A Toast to Kick Off American Odysseys

On Monday, December 3, the Vilcek Foundation invited members of the New York literati to celebrate the upcoming publication of American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans, an anthology of twenty-two contemporary immigrant writers from seventeen different countries. 

Poet Laureate Charles Simic, himself an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, opened the program with comments about his experience as a foreign-born writer working in his second language of English: “…In my new circumstances, that seemed to me to be the most obvious thing to do, write in English so one could be understood by the natives, and in my case, especially, by the ones of the female sex,” he said.  “Of course, none of it was clear to me when I started out.  When it came to my poetry, I was in complete agreement with my mother.  I had no expectation that anything would come of my writing.  I wrote for the same reason that every poet writes, because they love poetry and because their lives would feel meaningless to them if they don’t write it.” 

Mr. Simic was joined by eight of the anthologized authors, each reading from their selections in American Odysseys.  The collection of poetry, short stories, and novel excerpts they read swept audience members away to a fantastic range of locales—from Kingston, Jamaica to Caltanissetta, Italy to Belgrade, Serbia—as seen through the eyes of wildly diverse characters, such as a young girl experiencing Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror in Colombia; a disheartened soldier in a future, apocalyptic war; and a Japanese-born, Denmark-raised man falling in love in Paris. 

The anthology will be widely available in bookstores on February 19, 2013.  It will be a part of Dalkey Archive Press’s winter 2013 catalogue, and is the paperback version of the Vilcek Foundation’s privately published hardcover edition. 

For more information about the anthology, please visit Dalkey Archive.

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  • A Message from Jan and Marica Vilcek

    Our founders arrived as penniless refugees over fifty years ago, but with the kindness and opportunity they received in the United States, they went on to accomplish great things in biomedical science and art history. Read their statement on the recent executive order imposing a travel ban.