Today is... Tsiknopempti here in Greece! No, I don't expect that to ring any bells for most of you. The word literally means, "the-smell-of-roasting-meat-Thursday" and, in the preparation for the fasting of Lent (the Eastern church is on a slightly different calendar), people all over Greece will fire up the coals and put slabs of meat on the grill, or join friends in crowded and overbooked tavernas for a raucous night of overindulgence. The sublime aroma will rise up to the heavens to be savored by God--or gods--and people get to dig in to the left-overs--that is the actual flesh. In other words, it sounds suspiciously like pagan sacrifices, when, again, the gods enjoyed the fragrant smoke from fat wrapped around thigh bones, while people got to enjoy the rest of the lamb or goat or calf. Though the Athens of Pericles seems infinitely far away in the mists of time--as difficult to envision as a technicolor Parthenon--somehow the Greece of Homer always seems to be right around the corner.

Certainly one of the things I do love about Greece is the rhythm of feasts and of fasts, the ceremony of the calendar. Coming to the end of my tenure here on Harriet (there might be one last post tomorrow on Leap Day), I have been thinking with gratitude about what a feast it has been--of conversations and controversies--so much learned, or rethought, or discovered, so much left to say. I shall put by posts that I had meant to do but didn't get around to, or maybe thought better of--on Sincerity & Artifice, on English Sapphics, on "Robert Frost is the John Ashbery of New Formalism." But I'll enjoy peaking back in from time to time, and seeing what the new bloggers, and our faithful commenters, have to say.
A calendar only of feasts, of course, would become tiresome and bloating. The purification of fasts--the giving up of meat--is a necessary corrective and part of the rhythm too. (Here, even McDonald's gets in on the act, offering a McSarakosti menu--McLent.) Lent for me will involve less time on-line, less time in conversation about poetry--but perhaps more time listening rather than talking, more time in poetry itself--which for me is a kind of having life, and having it more abundantly.

Originally Published: February 28th, 2008

A. E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), which won the Richard Wilbur Award; Hapax (2000); and Olives (2012). Her new verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things,...

  1. February 28, 2008

    I know a lot of people around here (TN) who would agree with the concept of BBQ as sacred offering. :)
    Thanks I've enjoyed reading your blog posts.

  2. February 28, 2008
     Don Share

    I guess the great poem of the calendar is Ovid's (unfinished) Fasti... Greek connection probably that it has roots in Hesiod's Works and Days. In Eng. Lit. we have Spenser's The Shephearde's Calendar... and I suppose you could go all the way up to MacNeice's Autumn Journal, some of Vita Sackville-West's garden epics, and Niedecker's poems on calendar pages. But Alicia, your parting gift is to get me thinking of calendar poems! Other takers?

  3. February 29, 2008
     Alicia (AE)

    Jilly, hope you had some BBQ on Tsiknopempti! Thanks for reading.
    Don, you've covered the calendar poems that spring to my mind... Leap day is also an interesting day to think of calendar poems. Certainly I can think of a lot of calendars IN poems... as Elizabeth Bishop's tear-sowing almanac.

  4. February 29, 2008
     Don Share

    Yikes, I forgot Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - "The Poet's Calendar."