History is on His Side

This poem was written on the tenth anniversary of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death. It  is included in the anthology Dance the Guns to Silence, edited by nii ayikwei Parkes and Kadija Sesay, London: Flipped Eye Publishing, 2005.

History is on His Side

‘No,’ he said, No to oppression, No to injustice,
No to violence. Even as he stood before the guards.
The sun was rising proper in the East, blushing the soil scarlet.

Sozaboy was with soldiers, arguing with the heart
of darkness. We all stand before history, he thought, and
‘No,’ he murmured through cracked lips. ‘No.’

He could not wipe his sweat mimicking sorrow’s tears.
His tied hands tried. His crowded heart pounding with the fear
of the unknowable. He mouthed ‘No,’ just before
their fifth attempt to hang him. Who will claim
the corpse of free speech, but those with a pen
to their name? History is on his side. And ours. Yes.

It Could Have Been Love

Looking both ways, she crossed the road. Jeeps buzzed like insects. The brown earth sizzled.

“Don’t look around; keep your eyes lowered! Walk fast! Don’t speak to foreigners!” she heard her mother’s voice repeating in her head.

“Yes, Mother.”  Since her father’s death, she stopped arguing with her mother. Poor woman, she often thought. It’s no small thing she suffered – her husband blown to pieces! Rana hurried her step, pulling her headscarf to shield her face from the relentless sun.

“Miss, Miss,” she heard the foreign soldier’s call. Glancing sideways, she checked he was calling her. He was. Leaving the cover of the date palm grove, he walked towards her. Rana continued walking away, her heart pounding with fear and pleasure. In that instant, she thought him handsome! Underneath the heavy armour, behind the gun, she saw the young man he was.

“Miss,” he called urgently, and started running towards her.

“Don’t speak to foreigners,” her mother again.

“Miss, Stop!”

Out of the corner of her eye she saw him near her, his eyes cooling blue oases; and then a surprise. A stillness. She can remember nothing else.

The doctor at Rana’s bedside says the American was killed by a sniper.  He had been trying to warn her when he was hit. She was lucky he took the bullets.

She can only see the young man running towards her; she can feel the fluttering of her own heart.

This story was short-listed in the Fish publishing inaugural VERY Short Story Competition, 2004.

A version of it appears in the print issue of Another Country, A Journal of New Writing, 2005, Munich, Germany.

If Trees, Then Olive Trees

This poem was published in the Big Pond Rumours ezine, summer 2006. It won second Prize in the Big Pond Rumours Poetry Competition.

I wrote it for Tania and Jaque’s  house-warming party and it is dedicated to them.

If Trees, Then Olive Trees

You ploughed the seas. You crossed the skies. Saw the shipwrecks. Gathered
your wealth in words. Then, like Odysseus seeing the smoke rising, you decided
to become trees. To grow roots, you wrote. To grow. And while the bulldozers

work round you, while the Fates, the Wars, the Envious, the Arrogant,
lay siege to you, as they always do and always will, remember to stand your ground
like thousand year-old olives, twisting golden brown trunks and holding hands. Expand,
burrow deeper and fashion a silky smooth quilt, a glowing oil lamp, a warming hearth,
a spacious kitchen, a deep well and a cool, vine-clad terrace.

Odyssey is a memory. A treasure and a well-kept secret. Your home always yearned
for you. Your olive-tree bed rooted to the ground. Penelope with outstretched
arms will hug you. The lyre and the xylophone. The drum and the flute will lead you.
And you will dance, and dance and sing the life she could only dream of.

And if, like the man of old, you find your journey not yet over,
embark on each new voyage with zest. Plan each trip in language,
build your boats with words. Thread your sails with rays from your joyous souls.
And for fuel, for fuel employ the subtle beating of your hearts.

Dance the Guns to Silence

Stella’s poem History is on His Side included in Dance the Guns to Silence: 100 Poems Inspired by Ken Saro-Wiwa. Edited by: Nii Ayikwei Parkes & Kadija George. Published by Flipped Eye Publishing, African Writers Abroad and SableLitMag, the Anthology commemorates the tenth anniversary of the writer’s execution and celebrates his life. More information about Ken Saro Wiwa and his work on http://www.remembersarowiwa.com/poetry.htm

Poems by George Seferis

I am reading “In the Manner of G. S.” and “Thrush” both poems by George Seferis, in George Seferis: Collected Poems. Translated and edited by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, Princeton University Press, 1995.

We shall see what comes of it. Very soon!

In the Shade of the Lemon Tree

Photo credit: Maria Pierides

Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree is a novel about identity. It asks how we know who we are and how events, as well as thinking, change our understanding of ourselves and of others. This theme is explored through a group of characters thrown accidentally together in Athens, Greece, in 1957, renting rooms in the house of the Pagidis.

Post World War II; post German occupation; post Civil War; and not even a century free from Ottoman rule, Greece itself has an identity problem. The refugees that fled the catastrophic 1922 war with Turkey (they comprise a fifth of the existing population) are both compounding the problem for the rest of Greece and bringing innumerable gains to it. Their traumatic past and struggle for survival, in a country that is both home and hostile to them, require extreme psychological resources of generosity and masochism, denial and ruthlessness – and above all, humour and forgiveness.

The mood, timing and rhythm of the novel reflect the survival mechanisms of the refugees as they, and their offspring, work out their lives as refugees and identities as Greeks. Tragic-comic threads run through the story, charging the atmosphere with hilarious ethnic colour, sensuality and psychological insight. Underneath this tightly woven fabric, the weight of history of Asia Minor, the Greek Civil War, collaboration and blackmail, adoption and betrayal, informs the minds and the hearts of the characters. And question their identities as Greeks, as parents, as individuals.

Sources and Related Material


Alice James, 2001, ‘Memories of Anatolia: generating Greek refugee identity’, in


Thalia Pandiri, 2007, ‘Narratives of Loss and Survival: Greek voices from the Asia Minor Catastrophe’, in


Raymond Bonner, 1996, ‘Tales of Stolen Babies and Lost Identities; A Greek Scandal Echoes in New York’ in



In Print

Bruce Clark, Twice a Stranger: How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey (London: Granta Books, 2007)

Renee Hirschon, Heirs of the Greek Catastrophe: The Social Life of Asia Minor Refugees in Piraeus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989)

Marjorie Housepian Dobkin, Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City (New York: Newmark Press, 1988)

Esther P Lovejoy, Certain Samaritans (New York: Macmillan, 1933).

Mark Mazower, Inside Hitler’s Greece: The Experience of Occupation,1941 – 1944 (New Haven and London: 1993)

Mark Maazower, After the War Was Over: Reconstructing the Family, Nation, and State in Greece, 1943 – 1960 (Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000)

Leyla Neyzi, ‘Remembering Smyrna/Izmir: Shared History, Shared Trauma’ in History and Memory, Bloomington: 2008, 20:2

Arnold J Toynbee The Western Question in Greece and Turkey: A Study in the contact of civilizations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1922)


Louis de Bernieres, Birds without Wings (New York: Random House, 2004)

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (London: Bloomsbury, 2002)

Ernest Hemingway, ‘On the Quai at Smyrna’, in The Short Stories (New York: Scribner, 2003)

Nikos Kazantzakis, The Fratricides (London: Faber and Faber, 1974; 1967)

Nikos Kazantzakis, Christ Recrucified (London: Faber and Faber, 1962; 1954)

Dido Sotiriou, Farewell Anatolia (Athens, Greece: Kedros, 1991)


Theo Angelopoulos The Weeping Meadow

Costas Ferris, Rembetiko

Elia Kazan, America America

Photo credit: Maria Pierides

When the Colours Sing – Background

When the Colours Sing

When the Colours Sing


‘When the Colours Sing’ is a novel about art, creativity and destructiveness and the ways they emerge in personal, social and political contexts. Narrated by a woman in her fiftieth year, searching for her identity through writing about her father’s (imaginary) relationship with the painter Gabriele Münter, it constructs a thread of continuity that she believes will root her in the world. In a seamless fusion of fact with fiction, the narrator’s search for identity and humanity echoes the universal search for recognition, for belonging, for approval, for love. Continue reading When the Colours Sing – Background

He threw down the gauntlet

He threw down the gauntlet. First he paraded his finery, he touted his wares, teased them and then, he set a competition and waited. High up on his guardian throne, youthful, confident, he looked down at them and waited. Well, to be precise, he wrote while he waited. He wrote his stories, he wrote his articles, he wrote his comments. While they sweated and trembled and sharpened pencils and de-wormed computers. While they looked round with desperate intensity, lifting objects with words, pulling feelings with metaphors. While they picked their brains, and chewed their nails. While they read his shorts and his not very shorts, his books and his articles, trying to copy his style. He waited. Continue reading He threw down the gauntlet

Literature, Art, Culture, Society, and lots of Haiku