An interview with Irene Doura by Guna Moran

interview with irene doura kavadia

An interview with Irene Doura– Kavadia, Linguist, Translator, Litterateur, Secretary-General of Writers Capital Foundation, Editor/Anthologist from Athens, Greece

by Guna Moran, India

Good morning and thank you for accepting my invitation for this interview. I have had the opportunity to look at your impressive background, but I would like to give you a chance to tell us about yourself in brief.

Good morning! It is a pleasure being here with you.

Why do you write? Do you remember the first time you wrote something?

The poet is born, they say, not made! The same goes for the author. I tend to believe more than anyone in this saying, as I have actually been writing all my life. As long as I can remember myself, I always wanted to be a writer. At the age of nine, I started writing a children’s mystery story. By the age of eleven, I had written several summaries for stories to be developed later on. When I turned twelve, I asked of my parents to buy me a typewriter; my mother in fact left her work and went to the centre of the town to buy me a professional one! Therefore, you could call it an inner urge of self expression forming an inextricable part of my whole being.

Who or what inspired you to be a poet? When did you start writing poetry?

Inspiration can come from a variety of triggers. From something very simple – a song, a verse, a melody. From a name, a word or an emotion. From a problem, a memory, an incident or a historical event. Of course, apart from the historical facts, mythology is also a great source of inspiration to me. The heroic events, the epics, the problems of our time. Even a dream that through the subconscious raises an issue that the fast pace of life does not allow us to possibly give it importance during the day. It is something magical, in fact! It is as if words find their way and come out of obscurity into the light, on their own. My first poems were satirical ones and I wrote them while in my teens to laugh with my friends and also criticize little petty everyday things. Yet, real profound poetry came into my life in adulthood. I was inspired mostly by nature and the beauty of the surroundings of my country house by the sea in Attica. Still, the impression made to me by those landscapes was nothing in comparison to the impact of the overwhelming power exerted to me by the seascapes of the island of Lefkas. This was the place I believe that broadened my aesthetic and descriptive scope; it was the right timing of course, as well that played a role. Last but not least, the aura of the house in Lefkas, owned by the family of my spouse, was also a catalyst, since he is distantly related to a world renowned poet, Nikos Kavvadias, a poet who travelled at sea all his life, and during his rare visits he stopped by to see his cousin, my spouse’s late grandfather, according to the latter’s narration.

What does poetry mean to you?

“Poetry” for me is a friend. A difficult, demanding, but trustworthy friend. And loyal, indeed. On her shoulder I lean at night and whisper my ideas and my concerns. Engaging in poetry fills me, redeems me, lifts me up. It is the passage that connects the outside world with the inside of the soul, it is this passage that releases the emotions and gives them the way to come out on their own and be penned on a piece of paper. “Climbing words as if an escalator”, according to George Seferis. The road is uphill, but extremely seductive. At the top, the world opens up beyond our dimension and brings us forward to our primordial matter. The one that unites us with the archetypes, those that our Creator endowed us with.

What is, according to you, the role of a poet in Today’s society?

The literary production worldwide, in our era plagued by the pandemic as well as the financial crisis, is quite rich in terms of quantity, that is, inversely proportional to the expectations. That is to say, poetry thrives despite the crisis, or rather against the crisis, and of course because of the crisis. A crisis – whether it is economic in its origins or as a consequence of it, it tends to be a crisis of values – sharpens emotions and experiences, causes greater contradictions and controversies. And of course it is the recipe for inspiration, introspection, and meditation. Pain, especially mental pain, triggers the externalization of respective emotions. The goal is didactic, but utterly personal redemption. After all, in the most painful pages of a country’s history, great talents emerge that produce masterpieces, whether in a period of occupation, civil war, or political unrest. The poet with their pen break the chains of the adversities of their era. Literature – and art in general – has always been the best anti-stress human product both regarded from the part of the writer/creator and the reader/viewer. It is the refuge of every soul that is liberated through the wings of imagination. The role of the poet in today’s society is thus more important than ever. In a world suffering from a pandemic that has been with us for more than a year, the role of the poet is to inspire and enlighten the people so that they overcome their depression, their fear, and their anxiety before the unknown… Yet the most important task of the poet is to perceive the vibes of the social change and make an effort to inspire and educate the new generations, for they are the future, towards a better more humane world based on solidarity, tolerance, and of course peace. As it is the poet’s task and duty to see to it that the future will be a better one, and inspire the rest to follow the illuminated path towards it.

Do you have any particular audience in mind when you write, an ideal reader?

Not really. When it comes to poetry, the verses come out by themselves – no censorship, no target group. The age group is in mind when I write a novel, though, or a children’s story.

What do you do as a hobby?

I like travelling, taking pictures, getting to know new places and people, tasting different cuisine, which of course due to the pandemic is impossible, reading and writing. I also listen to music a lot to relax.

How can we experience the infinite mystery of the universe through the practice of poetry?

As infinite is the universe so infinite is language. “Words, words, words”, according to Wordsworth. They are like the stars shining in the sky awaiting patiently to be picked in order to adorn a poem – as if it were a precious diadem. The universe is also infinite as love. And poets are bound to be fascinated by all this. The mystery, undeniably, remains. Fortunately, as poetry without mystery would be like the night without its moon…

How long does it take you to complete all drafts and inquiries necessary to complete a poem?

Depending on the poem, actually. It can take me ten minutes, a quarter of an hour perhaps if it is a concept I have already formed within my mind. If I need to research on a theme, this will of course take longer. Still, there are poems I have in different – mostly longer – versions, and a lot of incomplete ones. Like the National, master poet of my country, Dionysios Solomos, the one who wrote the national anthem of Greece, I believe nothing is perfect and I feel have to revise. Again and again. Therefore, many of my poems and stories are yet to be finished – if they ever are that is…

Which book that you have written is your favourite and what are your top three books?

Now it is like asking a mother which of her children to choose among… I like them all, of course, but I could mention a poetry collection that is a compilation of awarded poems entitled “Contemplation”, a detective novel called “Marianta”, and of course my first book, a children’s tale “Milenia” in 2000.

What are you currently working on? Also what are you reading at present?

A writer never ceases to read or write! I am currently working on the second volume of my novel entitled “Forged by Lava and Steel”, hoping to have finished it by the end of the year, plus a poetry collection of condensed philosophical insight and elaboration on linguistic syntheses entitled “Miracles Within”.

Poetry is the wrath of a person sitting in loneliness. How do you manage your time to write and work?

It is undeniably difficult to manage everything. A day only has 24 hours! Therefore one has to set priorities, which helps a little. Still, I wait until everyone goes to sleep and then I start working on my novel or on the poetry collection. However, my duties as the owner of a Language Academy and a Translating Firm, my position as Editor-In-Chief in Writers International Edition Publishing House and as Secretary-General in Writers Capital International Foundation, as well as those of a mother, leave me little time in which to do all the things I want in reference to writing.

Which poets have inspired you? Do you feel yourself ever influenced by the writing style of a poet?

Cavafy, Elytis, Leivaditis, Wordsworth, Wilde, Gibran, Hesse, and other classic master poets of the global community have been a great inspiration to me, though not influence regarding the style in which I write. Lately I came into contact, while translating and audio rendering, with the poetry of mystique by Preeth Nambiar, CEO and Founder of Writers Capital Foundation, and I was impressed by the profundity of the notions in his verses concerning the universe, as well as indulged the verses of a group of contemporary poets I now call family. Therefore, the source of inspiration only seems to broaden.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a poet?

I hope my greatest accomplishment as a poet has not seen the light yet. What a poet currently writes, they wish for it to surpass all the previous endeavours, therefore I aspire my new poetry collection “Miracles Within” soon to be published will be embraced by a larger circle of readers.

What are the books you regard as the all time readable?

Actually, there are many but I would say among many others “Princess Izambo” by Angelos Terzakis, the “Novel of the Four”, the amazing “The importance of being Earnest” and “Lady Windermere’s fan” by Oscar Wilde, “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austin, as well as “The Transformation” by Kafka; last but not least, Conan Doyle’s “Dancers” and Agatha Christie’s “Mousetrap”, since the detective genre is my favourite too.

The poet and authors you like the best?

The truth is that many writers and poets have captured my heart. Among Greeks I single out poets such as Cavafy, Sikelianos, Seferis, Elytis, and among authors Terzakis, Athanasiadis, Karagatsis, Myrivilis, Papadiamantis. From the global community of writers I would pick Shakespeare, Honoré de Balzac, Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, and Wordsworth, Coleridge, Gibran, Hesse. The list could go on and on…

If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?

A child that contemplates the stars in the book series by the Greek master author Menelaos Loudemis. For I believe it is important for us all to preserve the innocence of childhood within us regardless of the age.

What, according to you, is love?

I shall tell you not what I believe of love. Better let me recite what was written on love in the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians as this is, in my humble opinion, the best definition ever given:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

Please let the readers know about your projects for future? And please share any stanza you have written and you repeat it most of the times?

First of all, my big goal is to read as many works of literature as possible both classic and contemporary, and of course to highlight even more aspects of my literary nature, as I like to experiment with new structures and forms. I would also like to help young writers emerge, something we do at Writers Capital Foundation, as I see that there are little diamonds buried somewhere that need to come to the surface. In the same way, I aim to make my students love literature more through literary projects I promote through my foreign language academy and through literary programs in public schools in my country. It is essential that books become more popular with young children being all day long with a mobile phone or a tablet in their hand as its natural extension. And my big bet with time is to complete my unfinished projects and bring their heroes from obscurity to light. If I am lucky enough to be loved by the general public, this is something that time will tell.
As for a stanza I like repeating to myself is the following, actually the beginning of the Poem entitled “Two-faced”:

Our life is like a coin
one face makes you happy
the other makes you sad;
no matter which you pick
there always lies the risk.
Yet one cannot but toss!
For it is the law of life
Always to roll,
never to stand still…

What is your message to the young poets? Can you at this moment mention a few talented younger poets of the state?

I would prompt them to go on and never cease making efforts. Like I used to repeat to myself when I first started writing poetry, quoting from the poem of master poet Constantine Cavafy “The first step”, it is a major achievement to even be on the first step on the ladder of poetry…

“Just to be on the first step
should make you happy and proud.
To have reached this point is no small achievement:
what you’ve done already is a wonderful thing.
Even this first step
is a long way above the ordinary world.
To stand on this step
you must be in your own right
a member of the city of ideas.”

I am glad to see that my generation has given birth to a multitude of poets. Literary competitions, encyclopedias, literary magazines – print and electronic, presentations of literary events mainly by individual initiatives, is the proof. As refers to poetry, I am even happier to see young children use the pen from an early age and write verses to express their feelings. This fact gives me hope both as a writer and as an educator. As for such brilliant young poets, there are quite many in Greece, but I am afraid of doing injustice to those that I will not mention, so I shall refer to the youngest one I know of, aged 11, Eirini Gisdaki, the daughter of a philologist and a great friend. This little girl writes poems in Greek and English and are impressive.

Please describe life in two lines?

“As easy as a stream flowing, as difficult as climbing a steep mountain… at times. When the stream flows, let it take you along, and gather your strength for the times of difficulty.”

What have your achievements been to date?

I do not like mentioning my own achievements, as I am dedicated to promoting other poets’ and creators’ ones, leaving the others talk about me when they wish. Let me just mention a few facts: I would definitely say that my major achievement in life is my daughter, Anastasia-Mary, aged 12. I am a happy mother, and also my students seem happy to have me as a teacher. I have written 15 books of different literary genre so far and wish to complete all those I have left half on pieces of paper and in several hard disks.

Your ideal person?

Ideal is the person that acts as a real human being… Inspired by genuine, unconditional love for all living beings. One that is not egocentric and their goal in life is to become a better person, in the service of humanity.

Favourite actor, singer?

My favourite actors? Peter Sellers in comedy, Peter Ustinov in drama. Favourite singer Maria Callas.

Favourite month?

My favourite month is August because it is the month of my annual well-deserved summer holidays, in which I try to relax and also finish off a book I write during the year.

Favourite colour?

My favourite colour is light blue, the colour of the Athenian sky.

Favourite food?

My favourite food is spaghetti carbonara that I myself make! In my own way, that is.

Favourite place?

My favourite place is – as I am an islander – any coastal resort. For the sake of the interview, I shall mention the island of Lefkas in the Ionian Sea where I spend my summer holidays.

Thank you so much for you time and for all the revealed details. Do you want to add some more for our readers now?

I thank you wholeheartedly for this wonderful interview! I prompt all your readers to keep the inspiration high and follow their dreams! For “where there’s a will, there’s a way”

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