What prompted this was a recent request from the folk at the Harvard Hellenic Centre (based at Napflio) for some bio and details about my residency with them in 2011 as they are setting up a website which has, I assume, a piece on poets in residence by virtue of the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamhplets.
‘Darkhaired’ (Templar) was one of the six pamphlets shotlisted for the award that year. ‘Cloud Pibrock’ by James McGonigal actually received the award but for personal reasons he wasn’t able to take up the three-week residency offer split between Olympia and Napflio. I was the ‘choose haw’ alternative as you might say (‘when all else fails etc’) but, for me, it was great and unexpected good fortune.
It’s been a nice thing this summer to remember three weeks in the Greek July sunshine (I may never feel such heat again). All the great things: Anna Crowe’s company, the generosity of the Centre staff and lecturers, the amazing students, the writing workshop (hoping the participants are keeping on with some kind of writing practice), wandering through the original Olympic site, the food (this could bear a good few mentions), the sight of the Peloponnese from the air and then by road, Sparta, Monemvasia, the house of Yannis Ritsos, the incredible Parthenon Museum (my head is still spinning with the layers of history), so many things… and, of course, the introduction to ‘Paraklausythiron‘ (lament beside a door) which had, for me, a ‘you have given my pain a name’ flavour. Not so great, but still a strange fortune, to be in Greece as the height of the euro crisis which I knew from a different perspective.
So many amazing things, but, for me, there was some slight discomfort with which, like the princess and her forty feather beds, I struggled and the injury appeared to be in the region of my muse. I drafted a short sequence while there but, even then I remember saying to Anna C. that I didn’t know what it was all about. As if I was a ghost in the past of a future self. Very strange. I haven’t done much bar editing it and calling it ‘Lament by a Closed Door’. I suspect I will return at some point in the future and it will make sense.
However, very much dedicated to the 2011 student cohort, I wanted to share this piece. Hermes Hotel was also the name of the place we stayed in Athens.
At Olympia, you catch a glimpse of him:
a flash of recognition.
Normally recessed, but for a second
your eyes meet – the unlikely
blue of the Aegean.
At Napflio, only in profile;
a hint of the Mediterranean.
In Athens, a crown of burnished gold
befits god’s would-be messenger.
Here is Hermes fleeting.
Here is Hermes permanent.