The Poet-Sandal Maker of Athens

Stavros Melissinos was born in 1929 and is well known in Athens and around the world as the poet-sandelmaker of Greece. His books of poetry, plays and essays have been translated into English, French, German and Italian and his best known work The Rubaiyat is on the curriculum of a number of American universities. He has been the subject of documentaries on the BBC and three American networks and his works are in the Harvard and Oxford libraries. He has also translated the works of many literary greats into Greek. His play Chastitity Belt was banned in Greece for political reasons, which makes him quite proud.

Take away the Glories and the Honors
The granite palaces of this vain world
And only give me the smile of Pain
The tear of Joy and I will erect
a thousand palaces in me in which to live.
(Athenian Rubaiyat)

The shop of The Poet has attracted some of the biggest names in art and culture of the last half century including the Beatles, Sophia Loren, Rudolph Nureyev, Margo Fontaine, Jackie Onassis, Anthony Quinn, George Pappard, Ursula Andress, Joseph Cotten and Gary Cooper who have all worn the sandals of the poet.

When asked by Canadian writer Jason Schoonover why such a reknown poet would continue to work a regular job as a sandal maker, he replied ” A writer who does nothing but write is like the moon, which gives off some light, but borrowed from the sun. A writer needs first-hand experience, which only working in another field can give him. Otherwise he is rewriting what he has read in other books.”

The designs of his sandals, like his poetry which is influenced by Greek mythology and history, is based on the footwear of the ancient Greeks who once walked the streets of the ancient agora, in the very place his tiny shop is now.

He tells of the first of many visits by the Beatles in 1968.
“First of all one of them comes, the intellectual one…Lennon. He told me he had found my works somewhere. Then they all came in, like the seven dwarfs. There were bodyguards too and we had to close the shop because their followers would have wrecked the place. They all bought many pairs. Later my children asked why I did not ask for their autographs. Why did they not ask for mine? I will be around long after the Beatles”.

It seems he was right.

From the 1920s the small shop at 89 Pondrossou street has been the workshop of Stavros Melissinos, the Poet-Sandalmaker of Athens. Before Stavros his father had worked here. Because of the Olympics, Melissinos, an Icon of Athens, was evicted by the new landlords who wanted to get more money out of the space. Olympic Greed was a disease that infected the whole city but this was an especially disturbing act. Melissinos is a national treasure. But Monastiraki’s loss is the gain of Psiri. To find Stavros and his sandals just cross the square in front of the metro station and walk towards the intersection of Athinas Street and Ermou. Take a left on Ermou and walk two blocks and go right on Ag Theklas Street and he is at #2. This is actually a very suitable location because this is Lord Byron’s old neighborhood -he lived there for a period of time on 11 Aghias Theklas Street. That was the period when he was in love with the daughter of the Makres family. You can call him (Stavros, not Byron) at 210-3219247 /6938083805

I’m not just Cretan, Spartan, Athenian, Macedonian
All Greek, the whole of Greece in my chest I have enclosed
And whoever the Greeks divide ’tis my ancestral duty
To strike them back with the lance of Eternal truth

I’m European; I’m Asian; I’m African
American; Australian; Oceanian, son of the Pole
I’m all the people sheltered under the same sky
A child of Heaven and Earth: Man, the measure of all things

And finally, Christian or Jew, Brahmin or Buddist
Muslim or you who owe allegiance only to your own meditation
Just think the everpure butterfly of instinct
That flies in time and space in gardens without boundries