‘Cry Mercy and Gentleness’ Cry 1/5: Transformations Poems (Book 4)

11 Jun


George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

17 poets, 15 months, creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page for more details or the ‘Present Collaborations’ Tab


Poems Inspired by Book 4



James Knight and Kate Garrett


13 Medusa variations

by James Knight


1. Dreams

At twilight Medusa becomes a tree. Brittle branches grasp at the wind hissing through her leaves. She twists under mineral dreams.

2. Little Black Dress

Medusa queues to pay for a little black dress. She’ll knock ’em dead tonight. But, fearing mirrors, she’ll never know how she looks in it.

3. Humdrum I

In Medusa’s kitchen, the kettle hisses and spits. She sits at the table, buttering toast. Her eyes are empty; her mind’s elsewhere.

4. Book

Medusa is turned into a book, bound in snakeskin. Left on the shelf for years, her pages yellow with age and envy. Her secret words will never be read.

5. Mermaid  

Medusa swims through the starless abyss, harpoon in hand, hunting. Her eyes are pearls, her hair a crown of gaping eels.

6. Alice

He glimpses the reflection of a coil of Alice’s hair as she darts between still white soldiers. In the frame of a mirror, she’s vulnerable.

7. Humdrum II

Medusa’s mother-in-law clucks over the baby, pecks his cheek. Afterwards, in the stony silence of the kitchen, Medusa plans a roast chicken.

8. TV

They sit in their millions, fixed by her stare.

9. Creation Myth

Medusa is the first monster. She hisses sweet nothings that become the sea. At night, she’s mesmerised by the silver shield of the moon.

10. Cupid

Medusa meets the man of her dreams in a hall of statues. She shoots love’s arrow through his heart, then caresses him until he’s rock hard.

11. Humdrum III

She inspects her grey skin in the hand mirror.

12. Art

Medusa takes up sculpture. Her subject is terror. Her material: life.

13. Reflection

Lost in the Garden of Eden, Medusa chances upon what she takes to be a reflection of herself: a woman, ripe with sin, stroking a serpent.


Sticks from Stones

(After Ovid’s ‘Leucothoë and Clytië’)

by Kate Garrett


I. Frankincense


She radiates memories from perfumed

jewels, her limbs encrusted with them:

a fragrant shrine to the gods’ indiscretions.


Suffering seeps through, blooms: gather

it in, crush the resin, form it into shapes.

Burn it down; smoke rises to Heaven.


II. Heliotrope


She follows the trajectory of lost

love with her violet-gaze. Devotion

enhanced by the green leaves


coaxed out by saltwater from her

once-upon-a-time eyes. She wasted

away, but still thrives in his light.



Snake Haiku

(After Ovid’s ‘Cadmus and Harmonia’)


Two forked reptilian

tongues, and coils of pebbled skin

restore the balance.



You can find more about James and Kate and their work here:

James Knight:



Kate Garrett:





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