Poet Effie Mihopoulos dies of breast cancer at age 58

Date: 
02/25/2010

Efstathia (Effie) Harriet Mihopoulos was born in Chicago to Andrew and Koula Mihopoulos on Feb. 15, 1952. In December 2009 she went to Swedish Covenant Hospital because she was not feeling well; at that time she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In January, Effie was transferred to a Hospice at Weiss Memorial, where she passed away on Jan. 14, 2010.

Effie Mihopoulos, Greek American, raised in Athens and Chicago, residing in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, started her own dance magazine (Salome), along with her own publishing company (Ommation Press), in which she published over 40 books of poetry and fiction. Ommation Press drew national attention when she published Cornelius Eady's second book Victims of the Latest Dance Craze in 1985, and Eady's book went onto receive the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets in New York. Cornelius Eady will be speaking at the Mar. 5 Life Celebration for Effie Mihopoulos at NEIU.

Writer and founder of "the Beach Poets", Cathleen Schandelmeier said, "My life, my husband's life, and the lives of our children will forever be impacted by Effie Mihopoulos.  I can't believe I will never see her again! She was like our own Auntie Mame - she would call and wisk my family (my 3 children included) off to whole other worlds through the magic of theater...My children saw Frosty The Snowman (at the Emerald City), The Snow Queen (Victory Gardens), James and the Giant Peach (Emerald City), The Nutcracker (at the LaSalle Theater) and so much more.  She brought us to social justice protests and performances.  Our lives simply will not be the same without the magic of her presence.  She had this way of touching people's lives that was profoundly inspirational. Were it not for her influence, I would never have written my play Santa Girl (she's black-she's good - she's comin' to your 'hood!) because she introduced me to the lady from the Chicago Cultural Center who commissioned the play in 1993."

Effie graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Master's Degree in English Composition and Writing in 1974 and became a longtime member of the NEIU community and was instrumental to the Chicago poetry scene.

She was a freelance arts writer for decades including: the Chicago READER, Stagebill, Examiner.com, This Month on Stage (New York), New City and the now defunct Letter eX (Chicago's Poetry Newsmagazine). For a short period of time she held a position at Chicago Artist's Coalition. For the past ten years she volunteered for the Bucktown Arts Fest.  She was the Cultural Commentator & DJ for The Wizard, WZRD, 88.3 FM (NEIU). She taught writing workshops through grants from the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, the Chicago Public Library & Truman College. And she published 3 books of poetry (The Moon Cycle, Pastel Words, Languid Love Lyrics).  She edited two fiction books (Dancers: Eights Stories about the Dance and Dancers II). Her poems were published in over 200 small press fiction & art magazines. She was also nominated five times for Pushcart Prize. She received numerous grants, awards and fellowships. Much of her work will be donated to the Newberry Library.

Carlos Cumpian, poet, the editor of March Abrazo Press and Columbia College Professor, has called her a "pioneer." She leaves behind her cousin Catherine Valsamoulis, and a non-blood relation Mary (Gitam) Burns, both of Chicago. She also has a cousin named Effie in Michigan and other relatives in Greece, her parents having passed years before.

A Life Celebration will be held at Recital Hall, NEIU Friday, Mar. 5, 2010, 5-7 p.m. hosted by Cathleen Schandelmeier-Bartels. There will be comments from the University and Cynthia Gallaher; award-winning poet will open the event with a poem for Effie. The Trapdoor Theater will perform. Josephine Lipuma, award-winning filmmaker will be showing a film created in Effie's honor. Nicole Aimee Macaluso, poet, artist, and Effie's friend will share a spiritual tribute and the Ensemble Espanole will close the event with a dance performance. A Poetry Tribute for Effie will be held on Saturday, Mar. 6 from 1-3 p.m. at the Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, IL. Instead of flowers for these events there is a request to donate to the Andrew Mihopolous Scholarship Fund at NEIU or to the arts organization of your choice.

A poem by Effie Mihopoulos:

Poets
the muse
just won't
let them 
shut up 
they cannot stay silent 
when there is a war about to happen
they have to shout out 
Stop the war! We want peace! Stop the war! 
nothing can make them 
shut up 
when they see things happening 
that shouldn't 
nothing can make them 
not 
speak up 
against the wrong political party 
poets will always find their voice 
to counter what is wrong 
to speak up against injustice 
poets will always speak their minds 
nothing will make them give in to a guilty silence
the muse will relentlessly see to that 
she will never just let them 
shut up
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