Greek to Me (Ελληνικά για μένα) by Joe Safdie


In his exciting new book of poems and retrospective reflection, West Coast poet and devout philhellene Joe Safdie engages compellingly with various Hellenic myths, and by doing so offers the reader a fresh and creative way of approaching Greek antiquity. Though most characters in the poems evidently are Hellenic, the style of the book is conversational and its idiom quintessentially American, recalling the poets of the New York School and the countercultural movement. I find this fascinating. Safdie naturally masters the uniquely poetic art of interweaving disparate realities. Greek to Me blends and blurs historical timelines, geographies and cultures into an innovative brew joining together fragments of the two outer edges of Western civilization: the US of today and Greece of old. — Georgia Pavlidou


Poetry / Essay.  104 pages  ISBN 978-1-946104-52-6
Poems of Greece, mythology, and the very heart of language and poetry, myth and muses, the human and the spectacular.

Greek to Me covers Joe Safdie’s artistic and intellectual love affair with Greek mythology from the 1970s into the 2020s. What gives order to the movement in his poetry is related to the Greek “ergon,” which is based on a verb meaning “to work,” and this verb is also the root of the word “energy,” which thus means literally “to work within.” If we think of the movement of Safdie’s verse, prefaced by personal yet scholarly introductions, as an organizing energy that is “working within” the movements in the poems, in the lines, and, indeed, even in the words and stanzas, thus ultimately merging with a Dionysian totality of structure, this would perhaps help further in giving a feeling for what it means to take the movement of Safdie’s thought in verse as primary. There is no disguising Joe Safdie’s quest. In “Musing about The Muses,” the essay that concludes Greek to Me, Joe recalls and recollects the poet’s entanglement as “a seeker of good poetics.” — Andrew Levy


Greek to Me is anything but mystifying & alien. It is a marvel of a book that layers & interweaves classical mythology into/with poems that spring from the page with their heart-felt immediacy. Safdie’s skillful use of mythological backdrop impregnates his poems with the largesse of ruminant illuminations. The Greeks communed with their gods at festivals & feasts. If you wish to connect to sacred things, — feast upon this book! — Heller Levinson

Joe Safdie’s ninth book was The Secular Divine, a hybrid chapbook of poems with an essay on heresy (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022). That essay gave its name to a collection of other essays on literary matters, Poetry and Heresy, forthcoming this year from MadHat Press (the essay “Musing about the Muses” is also in that volume). His talks on the muses and William Blake can be found on the website of the Centre for Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred in London, and his talk on Charles Olson and Brooks Adams for the American Literature Association can be found in Spoke IX and on YouTube. Other poems, essays, and reviews are in Jacket, Jacket2, spoke, Rain Taxi, Caesura, and Dispatches from the Poetry Wars. With his wife Sara and his cat Cody, he lives among the trees in Portland, Oregon.