Donna J. Gelagotis Lee

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Intersection on Neptune

“The poems in Intersection on Neptune have the sweep of almost a century of American culture and history. It is a splendid book which captures the kinetic vibrancy of New York, Coney Island and New Jersey.” 

—Bryan R. Monte, Amsterdam Quarterly, “AQ26 Autumn 2019 Book Reviews”

Read more at Amsterdam Quarterly.

“In this time when many in the United States have forgotten their lineage, of how they came to be in the United States, along comes Donna J. Gelagotis Lee to remind everyone of the immigrant experience, of native born children who have lived lives that those who came here hoped for. . . .

These poems by Gelagotis Lee read as a documentary of the American experience with love, family, of the difficult times, the good times. She captures the urban, suburban and rural experience in poems that will stay with you long after the read. . . .”

—g emil reutter, “Intersection on Neptune By Donna J. Gelagotis Lee,” North of Oxford, August 2019

Read more at North of Oxford.

“. . . The first section, which is twenty-eight pages long, is a collection of poems about New York. The poems accurately capture life in New York and Brooklyn in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. . . . They speak of a time and place that has changed drastically. The reader is transported to Jewish life in New York and Brooklyn by poems that remember the teenagers meeting on Kings Highway, at grandmother’s house on Coney Island where she made mouth-watering challah, sponge cake, and brisket from scratch. The reader can almost smell the lemon pierced with cloves . . .  on Yom Kippur. . . . The immigrant experience is the theme that connects the two parts of the book. . . .”

—Ilka Gordon, AJL News and Reviews, November/December 2019, “Reviews of Literature for Adults”

“The poems in Donna Gelagotis Lee’s Intersection on Neptune cover a lot of ground. As they move between the city and the suburbs, the past and the present, they compose a long love letter to New York and New Jersey, one in which certain local readers will surely see their experience reflected. . . .

Not all the poems are paeans to place, however. An undercurrent in the book is a focus on the experience of women growing up in the mid-20th century. . . .

While the poems have their focus in New York and New Jersey, ultimately they are poems of the American experience; in fact, some of Gelagotis Lee’s poems are addressed directly to America. Even more than the American experience, however, the poems call to mind the deeply human experience of time passing—longing for the past, mourning what has been lost, trying to hold on to memories. She writes: 'I wish I could replenish the past / with a hormone, time / like a heartbeat.' This book—like all literature—is an attempt, and an enjoyable one, to preserve those memories so they are not lost.” 

—Jacqueline Vogtman, Kelsey Review 2019, fall 2019. “Book Review: Intersection on Neptune. Donna J. Gelagotis Lee. The Poetry Press, 2019.”

Read more at Kelsey Review.

Intersection on Neptune, Donna J. Gelagotis Lee’s second full-length collection and winner of the Prize Americana book award, is a love song to place and to time. . . .  Each poem is deeply grounded in location, and each location is particular to its time.

. . . Intersection on Neptune is interested in the cross sections of America and Americanism and the variety of connotations, both positive and negative, that being American incorporates.”

—Jessica G. de Koninck, “Intersection on Neptune by Donna J. Gelagotis Lee (The Poetry Press, 2019),” Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, 2020

“The impulse that drove our immigrant ancestors to come to America reverberates throughout Intersection on Neptune. The second generation can only guess at the experiences of their parents and grandparents, unsure if they could make the same sacrifices. Donna J. Gelagotis Lee writes about this struggle with poems that instruct and engage.”

—Erica Goss, “Review #44, Intersection on Neptune by Donna J. Gelagotis Lee, Winner, Prize Americana, The Poetry Press, 2019,” Sticks & Stones: a newsletter, July 2020.

On the Altar of Greece

     ". . . Early in her volume of poems she sets up expectation that she will become an explorer of the interior world of Greek women. . . . She fulfills on the expectation and, most importantly, at the same time relates her own interior journey. . . .

     . . . Gelagotis Lee might be speaking across time to Sappho, not only thinking of ancient but of modern Greece; this summer she transported me there in her new collection of poetry. . . .    

     The world of these poems is undoubtedly Greece. . . .  Yet, this is not the Greece of James Merrill; we do not experience these poems through the lens of privilege and the world of men. While the men she encounters are equally a force of nature, it is the women who are the core of the book. . . .  

     . . . in the images of this collection there is a mysterious unity. . . .  The place is as alive as the people, and it is impossible to separate the landscape from the body. . . .

     This is a fine collection of poems . . . with the tempo growing throughout the collection. The result is a book whose language and structure are a dance in which the past and the present partner. . . .

     . . . Her poems are birthed out of a very complex inquiry into what it is to be an outsider in another culture. Sometimes she is crystal clear and at other times she grapples in the complexities of what she is recording and experiencing. . . . This range makes the journey of the whole very satisfying." 

—Eloise Bruce, On the Altar of Greece, Journal of New Jersey Poets, 2008


"Rich with images and fragrances of Greece . . .  a collection of experience, of culture, of a woman's story steeped in the history of other women. . . .  Donna J. Gelagotis Lee is a masterful poet. . . ."

—Carla Atherton, "On the Altar of Greece," Cahoots, March 2008


"Lee’s visceral and often sensual language creates a series of images that builds, throughout the collection, into a kind of movie that we can’t help but feel a part of and strongly connected to, even well after reading the final poem. . . .

. . . Indeed, Donna J. Gelagotis Lee is an outstanding poet whose cross-cultural perspective lends to that truth, and On the Altar of Greece shines because of it."

—Simmons B. Buntin, "A Certain Truth," A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, July 2007



"If you can’t make it to the Greek islands this summer, you can read this book of poetry instead. I’ve been reading On the Altar of Greece on the bus as I go to work. Each time I place the book down, I am somehow surprised to find myself not on a Greek island, but back in the city. The poems evoke the smell of the cooking, the heat of the mid-afternoon, the clutter of the discos at the platias at night. . . ."  —gette, aka Georgette Nicolaides, "Book Review:  On the Altar of Greece by Donna J. Gelagotis Lee," Blogcritics Magazine (, July 4, 2007


"Award-winning poet and longtime resident of Greece Donna J. Gelagotis Lee presents On the Altar of Greece, a free-verse poetry collection that explores the majesty, venerable history, and wonder of Greece from an American woman's perspective. Poems contemplate mundane aspects of daily life such as food preparation or the relationship between neighbors, as well as holiday celebrations and the taste of simply experiencing a different way of life. An evocative and memorable tribute. 'Remembering You': 'Gamma, epsilon...  / Slowly your name spells itself / to me, my tongue catching the letters / along the contours, bulging through / interior openings that flip the letters / onto their backs. And I have / forgotten what they said to me. / I have forgotten the taste of your alphabet.'"  —Susan Bethany, Reviewer's Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review, March 2007


“. . .  Lee turns living in Greece into a poetical travelogue - but do not think white beaches and late night ouzo.

Lee is a full commitment type poet.

She inhabits Greece like it is a marriage between her and the land itself.  Every day she learns some new thing about custom, tradition, language, feral cats, filia/“friendship”, the way of things in Greece and the way of things in the rest of the world.

. . . .

. . .  As a fearless woman and poet, Lee walks that jagged shore as sure-footed as a barefoot Helena, born to the rocks and sea.

Many of the poems explore the quiet work of women. Through these poems Lee sees and shares the essential labour of community and how so much of it comes from the uncelebrated labour, the worn hands of women and girls.

. . . .

On The Altar Of Greece alternates between lovely and breathtaking technicolour moments of a tourist's island journey and a seat of the pants, black dressed, olive permeated daughter of Greece. 

Lee has, as much as possible, made herself a natural citizen of her adopted land.

On The Altar Of Greece is probably one the more honest/honed/heartfelt portrayals of real life in Greece that we are likely to see in poetry for a while.  Lee adorns absolutely nothing -- but she does fine and share beauty in the most tranquil and human places.

. . . .

Today’s Book of Poetry really liked the hard work Lee did here. This is a different appreciation of Greece, a different conversation. This is a conversation that celebrates women, looks at the world they take care of while the rest of us spin around outside, but controlled by the gravity within. . . .”

—Michael Dennis, “On the Altar of Greece - Donna J. Gelagotis Lee (Gival Press),” Today's Book of Poetry, May 6, 2015



On the Altar of Greece

Seventh Annual Gival Press Poetry Award

Advance praise by Don Berger, Judge of the 2005 Gival Press Poetry Award, Poet Laureate of Takoma Park, Maryland, and author of Quality Hill and The Cream-Filled Muse


2007 Eric Hoffer Award: Notable for Art Category

"When we circulate poetry among the judges, it is understood that the feedback will be tempered by individual style and taste. Eventually we come across a collection that we deem 'unavoidable'—impossible to set aside. On the Altar of Greece is one such body of work, an honest portrayal of Donna J. Gelagotis Lee's impressions of Greece. Her understanding of place is as strong as her insight into human nature. All the senses are at work in the prose, even as her words craft mesmerizing bolts of energy. The reader must acquiesce." —Best New Writing: The Eric Hoffer Award


Awards and Nominations for Manuscripts and Individual Poems

Whole, semifinalist, the 2023/2024 Willow Run Poetry Book Award

Unrecognizable,” nominated in 2023 by the editors of Vilas Avenue for the Best of the Net Anthology (Sundress Publications)

Equus caballus: When the Rider Halters the Horse, semifinalist, The Word Works' 2022 Washington Prize

Equus caballus: When the Rider Halters the Horse, finalist, 2021 Howling Bird Press Poetry Prize

Up ahead a slice of bone,” nominated by the editors of The Ilanot Review for the 2018 Best of the Net (Anthology, Sundress Publications)

"Docking at Limnos," finalist, 2007 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize, CALYX Journal

"The pines," nominated by Simmons B. Buntin, editor and publisher of A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, for the Best of the Net 2007 Anthology by Sundress Publications

"On the Altar of Greece," finalist, 2005 Richard Snyder Memorial Poetry Prize

"Deciding Not to Wear Glasses," finalist, The May Swenson Poetry Award

"On the Altar of Greece," semifinalist, 2005 Crab Orchard Award Series First Book Prize in Poetry

"On the Altar of Greece," finalist, 2004 Gival Press Poetry Award

"On the Altar of Greece," finalist, 2003 Winnow Press First Book Award in Poetry 

Semifinalist, "Discovery"/The Nation 2003: The Joan Leiman Jacobson Poetry Prizes

Nominated, finalist, Ploughshares "Emerging Writers" issue, 2003












Copyright © Donna J. Gelagotis Lee