Adrianne Kalfopoulou’s rich second collection maps “an inner country” where history is intimate knowledge. Whether set in Greece, America, Turkey or Vietnam, these poems never lose sight of “the storm / beyond language” that is a living struggle, nor do they forget what it is to “swallow joy like champagne.” Poetic range for this poet is not just formal, but also emotional, from intense lyrics like “The Street of the Aphrodite Hotel” to narratives in “Brides” and “Balkan Voices.” The book teems with characters, and in a poem like “Neos Kosmos” whole currents of modern history flow through the filter of one Athenian neighborhood. Kalfopoulou writes as mother, daughter, lover and intellectual—international in her experience, fully-engaged, observant and, yes, passionate.”
The poems in Passion Maps, when taken together, trace the outlines of “lingering cartographies of bygone lives/the lyric ruin of cities,” and “whole towns/now erased by grass.” Early Greek mariners devised portolan maps with lines indicating safe passage around tricky coastlines and across the dangers that lurked on the Mediterranean’s sea bed. “I set out without a map,” Adrianne Kalfopoulou writes in this fine collection, and on that journey she charts equally treacherous waters. Driven by the force of sheer love, she navigates themes of exile, war, perpetual homesickness, and the complex histories of family and country. That Kalfopoulou is unwilling to let go of these people and places—to willingly suspend herself in “xenitia, a state of continuous/estrangement” in order to narrate these heartbreaking truths—allows us all to travel with her, crossing the water and arriving at a safe destination. In the end, like the narrator in these poems, we are “waiting/for the ship to take us home.”
—Debra Marquart, author of From Sweetness: Poems
and The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere.
Passion Maps is an exceptional collection, filled with wholly original poems that are fresh, sensual, and beautifully realized. The collection is thoughtful, smart, and moving. It's poems like “At the Edge of the World,” “The Border,” “The Evening Drink,” or “Stassi Ecclesia” that remind us why we read in the first place: to be delighted, to be changed.