Author's Statement: Unlikely Geographies
Balconies. Desertscapes. My Father. Refugees. Unlikely geographies––themes in this cluster of poems, and more generally in my recent work, suggest intermediary, liminal, or transitory spaces and emotions. My father had to leave Greece on the eve of its Civil War (1946-1949) because he’d been a partisan, and those on the right (many of whom had acted as informers to the Nazi) were on the hunt for those on the left; the Resistance fighters who had been backed by Tito, and Stalin were suddenly prey to right-winged militia squads. He fled (rather than left), on a fake passport that got him to Iran where he had an uncle, and escaped exile to islands such as Makronissos and Yaros; yet he carried a sense of precarity throughout his life. Displacement and its anxieties were the backdrop to what otherwise came to be a privileged life whose fragilities imbued my upbringing. A sense of uprootedness, or diaspora, was not anything we were directly made aware of, but we often moved as a family between countries, and continents. From the Greek διασπεíρω (diaspeiro), which means to scatter or “spread around” anyone who has lost or been removed from a land carries some part of it, if only in memory and how such will imbue any lucky arrival. Does this then turn all habitations into a space in which one seeds (spernei) a fragmented, scattered belonging? This has certainly been my experience.
The poems here come of multiple geographies. I too had the privilege of a kind of escape, leaving (rather than fleeing) Greece during its financial meltdown when in a toxic work environment of long work hours at minimal pay. Employers were aware of their advantage, and our vulnerabilities; a refrain of how small any of our efforts remain when pitted against much larger forces have permeated so much of my life, beginning again with my father – is this, perhaps, one of the explanations for my almost absurd astonishment when luck comes my way, as is my feeling that our vulnerabilities are more plural than singular. As for home, that yearning grows with multiple belongings. Now that I teach in the United Arab Emirates, the desert, and its birds, have come to suggest both flight and loss as much as the precarity of travel when you’re in need of an oasis.
Adrianne Kalfopoulou’s publications include Ruin, Essays in Exilic Living, and the poetry collection A History of Too Much. She served as the McGee Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Davidson College for 2020-2021, and currently teaches in the United Arab Emirates. Her book-length essay On the Gaze: Dubai and Its New Cosmopolitanisms, is forthcoming from Fulcrum Press in July 2023.