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Acropolis and Tram:
Series No.: 172
ISBN: 978-1-933382-37-1, Pages: 125
Greek Literature, Poetry
Nikos Engonopoulos is surely one of the most curious figures in twen¬tieth-century poetry. An ambidextrous painter-poet and early convert to surrealism, Engonopoulos joined forces with Andreas Embirikos and Odysseus Elytis in the late 1930s to change the course of Greek poetry forever.
Bruised by the reception in the Athens press of his first two books, Engonopoulos spent the next 40 years in semi-seclusion, evolving a theater of gesture and sign in which were acted out the drama of twentieth-century geopolitics. For Greece, this meant military dicta¬torship, foreign invasion and occupation, a brutalizing civil war and subsequent Cold War lockdown. On the stage of Engonopoulos's poetry these events appear in costumes from other times and places, mostly the former Greco-Balkan world that reached from the Rio dei Greci in Venice to the ancient city of Sinope on the Black Sea. Against these backdrops roam his cast of characters: fantastical Albanians, Montenegran monarchs, Orthodox warrior-saints, Bulgarian woodsmen and Smyrnian beauties. In a short lyric set in Paris (or Constantinople, or Venice, or all three), Engonopoulos writes about "the Grand Initiates" who once "by means of gestures / asked / that I meet them outside." His poems, like the Initiates, beckon us outside to a meeting with the unfamiliar.
Acropolis and Tram, Engonopoulos's first collection in English, spans his career from the early experiments in surrealist disassociation to the late elegies for a lost world. It also includes the long poem "Bolivar," his covert ode to the Greek resistance first published in 1945.