notion, not of a stable world but of a world which by nature and by chance turns from the nothing to everything, a world which dies and is born completely different again. But the word eternity has been related to religion and souls etc… I’m not so sure, but I doubt about our personal spiritual eternity. I am almost convinced that a human being dies for sure and a new is born, but the dead is dead. I mean I feel we have this little life only. We have our material eternity though, our children, not our own children, all the children on Earth
OPA We would like to know about the influence of Greek Mythology in your poetry and writings.
CHRYSSA It is not only me! The truth is I am immerged in the lake of the Ancient Greek spirit, language and myths through my classical education in Greece, Greek culture’s tradition and through Greek Orthodox religion’s worship which still uses the Ancient Greek language. But furthermore Greek mythology has had an extensive influence on the culture, arts, and literature of Western civilization in general and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in the themes. Out of all the mythologies of the world, Greek mythology has had the most influence on Western culture. Literally thousands of artists and writers have used Greek mythology as their muse--bringing the ancient stories to life through sculpture, painting, poetry, and song. Myth-inspired phrases such as Achilles Heel and Oedipus Complex and stand-alone words like labyrinth and mentor proliferate English language. Media other than high art use mythological references too. Businesses and advertising firms use mythology as a selling tool. Arethusa Plumbing references Arethusa (a nymph transformed into a spring), a diamond necklace is titled a Pandora for its irresistibility, and towering billboards bear the name Olympus. All these examples show how culturally ingrained Greek mythology has become. Together with the Bible and Shakespeare, Greek mythology rounds out the Big Three of Allusions. Any serious student of literature must have a healthy background in these three areas in order to spot the numerous references authors make to them.
Every culture and era has its beliefs about deities and their roles in the universe, but only a handful have been as enduring and influential as Greek mythology. Our pantheon was neither a religion nor a set of cultural fables, but rather something that landed right between those marks.
I suggest that for modern writers classical mythology offers shorthand that can be called upon when personal or direct language presents difficulties, freeing the poet to explore ideas. The characters and events of mythology are about the eternally important issues of what it is to be human: love and anger, war and the reasons for war or lack of them, identity and loss, complexities of family relationships, justice versus the rule of law, what heroism means, hope, and despair – these are some examples from a long list. The ancient stories are deceptively simple, giving today’s writers the option to interpret events, characters and themes every which way: symbolism and metaphor being two of the more obvious routes that spring to mind. Or a mythological reference can add a layer of meaning bringing interest or a cause for thought. I do the same.
OPA We would also like to know; How do you relate the present literary trends with the literary heritage of your own country?
CHRYSSA The glories of ancient Greece and the splendor of the Christian Byzantine Empire give the modern Greeks a proud and rich heritage. The resilience and durability of Greek culture and traditions through times of turmoil provide a strong sense of cultural destiny. These elements also pose a considerable challenge to Greeks of the present: to live up to the legacies of the past. Much of the history of the modern state of Greece has witnessed a playing out of these contradictory forces.
Furthermore the literature of Ancient Greece was so important that it was preserved for millennia and helped form the basis of the modern European culture. The Ancient Greek authors left legacies that included styles and themes of literature, early mythologies and histories that of course words to describe important aspects of language. The Greeks were the first major Europe’s civilization to create complex literature and their works influence us today in many ways. One way is in the style that we write; in other words why do we write History or Philosophy or Comedy or Poetry? These styles were first developed by the Greeks. One of the oldest styles of literature is Poetry. Specifically a big Poetry that uses verse to tell a long story about a hero, the oldest surviving works of a great Greek epic poetry are the Iliad and the Odyssey written by Homer in about 700B.C. The Iliad and Odyssey tell stories that are part History, part Fiction and part Mythology that represent how the Greeks remembered their past and understood the world. These two books are also two of the widely read books in the Modern world because they set standards for storytelling, such as the characteristics of a hero’s journey that influence us to this day. When the ancient Greeks literature reached its height in 5th and 4th century, the era of the Classical Period, literature blossomed and expanded. Several styles immerged that may sound familiar. Let’s start with History. We don’t think about this but History had to have started somewhere. In the 5th B.C. a man named Herodotus wrote a book that was a foundation of historical writing. For centuries rulers were recorded upon invents and singers pass on local legends but Herodotus was the first who systematically researched and collected historic materials and arranged them into a single narrative. Although he was often mixed on mythology and folk stories, this was still the most accurate account of recorded history and started a trend that modern historians still obey. Just as they did for History, the Greeks also turned random jots on Philosophy, Medicine, Arts and Engineering at full length articles that other people could read and research. So a large amount of articles were created which many people could reach and many scholars in the world interacted that way. We could say similar things about Comedy or Tragedy the two styles of theater which were invented by the Greeks and still relate the present relevant literary trends.
OPA Are you a feminist? Can literature play any decisive role in feminism at all?
CHRYSSA Am I? I am a woman for sure. I am a person who believes the two sexes are equivalent for sure. I was always a free mind. I never felt inferior among men. On the contrary I had usually more success than any men around me in whatever I was involved. In science, in teaching, in politics, sometimes in Poetry too. I see woman as a human being and all human beings are allegedly equal, right? Why then I can feel and act as equal in my environment and country when my fellow African woman is slaughtered not to feel the sexual joy with her clit or is kidnapped and remain a slave against her will? Why my fellow Muslim women are taught to believe they must hide their body? Why little baby girls are thrown to the garbage in Asia? Why women are raped and slaughtered like cattle in India and in many other places? Why the woman’s body is exploited as a thing to increase sales of products? Anyway there is still a lot of unright things against women on this globe, so yes! I think I am a feminist.
OPA Do you believe that all writers are by and large the product of their nationality? Is it an incentive or an obstacle in becoming an international writer?
CHRYSSA No each of us is a multicolored being who can absorb everything. Especially in our times that we live in an informative world. So we are taught by our nation’s tradition but we can incorporate no matter what to which we are attracted and can satisfy us as personalities. Anyway there is a common internal language among all beings, the language of the emotions and Poetry is able to use it eloquently.
OPA What 7 words would you use to describe yourself?
CHRYSSA Mother, Physicist, Poet, teacher, lover, friend, WOMAN.
OPA Is there anything else that you would like to share or say to those who will read this interview?
CHRYSSA Peace and love among people will win. I am a believer. Only this.
The editorial staff of this project: Deborah Brooks Langford, Stacia Lynn Reynolds; sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.