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The Greek Connection: Irish Poets and Contemporary Greece

Final Report Summary - IRELLAS (The Greek Connection: Irish Poets and Contemporary Greece)

The project, held in the framework of the Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (7th Framework Programme), was devoted to Irish-Greek connections and the perception of contemporary Greece in the work of major Irish poets. It was run by Dr. Joanna Kruczkowska from the University of Lodz and hosted by Prof. Liana Sakelliou from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. The project lasted one year (20 Feb 2015-19 Feb 2016).
The main authors discussed in the project publications, lectures and presentations are the Irish poets Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon, and the Modern Greek ones: C. P. Cavafy and George Seferis. However, during the course of the project, this group was expanded to accommodate other important figures of the literary scenes of both countries, such as Desmond O’Grady, Michael Longley, Paula Meehan, Theo Dorgan, Harry Clifton, Caitriona O’Reilly and Leontia Flynn (Ireland) and Yiorgos Chouliaras, Harry Vlavianos, Nasos Vayenas and Liana Sakelliou (Greece), especially that some of them (have) had essential links with Greece/Ireland in terms of travel, work, or residence. The innovative nature of the project exploring these links so far neglected (previous research focused exclusively on antiquity) and combining various areas of research, artistic activity and vital social issues mentioned below makes it a state-of-the-art, much needed contribution to the development of relations between at least three countries involved (Ireland, Greece, Poland).
Specifically, the project focused on the following fields of research: ecocriticism and approach to Greek and Irish landscape; translation (cultural and postcolonial translation, tourism, travel, literary translation); and reception of Modern Greek poetry with related issues: politics, history, myth, nature, the role of literature in moments of political and social crisis. The fact that the project was conducted during the most difficult year in the recent history of Greece further added value to the reflection on the political and social issues such as exile, subversion, postcolonialism, troubled relation with history, or eventually the “unhealthy intersection” of politics and poetry.
Two substantial developments did not feature initially in the project and were discovered on the way: (1) the Irish phenomenon on the Cycladic isle of Paros which turned out to have been frequented by a whole group of major Irish poets (Mahon, Longley, Heaney, O’Grady et al.) for a variety of complex reasons linked to the project themes; and (2) the publication history of the major work discussed in the milestone monograph, Seamus Heaney’s "The Sonnets from Hellas", which transpired to have been published in Greek translation before the original was published. Both these phenomena have been added to project publications, conference papers, presentations and other means of disseminating the results of the project.
The interactive project website: documents major achievements of the project together with photos, audio and text files.
The project activities has been targeted at the general public as well as researchers and students of different domains.
Among the major accomplishments of the project are:
1."Living / Writing" poetry symposium ("Inner and Outer Landscapes of Irish and Greek Poets") organised in Athens on 4-5 Dec 2015. It combined an academic session (with participants from Ireland, Greece, the UK, Poland and the US); two poetry evenings (with ten Greek and Irish poets and a host of accomplished and younger translators); poetry workshops; and a debate on the connections between Ireland and Greece. The event was attended by a large general and academic audience and promoted by means of posters, programmes, websites and press releases. A set of two DVDs was produced from the poetry evenings, and a publication "The Poetic Edge of Europe" (scheduled for 2017) will gather essays, poems, translations and the transcription of the debate.
The symposium was co-organised by the English Departments of the University of Athens and the University of Lodz, as well as the archaeology and cultural institutions such as the British School at Athens and the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens. It was financially supported by the Embassy of Ireland in Greece, Culture Ireland and the Dean of the University of Athens. The publication will be financed by the University of Lodz.
It was the first conference on this topic. Held in the capital of Greece, it gave the audience a chance to meet some of the most celebrated Irish poets including two Ireland Professors of Poetry, to see how the two cultures maintain a prolific dialogue, and how European programmes facilitate this cultural and academic dialogue between countries.
Programme and photos from the symposium can be found on the project website:
2.A set of 18 interviews (feature added to the project) in three languages (English, Greek and French) conducted by the researcher with poets, translators, scholars, archaeologists and journalists from Ireland, Greece, the UK, USA, the Netherlands, Poland and France. The themes of the interviews are related to the project and revolve around the authors discussed, politics, landscape (including sacred landscapes), ecology, translation etc., revealing many new or personal facets of the issues discussed such as the spiritual energy of place, or parallel national mythologies. A publication of the interviews, "Conversations about Irish and Modern Greek Poetry", is planned for 2018.
The interviews can be listened to online on the website project:
3.The researcher’s publications on yet unexplored themes: the forthcoming monograph "The Greek Connection: Landscape and Poetry of Modern Greece in the Writings of Derek Mahon and Seamus Heaney" (Palgrave Macmillan 2017); three articles: (1) “The (Im)palpable: Two Cycladic Landscapes in the Poetry of Derek Mahon and Michael Longley” Landscapes 17.1 (2016); (2) “Decadent Tourism in Derek Mahon’s The Yellow Book” (submitted for publication in a peer reviewed journal); (3) “Irish Poets on Paros” (will be submitted for publication in a peer reviewed journal); and edited by the researcher: two volumes (a) of essays and poems "The Poetic Edge of Europe" (2017) and (b) of interviews "Conversations about Irish and Modern Greek Poetry" (2018).
4.Photo projects conducted by the researcher in Ireland and Greece, juxtaposing images of the places referred to in poems with the texts themselves (see project website The photos will also appear in the project publications and are being used in project presentations and lectures.
5.4 papers and presentations delivered at international conferences on communication theory, Irish Studies, translation and Irish-Greek relations (Italy, Belgium, Greece, Poland); 6 lectures and presentations on translation, culture and language given at 3 major Greek universities (Athens, Thessaloniki, Ionian University); 14 research meetings conducted with scholars from different countries; 6 conferences, 10 seminars and public lectures attended.
6.Cooperation with 5 universities, 7 research centres, an embassy, and scholars from different countries; with 3 of them the researcher has been discussing the idea of a new project focused on ecocritical perspectives of Irish women’s poetry.
7.Research trips in Ireland and Greece including universities, poets’ archives, library research, audio and video interviews and photo projects.
8.Invitations to give further guest lectures in the UK and Ireland, and to guest edit the next issue of the comparative journal "Synthesis".
The project turned out to be a success, especially given the difficult circumstances in Greece, and has proven that academic and artistic activity is viable, needed and sought after by general public in the times of dire economic and political crises. Ireland and Greece have been constantly seeking parallels in their situations, and although Ireland’s position is much stronger, Greece remains one of the foci of Irish interest both in socio-political and in artistic terms, hence the wide response to the project (in terms of audiences, interviewees and participants).
The book and the articles forming a thematic cycle, the award of the grant (MC IEF) and the accomplishment of this interdisciplinary and varied project will constitute the basis of the researcher’s application for the next academic degree (habilitacja) in 2017/18.