in my bones —
NaHaiWriMo prompt: inherit
in my bones —
NaHaiWriMo prompt: inherit
emerging from their cocoons…
Rebetiko is the urban blues of the old port areas of the Eastern Mediterranean – Smyrna/Izmir, Istanbul, Syros, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki. If you happen to be in London, you can listen to this soulful music most Monday evenings at the JCR of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, lovingly performed by members of the SOAS Rebetiko Band. SOAS Rebetiko emerged out of music seminars organized by Ed Emery. It is a free event, you only need to sign-in as a visitor at the School entrance/Porter’s desk.
This year, a new event is being organzed by the rebet lovers: The Rebetiko Carnival.
Check it out, and if you can go, go!
NaHaiWriMo prompt: Effort
An article about my book of short stories “Feeding the Doves“ appeared today in the Australian newspaper “Neos Kosmos,” Australia’s leading Greek community news source. I am thrilled, as many of its readers are of Greek descent, and know, remember, or wish to know about the themes of this book.
Helen Velissaris writes: “These stories manage to show universal themes entwined with the Greek psyche to give a new perspective on the Greece in the media’s headlines.
Above all, these stories show Greece isn’t defined by its current bank account, but rather the people that inhabit it.”
Read the whole article here. A very interesting take on my book.
“Unique and surprising, tight and passionate language”
“Every once in a while, I get a book in the mail that is unique from anything else I’ve ever read. As a collection of short stories, Stella Pieride’s Feeding the Doves has given me a new definition of what short means, not to mention how quickly a story can be told… ”
“… I found her writing a refreshing and unique collection.”
Read Daniel Burton’s review here: Attack of the Books!
The review is also available on Amazon.com
Extract from Mia Avramut’s review on Amazon.co.uk:
“From a symbol of the divine (“A Life-Changing Story), to an object of meditation and near-worship in Syntagma Square (as in the title story), to their possible end in a soup kitchen destined to feed hungry children (“Pigeons”), doves’ journey functions as a counterpoint to the human sacrifice and quest for nourishing truths. Several glimpses into silent, sometimes tortured lives, end in haiku. It serves to deepen the reader’s understanding, and add new dimensions to the prose. And it’s a treat, as Pierides is both an archeologist of experiences, and a mistress of haibun.
Since Yourcenar and Kazantzakis, nobody has illuminated with such wisdom and compassion the often unseen lives that make the humanity what it is: a traveling, travailing organism with feet of myth.”
Mia Avramut is a Romanian- born writer, physician, researcher, and poetry editor at Connotation Press.
Having left Greece in her youth, the author of “Feeding the Doves” returns to the country of her birth through a collection of stories that lie at the heart of Greek identity.
About the Book: Greece has been in the headlines for a very long time. Recently, the headlines have been gloomy and negative, the country facing some of its most difficult years. Against this background, “Feeding the Doves” explores recurrent elements of the Greek psyche, tracing them back to challenges posed by the country’s history, culture, and environment.
The widow, the old loner, the refugee, the immigrant, the young, the writer, the expatriate, tell us their stories, touching upon themes at the heart of Greek being: Love and loss, civil war, immigration and diaspora, emigration, poverty, religion, history and catastrophe, and above all, the will to survive.
“What I admire here are the shining moments of revelation, of truths large and small bursting through the lives and memories of these characters. So many characters, and so rich!”
—John Wentworth Chapin
Founding Editor, 52|250 and A Baker’s Dozen
“Stories to surprise and entertain, to wake and calm, to wrench and elate, to tell the Greek story, past and present, and everyone’s story.”
-—Michael Dylan Welch, poet, writer,
and editor/publisher of Press Here books
87 pages, 90gm cream interior paper
Full-color laminated cover
129 mm x 198 mm trim size
Price: £8.00 UK
Feeding the Doves
31 Short and Very Short Stories, and Haibun
Greece has been in the headlines for a very long time. Since ancient times, her philosophers, historians, mathematicians, shipbuilders, traders, and artisans have been making the news – and, indeed, history. So, amidst the country’s most difficult years in recent times, many people believe that they know Greece and the Greeks.
Against this backdrop, the stories – short and very short – collected in “Feeding the Doves” explore recurrent elements of the Greek psyche, tracing them back to challenges posed by the country’s history and environment. The widow, the old loner, the refugee, the immigrant, the writer, the expatriate tell us their stories, touching upon themes at the heart of Greek being, as well as our common humanity: love and l loss, war, civil war, immigration and diaspora, emigration, poverty, religion, history, and above all, the will to survive.
Rob Ward, Freelance Animator
Fruit Dove Press
[The title story “Feeding the Doves” and the cover image were inspired by a photo taken by Robert Geiss, titled “Feeding Doves” and posted on his (sadly, no longer active) blog “Daily Athens Photo.”]
Rebetiko, the blues of the Greek refugees from Asia Minor, and of Turkey, is alive and well. A “Byzantine blend of the Turkish rhythms brought by the immigrant Greeks uprooted from their homes in Asia Minor with the contemporary Greek music of the twenties and thirties,” it can be heard Monday nights haunting the corridors and the JCR (Junior Common Room) of SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies, in London. I went to listen to the Rebetiko band this week and was amazed at the quality of sound and soulful singing.
The band SOAS Rebetiko describe themselves as follows:
“The Famous SOAS Rebetiko Band plays Rebetiko music of Greece, a broad genre of urban songs and instrumental music which developed in and around the major port areas of Eastern Mediterranean — Smyrna/Izmir, Istanbul, Syros, Piraeus and Thessaloniki.”
I listened to this music growing up in a community of first- and second-generation refugees from Asia Minor, in Athens, and hearing it being played again, reminded me of the depth of feeling expressed through it; through the songs of loss and mourning, but also resistance, survival and life affirmation sang by the refugees.
First a confession! I haven’t read Fiona Robyn’s book “Small Kindnesses” yet! I am grateful to her, though, for inviting me to her blogsplash to write a blog post about small kindnesses.
When I look back I feel gratitude for many things towards many people, though their acts of kindness feel huge to me. Are we, perhaps, belittling an act of kindness by calling it small? On the other hand, wasn’t the offer of a lift a small kindness? Carrying a heavy shopping bag for someone? The present of a smile?
Trying to choose one such act to write about, I went through various options, letting my thoughts run this way and that, but they always led me to my childhood home and to my grandparents. Finally, I settled on the following:
My grandparents, originally refugees from Izmir (the earlier Smyrni), in Asia Minor, lived in one of the refugee quarters of Athens, in a house with an inner courtyard full of plants, fruit, and flowers. They never wasted an olive oil tin – they used these tins as pots for basil, hydrangeas, carnations, geraniums… Crammed in a small space, they had rooms for renting out, a stable with a couple of horses, and hens – all in what was then just outskirts of Athens, but is now very near its center. Though the set-up sounds idyllic, they had a hard time making ends meet, finding the resources to make a living in a city and country that had not been welcoming to the refugees from Asia Minor.
The eggs they had were produced by their hens, the grapes by their vines, the figs came from a huge fig tree. Everything they ate, drank, wore had to be looked after, grown or mended, cost them energy and all of the hours of their day. They wanted me to have a better life. Even though my granny couldn’t read, she wanted me to be able to read and write. She encouraged me and gave me the space to do my own thing – even when I went round the house pulling out her precious plants to ‘make’ my own garden, took the eggs for my dolls; or spent hours under the vines reading my books and daydreaming instead of helping out with the chores.
Was this kindness? It was love, for sure. Kindness too. She could have demanded my help in the household. Each single time she didn’t, each time she didn’t complain, but let me be, let me do my own thing without pressure, or guilt, she acted with kindness towards me. All these ‘small’ gestures, moments, day in, day out, amount to a huge act of kindness and generosity on her part.
An act of kindness doesn’t have to come from a stranger. We tend to forget the acts of kindness we receive and offer in our everyday lives and relationships, as if love allows us to take those we love for granted.
So there you have it. I spoke about my grandparents’ garden and their kind presence in my post about small kindnesses, the title of Fiona Robyn’s book, “Small Kindnesses,” which is also the background to my own book, “In the Garden of Absence.” I hope Fiona will take kindly to this dual path. I know I will be reading her book “’Small Kindnesses‘ – a gentle mystery story with gardener Leonard, dog Pickles & a dash of Johnny Cash” over Christmas.
You can read it too! In fact, it is free to download from Kindle UK and US all day today. See Fiona’s blog with more information about it here
The houses he had owned
they took away from him..
Seferis carried his home
on his back like a tortoise.
Iron beds in empty hotel rooms
rang through his lines,
and the sounds of loneliness–
the silent screams of souls
left to themselves
in the dark.
The houses he had owned they
took away from him.
He used his poetry,
he strung words from the stars
stared at them from afar.
Flowers of Agapanthus
he nailed on his lines,
and crickets, beating time
for the machine.
Only briefly did he go back to Smyrni.
For he knew. Seferis knew. He knew
you have to talk to the dead.
Hades is full of whispers–
the house is always watching.
A version of this poem appeared in the “Word for Word” anthology Gathering Diamonds from the Well, London: New Gallery Books, 2007.
George Seferis (1900-1971), Greek poet, originally from Smyrni (now Izmir) in western Turkey, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature 1963.
20 October 2010