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Mermaids and Ikons

A Greek Summer

Written by Gwendolyn MacEwen • Introduction by Rosemary Sullivan

Published August 26, 2017 | ISBN 9781487002633

Cover of Mermaids and Ikons

Regular price $14.95 CAD

120 pages | 8.5 in × 5.5 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

Mermaids and Ikons

A Greek Summer

Gwendolyn MacEwen • Rosemary Sullivan

Award-winning poet and novelist Gwendolyn MacEwen explores her strongly personal responses to the landscape, culture, and people of Greece in this exquisitely written travel diary, which was originally published in 1978.

Originally published in 1978, beloved poet and novelist Gwendolyn MacEwen’s first work of nonfiction explores her strongly personal responses to a complex civilization. Partly written during a trip to Greece in 1971, MacEwen moves from the urban tumult of Athens to the radiant simplicity of an island in the Aegean. In this intimate and exquisitely written travel diary, she evokes the very spirit of Greece — the exuberance of the people, the sun-drenched landscape, and the shaping power of ancient traditions and myths in modern Mediterranean life.


The windows of the night train revealed a landscape almost lunar in its starkness. The trail hugged a wall of rock made steel blue by midnight; the mountainside had the consistency of quicksilver. When we passed over the bridge at the great canal of Corinth, we seemed to be suspended in a hunk of purple midnight space. Everything dwarfed us. We were on our way to Mycenae.

The next morning, rainwater turned red as blood in the hollows of the stones in Corinth. Nikos and I stood in the ancient agora and gazed up at the mountain where holy whores once had their temple; a Byzantine castle now clings precariously to the summit. Everything’s so big in this country, I thought. What is it? Everything’s stretching and reaching and gasping for more and more space. The infamous light seems to yank things out of their contexts and present them naked and fullblown to the eye. Everything demands attention; there is nothing subtle about Greece.

Awards and Praise

“I still remember the initial impact Gwendolyn MacEwen had on me at the Bohemian Embassy in 1960: ‘Where did this come from? How come she’s so young? And what is this unearthly being?’” — Margaret Atwood [From the cover of The Selected Gwendolyn MacEwen, Exile Editions, 2007]

“Gwendolyn MacEwen seemed to many an exotic and mesmerizing presence. In less than twenty-six years she published twenty books and became with Margaret Atwood the most celebrated poet of her day.” — Rosemary Sullivan, The Shadow Maker: The Life of Gwendolyn MacEwen