Unobtrusively but decisively, Stephanos Papadopoulos’ work is informed by various cultures: American, Greek, ancient and modern, French and English as distinguished from American. He follows other poets, but mostly he follows his heart. In his poetry the melancholy of the modern finds its beauty in loss itself. Papadopoulos catches this beauty in poem after poem, while his poetry swims for joy in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Aegean. This beautiful contradiction makes Hôtel Dieu a great pleasure to read and reread.

Stanley Moss

This first collection is a breath of meltemi, (wind) blowing away the stuffiness of so much current poetry…It is easy to see him following in Seferis’s footsteps but in the landscape of our own time…There is sometimes a nicely melancholy tone to Papadopoulos’s work which puts him in the great tradition of poetic sorrows.  But the elegance and flair in these poems makes the reader look forward to his next volume.   Leviathan is wise to publish him.

Anne Born

Tears in the Fence

…One can hardly fail to notice the sensuality of Stephanos poapadopoulos’ Lost Days.  Frequently through flashing (but not flashy) metaphor, Papadopoulos creates too a sense of the infinite and intangible aspects of the world…Papadopoulos is able to pay tribute to such poets as Montale, cavafy and Brodsky without ever seeming dwarfed or dominated by them.

Anthony Haynes

The Tablet, London

…in ‘Lost Days’ it is quickly evident that classical European poetry has been ‘crossed’ with the American tradition…there has so far been no German translation of ‘Lost Days’ and that is a great, great shame.

Von Franz Shneider


Stephanos Papadopoulos has several qualities as a poet, one of the most conspicuous being his talent for the elegiac, his ability to bring to life memories and artefacts from times past, ‘before the gods became a circus out of work’.  ‘Some things will not collapse,’ he winks at Sextus Propertius, and, in his poetry, they don’t.  ‘If I am to have a talent,’ he writes, ‘let it be this…and hold a vision true, to a moment’s epiphany…’  Stephanos Papadopoulos has that talent.

Bengt Jangfeldt

…A streetwise, well-traveled ‘penseroso’.  He has a distinctive body of subject matter.  He has a sharp eye…work so exceptionally rich in atmosphere and observation.

Robert Saxton

Poetry review

These poems of place—Greece, America, Paris, St. Lucia, UK—depend on the poet’s capacity for the vignette, the snap-shot, the swift conjuring of mood.  These poems, particularly the Greek ones , reveal an intent and faithful and effortless fluency.  The Greek ones in particular because they are small windows into a bigger, darker, historic canvas…The intensity of observation, the fluency and a psychological stance that captures an emptiness behind the watching makes this collection an impressive dedication to the chosen places and people.

Judy Gahan


…When I first read Lost Days by Stephanos Papadopoulos, I was struck not only by the quality of the poetry itself but also by the atmosphere of universality that permeates the book.  While the diction remains American, the poems move with great ease from Paris to Greece, to Sweden to New York. This tone and attitude denote of course, not a school of art but a testimony of a life’s experience.

Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke

From, “Levels of Ambition”, by David Mason for The Hudson Review, Winter 20014

Turning to Stephanos Papadopoulos’ third collection, The Black Sea, I find a young poet who can manage the formal demands of his art while making you feel the bloodedness of his stories.[6] And they are bloody stories. The Black Sea is a sequence of sonnets and sonnet-like poems about the suffering of the Pontic Greeks, some of them the poet’s own ancestors, who lost their homes in the catastrophic population exchange following World War I. As Papadopoulos mentions in his brief preface, the term “population exchange” does not say the half of it. After the Armenian genocide, the violence between Greeks and Turks escalated, with atrocities on both sides. At the end of it all, the Aegean city of Smyrna was in flames and the Pontic Greeks had been marched to their deaths or escaped to live as refugees. To this day, Turks and Greeks can seem like cousins caught up in arguments about religion and land. Seeing the relative friendliness of their current relations, it can be hard to remember just how cold-blooded and vicious their battles have been. This slender, eloquent collection keeps the history alive without being merely a book of documentary evidence.

Papadopoulos is a Greek-American, and while he has often written about New York and other locations, I read him as a poet of the Greek diaspora. He has not led the usual life of the American poet—no graduate degree or teaching job. The son of an important Greek artist, Nonda, he has made his way building theatrical sets, doing carpentry jobs, making furniture, etc. In addition to Greek poets, his single greatest literary influence has been a close friendship with Caribbean poet Derek Walcott. (The Black Sea is dedicated to Walcott, and Papadopoulos is one of several younger poets to whom Walcott dedicated White Egrets.) Like Walcott, he has a legitimate sense of an enriching cultural history that is his own, not merely borrowed from books. His identity was forged in a trilingual household that moved between America, France and Greece. And like Walcott he is not afraid of writing beautifully, not afraid either of an elevated line or of being vulnerable to life.

The Black Sea won’t be for everyone. The subject is unrelentingly dark, rarely leavened by humor, and the history involved is known to few Americans. But it is a superb book, ambitious without being verbose. His opening poem meditates on the role of the poet in history, and in this subject alone he has plenty of company among Greek writers like Cavafy and Ritsos. The texture of cultural allusion in some of these poems is quite rich, yet the book dispenses with footnotes and leaves us to find our own way. Most of the poems can be read as little dramas in which vital characters have everything at stake. Here, for example, is “The Circassian Whore”:

These blond locks are worth a pretty penny, boy.
The Turkman thinks my ass is his, the Greeks are beasts.
But a glass of this sweet wine will bring them to their knees.
Greeks, Turks, whatever—two half-wits make a man, I guess.
I’ve spread these thighs for seven armies
and when they come to fuck the flags are gone.
I’ve seen a thousand pricks that look the same to me.

Other characters include a woman trying to save her children from the slaughter, a Turkish pasha, a couturier named Stavros and a ship captain. At its best the verse is dramatically alive, and while Papadopoulos himself makes no overt appearance until the end of the book, one can feel a guiding sensibility, a world-grief and a man who enjoys a good story. Not content to do his research in libraries, Papadopoulos made a solo journey through Turkey on a motorcycle, and surely that experience informs poems like “Rain over Trabzon”:

Heavy raindrops strike the water,
a wafer of dissolving sunlight below the clouds
is a white line on a canvas of storm-blue.
The rain erases and renews itself in puddles
that lean like oval mirrors on the promenade
where the priest hurries, robes lifted from his ankles,
thin white ankles reflected in the rain pools,
dark sky over Trabzon, the mist filtering
through streets exchanged like dirty banknotes,
Rubles, Drachmas, Lira, passed hand to hand,
the dog-eared corners wet with blood, bent
by angry fingers, angry men with sadder wives,
the streets of Trebizond, Trabzon, Trapezounda
washed by rain but won’t wash clean.

Another poet would have placed that motorcycle journey in the foreground and turned himself into a modern Xenophon reaching the sea. Papadopoulos has instead given us vital poems about other people, but people whose history is intimately tied to his own. Writing this good, this modest in its stance toward important matters, is hard to find in contemporary poetry. Our poet historians are too often earnest documentarians, but Papadopoulos goes for the life inside his stories, writing with an ear for the deeper music of grief.

An ambitious, mature collection,February 5, 2013
By A. E. Stallings (Athens, Greece)
This review is from: The Black Sea (Paperback) Amazon

The Black Sea is Stephanos Papadopoulos’s third collection; its maturity seals the promise of his earlier work. The poet approaches the Asia Minor disaster, massacre of the Pontic (Black Sea) Greeks, and the ripples of history (where he stands at the edge) through the eyes of a number of characters (Melanthe, the Pasha, the Admiral, the Circassian Whore) in shapely, sonnet-length poems with a strong sense of image and the line. He weaves strands of family lore, imagined characters, and historical accounts together so that the individual poems (each of which can stand alone) form a single rich polyphonic, polychromatic text.

The poems themselves ebb and flow into iambic pentameter, nimble and sure-footed in their music. The wheat “dwindles like an army”, mouths are “angry drawers sliding shut.” It isn’t only the characters who speak; some of the best poems reflect by juxtapositions. Lost armies of ancient emperors march across the bleak landscape, but so do armies of caterpillars in the spring: “slaves/ to a season without end; it comes again,/ their innards stain the earth with bile/ when their chain is broken by a boot sole/ and the rest inch forward without purpose.”

Papadopoulos is perhaps most moving when he introduces family history, as with grandfather “Stavros, Coutourier (Athens),” in an ars poetica about tailoring and poetry, that ends “because the master himself, though bold/ isn’t sure the lines are right when shoulders shift,/ when nothing else but doubt preserves the gift.”

Papadopoulos deserves a wider readership; The Black Sea should net him a new audience.

Reviewed: The Black Sea by Eleanor Goodman  for Rain Taxi  9.13

“My great-grandfather was a Greek tobacco merchant from the city of Samsun on the Black Sea coast.” This is not a line from a prose poem, though it easily could be. It is in the introduction to Stephanos Papadopoulos’s bracing new book of poetry, The Black Sea. By turns tender, vicious, victorious, and mournful, Papadopoulos manages to make vivid a part of the world few of us have seen—the Greece of the 1920s and ’30s. We may want to look away, but given the intensity of language and ingenuity of imagery, we cannot.

This is a book of contemporary sonnets, and Papadopoulos’s control over form and rhythm is on display. Take, for example, “Voices,” a poem near the beginning of the book:

Voices still rise from foggy hillsides
that drop and fade into the shore of this Black Sea,
sulfurous and dead beneath the upper zone of life
where fish once roiled in silver clouds
and one too many mythic rivers met
in water ringed by mountains without names

The first line, a double trochee-iamb divided by an unstressed syllable, leads slowly into the pure iambs that begin midway through the third line. This iambic rhythm takes us by the hand and brings us to these “mythic rivers” and “mountains without names,” that is to say, the land of fantasy. Moments like these are many, yet Papadopoulos is careful not to straightjacket his verse in unnatural patterns.

Similarly, we do not spend too long in this lovely world of “silver clouds” of fish. The subject here is war and its many cruel effects, and though framed as an exploration of mid-20th-century Greece, this book is vitally relevant our world today. The empathy of the poet is widely encompassing, and he doesn’t flinch from ugliness:

I’ve spread these thighs for seven armies
and when they come to fuck the flags are gone.
I’ve seen a thousand pricks that look the same to me.
But what do I know, a whore in a broken world?
A little hash for better dreams is all I want
and a jar of rosewater for my hair.
Let them un-conjure their fat wives when they heave inside me.
I’m paid and they’ll soon be dead, we’ll all be gone
and these fields will grow wild with poppies
always faithful to the color red.

These lines are from “The Circassian Whore,” a poem that springs to life in its less-than-lyrical language, as well as the stark picture it paints of defiance in the midst of hopelessness.

Papadopoulos has translated Derek Walcott into Greek, and the influence shows here: “Everything is beautiful and fatal in this port— / the doors of the Greek houses swing in the wind, / the scrape of soldiers boots scar the quiet streets.” Or from the first poem in the book, called “The Poet”:

every vista
is a lanyard over-tightened, a clothesline tied
to the olive tree and swallowed by its bark,
a dream he left that followed him in daylight,
oil lamps burning for the blind, fireflies at dawn,
pain’s logic, the lantern in the midday sun—
he dresses slowly like the hangman.

In Walcott’s verse too, the poet can become a kind of hangman: “Half my friends are dead. / I will make you new ones, said earth” (from “Sea Cane,” in Sea Grapes). Poets must constantly “kill their darlings,” but from this literary murder comes new life—that is to say, art. Papadopoulos traces a brutal story that can be applied to many regions of the world. Family, myth, and history weigh heavily, but what might easily turn overly personal or maudlin does not. The poet balances this tricky combination of fact and inference, contested histories and private experience, and creates out of the amalgam a truly powerful book.

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