Zakynthos Poets and Writers
Poets and Writers from Zakynthos: The foreign people who conquered the island of Zakynthos throughout the centuries (mostly the Venetians and the British) have greatly influenced the character of the local poetry and literature. This is why Zakynthos is the birthplace of many renowned writers and poets who have left monumental works behind. The flourishing of arts and letters on the island started in the 15th century and lasts until this day.
Among them is the famous poet Dionysios Solomos who received national recognition for his famous work Hymn to Liberty. Years before the birth of Solomos, there were many poets whose works left a deep imprint on the local culture.
Dionysios Solomos, the National Poet of Greece, was born in Zakynthos in 1798. His father was a rich merchant, while his mother worked as a maid in his father's house. Solomos studied law at the University of Pravia in Italy and his first poems were in Italian. During that time, he interacted with eminent philosophers, linguists, and scholars. When Solomos returned to Zakynthos, he started writing his first verses in Greek. He wrote his most famous poem Hymn to Liberty in 1823, parts of which were later established as the National Anthem of Greece after the great composer Nikolaos Mantzaros set the stanzas to music.
For a period of his life, Solomos settled down in Corfu continuing his poetic work, in relative seclusion. In 1849, he received an honorary prize for his work which awakened the sentiment of the Greeks for national independence. He died in 1857 in Corfu, after a severe stroke. His bones were transferred to Zakynthos in 1865 and were placed in a small mausoleum near the tomb of another distinguished poet, Andreas Kalvos.
Andreas Kalvos was born in Zakynthos in 1792. After finishing school in Zakynthos, he continued his studies in Florence, Italy. He then moved to Switzerland where he wrote the first tragedies in the Italian language. With the sound of the Greek revolution, Kalvos writes his first ten patriotic odes, encouraging the Greek nation. Almost immediately, they were translated into French and published. His work was censored by several people from the arts and letters. The Greek scholars of that time believed that there was no room in Greek poetry for the Odes of Kalvos. In contrast to them, the French people expressed great enthusiasm for his poetry. In general, Kalvos tried to combine the two opposite powers, for example, the mythical feature and the contemporary events of his time, Zeus and God, neoclassicism and romanticism.
Until 1827, Kalvos taught at the Ionian Academy of Corfu, the first university of the modern Greek State. It is worth questioning, though, that despite the fact that Kalvos and Solomos lived in Corfu in the same period, no evidence confirms the connection between these two personalities. Then, Kalvos moved to England where he stayed until the end of his life, in 1869. His poetry did not receive any recognition until many years after his death, when another distinguished Greek poet, Kostis Palamas, rediscovered them in the early 20th century.
Gregorios Xenopoulos is one of the most-read authors who marked Modern Greek literature. Born in 1867 in Constantinople to Greek parents, he spent his first years in Zakynthos. In 1892, he moved to Athens where he wrote dozens of theatrical plays, hundreds of novels and narrations, children's readings, studies, articles, and critical research. In his works, he portrays the world of Zakynthos and emphasizes the Athenian urban society and through them, he expresses his questions.
His works penetrate the daily problems of the people laying emphasis on female behavior. In 1922, he was awarded the Prize of the Arts and Letters and in 1931, he is elected as a member of Athens Academy. He was the founder of the legendary journal Nea Estia where his first work and several other children's stories were published. He was also one of the founders of the Society of Greek Writers along with Nikos Kazantzakis, Kostis Palamas and Angelos Sikelianos.
Many of his theatrical plays were projected on television during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.