“Years in the village. My father in America. Not sharing the mornings, the mountains, / the rose bush, the air. Moving past the yellow hills, the blue, the almond blossoms, / separately, in separate countries.” Written by Tryfon Tolides, an award-winning poet, the narrative verses above evoke the fragmentation of a family that immigration may bring about. The father is no longer present in the everyday routines of the family. Not being a part of village life and the surrounding landscape either, his absence looms large. His separation creates a void. He is nowhere to be seen in the midst of rose bush, the yellow hills, and in the background of the blue. His departure creates a drab emptiness, which the poet contrasts dramatically with a landscape filled with colors.
Immigration deeply affects individuals and families, those who leave and those who stay behind. It is an experience of new beginnings, difficult adjustments, filled with longing and anticipation. It is about growing roots as well as building institutions. For the American-born sons and daughters of immigrants, life also presents various challenges. Navigating two worlds, two languages, and two cultures is a common experience for the second generation. Immigration and ethnicity entail complex, often life-defining experiences. Not surprisingly, individuals, like Tolides, often resort to poetry, literature, film, photography, and scholarship to tell their stories, to make sense of the experience, to share it with others, to document it.
In order to convey this literary and cultural experience of immigration and diaspora, I launched almost a year ago, in October 2017, Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters, an online, free access journal. I wanted to share with readers news about and analysis of the latest documentaries, films, museum exhibits, or books about Greek America. I invited authors, photographers, and scholars to tell their stories. I encouraged scholars to write about the political and cultural relations between the United States and Greece. I wrote about available archives and shared information about resources where readers can learn about Greek American history and culture.
Ergon is a forum that brings together poetry, literature, interviews, film, photography, book reviews and scholarly analysis written in a manner that is accessible to non-academic audiences. Because this kind of venue was absent, I felt it was my responsibility as an educator to create one so that I could make this knowledge available to the public.
The narratives we tell about Greek America have been proliferating. New documentaries, novels, and films are produced, both in the United States and Greek, sometimes earning prestigious international awards. The novel Dendrites (2015), for instance, a story written in Greek about two generations of a Greek American family in Camden, NJ, received the 2017 European Union Prize of Literature. The film Brides (2004), a compelling visual narration of the phenomenon of early twentieth century arranged marriages between Greece and the United States, won the first prize in the Greek State Film Awards. Ergon informs the public about the availability of these narratives and offers perspectives for understanding their significance.
Ergon is a labor of love. It has received grants by OSU’s Humanities and the Arts Discovery Theme, and the Modern Greek Studies Association (MGSA). Several individual donors have also contributed financially. These valuable gifts cover the cost associated with editing, copy editing, and website maintenance, making the operation of the journal possible. For this I am grateful.
Please visit us at http://ergon.scienzine.com/.
Reprinted from the Modern Greek Program Newsletter, Spring 2009. p. 6.