I remember having to wear a white pleated skirt with 300 pleats to honour the years under occupation by the Ottomans. I remember having to recite poems in high Greek on the stage. I remember they sounded good, but I do not remember any of the poems.
We recited the poems to feel patriotic and present ourselves as Greeks that could speak the language. But we learnt the language by speaking, not at school not by reciting poems.
Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey are amongst the greatest poems, and I am sure we recited parts of these great works, but I do not remember.
Even at school I loved poetry in English class. I used to write anonymously for the school magazine and they were always published. Under my name the teachers thought I could not write because I was not creative.
Even the Greek Liturgy is poetic. It has rhythm and rhyme. It mixes tradition and faith and culture.
Some songs are based on poems, but we never pay attention to that.
The first poem that impressed me was given to my father by Rod Conacher. It was simply framed, on letter size white paper with simple print that I copied in calligraphy and have it framed above my desk. It is a poem by an anonymous Confederate soldier. I have written about it elsewhere. Each couplet is a powerful contrast between what we want in order to live, and how we are given the opposite to enjoy living.
“I got nothing I had asked for but everything I had hoped for,
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered.”’
Imagine if I told my father I wanted to be a poet. Ha, worse than anything else I stressed him with.
“Poets cannot make a living. You will need to do something, get a proper degree first and then you can write poetry,” he would have said.
And I would have retreated in anger, my soul shattered and my mind angry that dreams were to be shelved for something concrete. He was a powerful driving force in keeping anyone on the proper road away from soft arts that would not benefit them in the modern world.
Yet when I look at all the sheep in this world and see many unhappy faces I wonder if perhaps there should have been some more poets.
I remember at my father’s funeral when George Bizos spoke he began reciting Homer in Ancient Greek and half the church joined him in unison and perfect voice.
At least my father left with a poem.