A Greek-born poet channels the literature of his homeland in this adventurous collection.
The list of authors who take inspiration from the mythology of ancient Greece is long; Virgil, Dante Alighieri, John Milton, and James Joyce are just a few of the highlights. Although Vavilis’ (The Homeless Cats, 2013) new collection ranges widely, it always returns home to Olympus, where Zeus and Poseidon, Aphrodite and Athena await. The author calls his work “prose poetry,” but it’s better described as simple free verse, which he frequently organizes into three- and four-line stanzas. A representative example is one quatrain of “The Agonies of Achilles,” a praise hymn to the great Greek warrior that’s also a quick summary of the Iliad: “Resplendent, with Hephaistos’ armor, / Prince Achilles surveyed the scene…. / Mustering the Myrmidons, joining the battle— / horrifying the Trojans, rousing the battlefury of the Greeks.” Vavilis’ rhythmic repetition of present participles—“mustering,” “joining,” “horrifying”—nicely recalls the drumbeat of war that pulses beneath Homer’s first epic. Then in “Penelope’s Commitment,” the author retells Homer’s other masterpiece, the Odyssey, from the perspective of its hero’s long-suffering wife: “With unwavering resolve, Penelope awaited; / steadfast, temptation, rejected for every man— / praying, entreating the goddess, Athena.” The piece is clever not only for its wordplay, but also for its ingenious desire to see the classic tale from the woman’s point of view. What’s also clear from Vavilis’ verse is his apparent belief that all people have stores of strength and resolve as great as Penelope’s; they can all be heroes and heroines in their own epics—particularly if they love and support one another. As such, “If You Loved Me (A Heroine’s Creed)” opens, “There is no sea I would not sail— / no mountain I cannot ascend … / With one hand I’ll wield this cumbrous sword— / if I knew you loved me.”
A modern-day bard from Chios calls us all to be heroes.