To Sleep in the Horse’s Belly by George Kalamaras


Twenty-five years in the making, with some poems dating as far back as forty years, To Sleep in the Horse’s Belly: My Greek Poets and the Aegean Inside Me, is George Kalamaras’s chronicle of his Greek ancestry—literary, artistic, and familial. This book retells the lives of some of Kalamaras’s favorite Greek poets and artists, most often with his characteristic Surrealist outpouring and accretion of imagery, interlacing his inquiry with myth and the metaphor of the infamous Trojan Horse.

He embraces pillars of Greek Letters, such as Odysseus Elytis, Yannis Ritsos, and George Seferis—three poets who helped form the backbone of Kalamaras’s poetics forty years ago. Yet he moves beyond these well-known Nobel Laureates and Lenin Prize recipients. He delves into a plethora of modern and contemporary Greek poets who he has studied during decades of poetic apprenticeship, most of whom are little-known in the United States. Many of these figures are at the forefront of the Greek avant-garde, questioning (implicitly or explicitly) Greece’s two military dictatorships in the last century.

This abundant collection of poems takes us on a 300-page journey not only of Kalamaras’s literary and artistic forebears but also of his familial roots from Zakynthos, Pharaklatha, and Solaki—places in Greece from which three of his four grandparents emigrated during the early part of the last century. Imbuing this collection is Kalamaras’s ongoing poetic project of “seeing one in the other.” He affirms the value of “an archeology of Being,” a project in which he continues to chronicle the world around him, attempting to unearth the value of poets who have come before him, affirming the living presence of the “dead.” Poet George Vafopoulos says in one of the book’s opening epigraphs, here now I stand before all the Greek poets. George Kalamaras similarly takes this “stand,” and in the process embraces his literary, cultural, and familial history, taking us on an odyssey to unexpected places both inward and outward.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 318
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: April, 2023
  • ISBN: 978-1-953252-68-5


George Kalamaras celebrates what it means to be both possessed of and possessed by ancestral as well as literary inheritances. He aims, in sum, “to feel the living / depth of the dead.” Kalamaras thus alternates his gaze between genetic and literary kin, building his feast layer by layer not unlike the Greek dish moussaka. Within these poems he brings to the table poetic forms various and apposite, his musical language sweet upon the reader’s ear. Here, things are always “becoming” another, ritually enacting epiphanic transformations by which a woman becomes an owl and tanagers inhabit the poet’s chest. Amid this swirl of Surrealist flights, Kalamaras alights upon a surprising topography of centeredness between dual if complementary realms, there “holding hands / with a moon split in two.” —Kevin Stein, former Poet Laureate of Illinois

In his tenderly written new book, former Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras is taking us on a poetic voyage of perpetual metamorphosis, deflating time and space, (re)uniting both sides of the Atlantic, invoking the Pelasgian magic of the Aegean within, and elegantly compounding both his immigrant and poetic ancestral lineages. Poetry is a haunted practice, Peter Gizzi writes, particularly well-equipped to speak with the dead. Kalamaras has artfully proven this existential fact. Like in Jack Spicer’s After Lorca, Kalamaras resurrects, blows life into, and converses not with one, but with many dead, who all seem to constantly flow in and out of him and in and out of each other. —Giorgia Pavlidou, author of inside the black hornet’s mind-tunnel


The Madness of Michael Mitsakis

A hummingbird entered your throat,
and you went mad. So much for 1896 and swollen

toes. For the flaking of skin you had been
convinced was your insides trying to cry.

If I was asked to kiss you, I would immediately
defrost bees from the freezer and lovingly send

them swarming to Algeria where you might have
crossed the sea to cultivate sanity. The forgotten

remain forgotten. Especially a journalist like you
whose associative poems crowded the owls

from their resinous midnight release. What word,
what fracture of color, did you see

those last twenty years when you were institutionalized
and babbled moon to moon. Some said it was just another

poem. The wind knew better, bringing
the clockflower into your mouth so you could

tell time by the seasons. You were a Surrealist
before the wing-beat of Java sparrows pulsed blood

into the mouths of André Breton.
Michael Mitsakis, lost to us.

The way wolves eat history when history eats its young.


George KalamarasGeorge Kalamaras is former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014–2016). He is the author of twenty-one collections of poetry—thirteen full-length books and eight chapbooks—as well as a critical study on language theory. He has published two previous books of poetry with Dos Madres Press, We Slept the Animal: Letters from the American West (2021) and Luminous in the Owl’s Rib (2019). A recipient of various national and state prizes for his poetry, he spent several months in India in 1994 on an Indo-U.S. Advanced Research Fellowship. In addition to his publications in the United States, his poems have appeared in print journals in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America and have been translated into Bengali and Spanish. He is Professor Emeritus of English at Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he taught for thirty-two years. George and his wife, writer Mary Ann Cain, have nurtured beagles in their home for nearly thirty years, first Barney, then Bootsie, and now Blaisie. George, Mary Ann, and Blaisie divide their time between Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Livermore, Colorado, in the mountains north of Fort Collins.

Additional information

Weight 20.5 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .75 in