Search results for 'Found Poetry'

The Found Poetry Collaboration #4, featuring: Lydia Allison, Kate Garrett, James Gidding, Joanna Lee

24 Apr

Words

The Found Poetry Collaboration 2014

For the last 4 weeks poets Lydia Allison, Kate Garrett, James Giddings and Joanna Lee have been writing 1 piece of found poetry per fortnight:

A found poem is created when words in an existing piece of writing are lifted from that writing and rearranged to create a greater emotional response. A found poem is shaped from a collection of words or phrases found in one text or a selection of texts to shape an entirely new poem.  

The poets were free to use any texts they like, and I  have thrown in one found text of my choice per fortnight just to mix it up a bit. For the Week 4 poem I chose a section from a  novel by Iain Banks called ‘The Bridge’ (you’ll find the section at the bottom of the post, should you wish to read it). 

 

the physiology of bursting

by Joanna Lee

 

a threshold is not a point
down-river,
a huge handless clockface
formed by stone-remembered
rooms full of whispering
glass. test the walls,
no matter how close.
the thick, white-
tiled passages
converge like
fast current: rapt &
rusted. lightwells hold
to the saddle,
to the boundary defining
a patient shadow
cleaning a window full
of the damp footfall’ed equilibria
who refuse to leave.
if the precise initial condition
is a cradle’s pulse,
small perturbations
will certainly push
the limit cross grimed flags
to one side or the other.
find the keyholes.
dust the hinges.
walk spiking and
of great length. glow.

 

found from
a section of The Bridge by Iain Banks

and

Dynamical Systems in Neuroscience: The Geometry of Excitability and Bursting by Eugene M. Izhikevich. Section 4.3.2: “Stable/Unstable Manifolds”

.

To leave the cradle

by Kate Garrett

.

I ran away and joined a group of gypsies
pawned silver beneath apple hung branches
safe from respectable society, and wrapped
forged letters in half a Romany scarf. I had
a lover of uncertain temper, no greater rogue –

he rubbed gunpowder into his wounds,
twisted, like a shipwrecked smallpox victim.
His sins caused this plague. Our rickety
dwelling sold, his throat cut. I was taken
by wandering monks from the tangled woodland.

I cheated the hangman’s noose
not once but three times –
between stone-remembered messages
my ghost haunts many places: open moor,
wild heathland, ancient passages,
a patch of light in a house called maudlin.

.

Source texts:
The Bridge by Iain Banks
Strange Stories from Devon by Rosemary Ann Lauder & Michael Williams
Cornwall: Land of Legend by Joy Wilson

.

 The earth

by Lydia Allison

.

Beneath the ancient age-grimed flags,
between the niches
its sheer physical variety is dry and open.

Stone-officials, whispering clerks,
pass under a complex jigsaw.
Dim white-tiled lightwells,
rickety cross-corridors,
keyholes whose floors are deep in dust.

Test the doors, the hinges.
Living and non-living matter.
Living things are thinly scattered,
they fill the space.
A corridor. A large round patch of light
glows ahead, broadens out.
The air, I’d swear, forming
complex webs of life.

A length of wall which ought to hold
lush forests, mountains, rainfall.
The patch of floor has a rainshadow
I don’t recall.

I reach the great round river
polishing the glass with a rag.

.

Texts:

Animal ed. David Burnie (2001) p.36

The Bridge by Iain Banks (1990) p.131

 

In The Café Of The Airport Next To My Psychiatrist’s

by James Giddings

.

My wife is having an affair; it doesn’t feel like I thought
it would: rooms full of whispering, our telepathy
losing signal behind tall pot-plants, our shouting at each other
with the volume stuck on full. The carpet squelches
with each footfall. ‘Life is what you make it,’ the scratchy
tannoy says.  ‘Life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much
to smile about.’ Mr. Johnson stirs confetti into his coffee,
swallows a stale sandwich. Dr Joyce’s patient cleans
a patch of light on the window, polishes the shadow
from the glass at its centre with a rag. The air smells damp.
I drink so much my mouth tastes of pencils. ‘Over here Don
broke up with Emily for the second time; they were eating
omelettes with dry bread, sucking on cigarettes.’ Pretty much
all of them are going to break your heart: the atheist
in his chinos and well-fitted salmon shirt, the novelist
with her red-brick pencil skirt, her lap you want to nervously
rest your head on; how, in the light rain, they both love
and fail at everything. Just remember, some come, some go.
When her plane takes off my head swells; the weightless
moment usually makes her think about snow-globes,
white sugar landing softly, as if on the moon; she thinks
about sex, my hands being dropped ticket stubs fumbling
for loose change in a train station. She thinks about pancakes,
dreams rooftops on the seabed. She is submerging herself
in the pool of the pilots voice, how a toad might in cold water.
I deserve so much less than you. Don’t give up, Sweetie.

Extracts from:

The Bridge – Iain Banks
The Flat Battery of Flattery – Luke Kennard
The sunken Diner – Luke Kennard
Quote – Marilyn Monroe
.

 To find out more about Lydia, Kate, James and Joanna please visit:

.

Lydia Allison:

http://lydiaallison.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/LydiaAllison13

Kate Garrett:

http://www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/kate_garrett

James Giddings:

https://jamesgiddings.jux.com/

https://twitter.com/giddingstweets

Joanna Lee:

http://the-tenth-muse.com/

https://twitter.com/la_poetessa

.

Sadly the found poetry collaboration with Lydia, Kate, James and Joanna has concluded  but without a doubt you will be seeing them again in future collaborations on ArtiPeeps. It’s been a pleasure to work with all 4 of the foundlings. 

Tomorrow, you’ll find our Weekend Showcase featuring singer Beth Allen.  As always, thank you for your interest.

If you missed out on the previous found poems you can find them here.

.

*Full text of the piece I sent the foundlings:

I walk beneath the ancient, age-grimed flags, between the niches occupied by stone-remembered officials, past rooms full of whispering, smartly uniformed clerks. I cross dim, white-tiled lightwells on rickety cross-corridors, peer through keyholes into locked, dark, deserted passages whose floors are inches deep in dust and debris. I test the doors, but the hinges have rusted.
Finally, I come to a familiar corridor. A large round patch of light glows on the carpet ahead, where the corridor broadens out. The air smells damp; I’d swear the thick, dark carpet squelches with each footfall. I can see tall pot-plants now, and a length of wall which ought to hold the entrance to the L-shaped lift. The patch of light on the floor has a shadow in the centre of it which I don’t recall. The shadow moves.
.
I reach the light. The great round window is there, still staring down-river like a huge handless clock-face. The shadow is cast by Mr Johnson. Dr Joyce’s patient who refuses to leave the cradle. He is cleaning a window, polishing the glass at its centre with a rag, an expression of rapt concentration on his face. (131, published by Abacus, 1990)

 

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The Found Poetry Collaboration #3, featuring: Lydia Allison, Kate Garrett, James Gidding, Joanna Lee

8 Apr

Words

The Found Poetry Collaboration 2014

For the next 4 weeks poets Lydia Allison, Kate Garrett, James Giddings and Joanna Lee will be writing 1 piece of found poetry per fortnight:

A found poem is created when words in an existing piece of writing are lifted from that writing and rearranged to create a greater emotional response. A found poem is shaped from a collection of words or phrases found in one text or a selection of texts to shape an entirely new poem.  

The poets are free to use any texts they like, and I throw in one found text of my choice per fortnight just to mix it up a bit. For the Week 3 poem I chose a section from a  short story by Hermann Hesse called ‘Strange News From Another Star’ (you’ll find the section at the bottom of the post, should you wish to read it). 

.

Living Without The Bright Gods

by James Giddings

.

He just couldn’t deal with love, didn’t know how
to love us, too fucked up, wearing pink shoes and asking

for money, mystery. It seemed to him altogether too painful
to answer, and all the same laughable and silly; our prayers

in all their boring pageantry, our shining fashion of errands,
receipts and dirty dishes. I want a life that pops and sizzles:

I want to eat ripe tomatoes, sing out loud in the car with the windows open, paint my walls the exact same colour of the sky right now.

I’ve begun worshipping the sun. I formerly offered it a weeping
madonna, the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll, the cold tangerines

from the fridge. Greeting cards tell us that everybody deserves
love. No. Not all the time. Everybody deserves clean water.

.

Created using extracts from:

– Hermann Hesse, Strange News From Another Star
― Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life
– Zadie Smith, White Teeth
– George Carlin, Brain Droppings

.

knight of cups

by Kate Garrett

.

this knight
is a troubadour
brings madness
of emotion
with the grace
of a fish.

this star
is an experience:
self-contained
dread of error
questioning the path
of the heart.

this sorrow
is laughable
your waking life
a lower order –
warmhearted mischance
of physical love.

.
source texts: 

Hermann Hesse, ‘Strange News from Another Star’ (37-38)
Trish MacGregor & Phyllis Vega, Power Tarot (‘Knight of Cups’ 102-103)

.

pi e zo elec tric i ty

noun:  electricity due to pressure, especially in a crystalline substance

by Joanna Lee

.

–they slew one another in masses

 

In astonishment at death, youth
muscles its pathway out
from deep and terrible sorrow.
Its spinal cord cleft by

passively composed spikes,
it is desensitized to
the way of life on this cruel star,
to equilibrium clamped

by the dread of bright gods,
to the vivid currents of disturbing
and volatile things
that saturate the retina. And yet

the laughable output of a single
neuron is enough to affect
the whole body, to ask bitterly
in the dark the crucial why.
Under physiological confessions,
madness is shining still,
a compelling anesthetic
to the real, evolved, pain of failure.

.

text from “Strange News From Another Star” by Hermann Hesse and Molecular and Cellular Physiology of Neurons by Gordon L. Fain, chapter 10, “Inhibitory Transmission.”

.

the youth

by Lydia Allison

.

the young man listened, astounded
at the madness and difficulty
the sadness and gravity
in the people.

he had a sense that he knew
he would never grasp
the complex context
of these terrifying, terrible, obscure,
dark things.
he felt no desire,
no wish to understand.

these sorrowful, pitiable people were creatures,
creatures of a lower order,
they had not been blessed by bright
gods. the light of the gods .
they were ruled by demons, some mischance,
mishap, some horrid error.
the course of life seemed too painful.

He was sorry for these, who lived
in dread of death
lived in gloom and killed and slew each other.
ignoble faces, crude
expressions of deep, terrible sorrow
caused him pain.
their disturbing shining fashion
almost ridiculous, almost laughable –
ridiculous and disturbing, laughable and silly
shameful and foolish.

.

* I have used the provided text, along with a different translation of the same story, “Strange news from another planet” from The Fairytales of Hermann Hesse, translated by Jack Zipes (1995: Bantam Books)

 —

 To find out more about Lydia, Kate, James and Joanna please visit:

.

Lydia Allison:

http://lydiaallison.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/LydiaAllison13

Kate Garrett:

http://www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/kate_garrett

James Giddings:

https://jamesgiddings.jux.com/

https://twitter.com/giddingstweets

Joanna Lee:

http://the-tenth-muse.com/

https://twitter.com/la_poetessa

.

Lydia, Kate, James and Joanna will be back on  Thursday 24th April with their last pieces of found poetry. Tomorrow, you’ll find Ben Cooper our creative resident with another piece of his work.  Thank you for your interest. 

If you missed out on the previous found poems you can find them here.

.

*Full text of the piece I sent the foundlings:

The youth listened to all this in astonishment at the madness and difficulty of the people’s way of life on this star. He would have liked to ask many more questions, but he knew with certainty that he would never understand the whole context of these dark and terrifying things; indeed, he felt no real wish to understand them.  Either these pitiable creatures belonged to a lower order, were still without the bright gods and were ruled by demons, or some unique mischance, some horrid error, prevailed on this star. And it seemed to him altogether too painful and cruel to go on questioning this king, compelling him to answers and confessions which could only be bitterly humiliating. These people who lived in the dark dread of death and yet slew one another in masses, whose faces were composed with such ignoble coarseness as that of the farmer or with such deep and terrible sorrow as that of the King, they caused him pain, and yet in their disturbing and shining fashion they seemed to him so strange as to be almost laughable, laughable and silly. (Strange News From Another Star and Other Stories, Penguin Twentieth Century Classics, 37-38).

The Found Poetry Collaboration #2, featuring: Lydia Allison, Kate Garrett, James Gidding, Joanna Lee

24 Mar

Words

The Found Poetry Collaboration 2014

For the next 4 weeks poets Lydia Allison, Kate Garrett, James Giddings and Joanna Lee will be writing 1 piece of found poetry per fortnight:

A found poem is created when words in an existing piece of writing are lifted from that writing and rearranged to create a greater emotional response. A found poem is shaped from a collection of words or phrases found in one text or a selection of texts to shape an entirely new poem.  

The poets are free to use any texts they like, and I throw in one found text of my choice per fortnight just to mix it up a bit. For the Week 2 poem I chose a section of a  letter from a former patient of Jung quoted in Anthony Storr’s Solitude (you’ll find the section at the bottom of the post, should you wish to read it). 

.

on the pathology of nihilism

by Joanna Lee

.

with clammy skin the heart cascades
much as a mass of cold knowledge
falls from the gut: septic, humoral,

jugular; a clot of air in the lungs blue-
highlighted with the less
clinically obvious algorithms

of life. i titrate swelling
mortality with strokes of fever,
and ought accept the loss i was,

a distal necessary pulse
with a dropped
mask and muscled jaw.

forever is a bedside curve
of sun and shadow, not
as i wanted it to be but

dissolved to a heavier,
taller, younger equilibration.
only fools demand nothing.

i could never have imagined
our thrust was the resuscitation
of ordinary activities such

as breathing, to force
reality like a balloon
into the femoral vein,

precisely keeping
the bleeding quiet but
biochemically alive.

.

Text from

part of a letter from a patient of Carl Jung, quoted in Solitude by Anthony Storr and Fundamentals of Surgery by John E. Niederhuber, chapter 15, “Shock and Resuscitation,” by Adam Siever, MD

.

Out of evil

by Lydia Allison

.

much good has come to me
quiet, attentive, accepting

reality – they are, and not to be
such as could before.
When we accepted things they overpowered us.

I intend to play in this way accepting everything.
What I was:
force, thought.

Keeping nothing remaining,
taking things as I want them,
doing all this – unusual knowledge,

unusual powers I have imagined.
I always thought in some way or other
to be true towards the game

of life – receptive whatever –
good, bad, sun, shadow – forever,
my nature side’s alive.

Fool! How I tried
to go according to the way
I ought to.

.

*Created solely from the words from Jung’s letter.

.

I’m the girl who is lost in space

by James Giddings

.

forever fading away by keeping quiet,
by accepting reality and taking things
as they are: some party someplace, or

some picnic in the park, the Soviet Union.
Ideas and feelings are fast and frequent
as shooting stars. The fast ideas

are far too fast, and unusual knowledge
has come to me; the right words and gestures
are suddenly there like the Cheshire cat:

the warm artificial smile, clownish curve,
the kind you see on villains in Disney movies.
You find interests in uninteresting people.

I intend to play the game of life – sun and shadow
forever alternating – everything more alive.
You never knew those caves were there.

.

Texts:

Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Part of a letter from a patient of Carl Jung, quoted in Solitude by Anthony Storr

.

Transmitters

by Kate Garrett

.

unusual knowledge
overpowered me
in darkness –

receptive to evil
i can’t tell
the difference.

sun/shadow
good/bad
alternating forever

in a cage
with a wire screen
hallucinate effigies

to starve your beauty.
beware the first
principle of anti-choice:

bland words, no life,
accepting torn sex
as your birthright.

 

.

Poem – title included – created solely from words found in an extract from Solitude by Anthony Storr, and the songs ‘No Love Lost’ by Joy Division & ‘PCP’ by Manic Street Preachers.

.

…….

 To find out more about Lydia, Kate, James and Joanna please visit:

.

Lydia Allison:

http://lydiaallison.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/LydiaAllison13

Kate Garrett:

http://www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/kate_garrett

James Giddings:

https://jamesgiddings.jux.com/

https://twitter.com/giddingstweets

Joanna Lee:

http://the-tenth-muse.com/

https://twitter.com/la_poetessa

.

Lydia, Kate, James and Joanna will be back on Tuesday 8th April  with some more great found poetry. Tomorrow, you’ll find Poet Lauren Coulson’s final poem in her nest series (with audio).  Thank you for your interest. 

If you missed out on the first round of found poems you can find them here.

.

*Full text of the piece I sent the foundlings:

Out of evil, much good has come to me. By keeping quiet, repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and by accepting reality-taking things as they are, and not as I wanted them to be- by doing all this, unusual knowledge has come to me, and unusual powers as well, such as I could never have imagined before. I always thought that when we accepted things they overpowered us in some way or other. This turns out not to be true at all, and it is only by accepting them that one can assume an attitude towards them. So now I intend to play the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good or bad, sun and shadow forever alternating, and, in this way, also accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides. Thus everything becomes more alive to me. What a fool I was. How I tried to force everything to go according to the way I thought it ought to! (195)

The Found Poetry Collaboration #1, featuring: Lydia Allison, Kate Garrett, James Gidding, Joanna Lee

10 Mar

Words

The Found Poetry Collaboration 2014

For the next 8 weeks poets Lydia Allison, Kate Garrett, James Giddings and Joanna Lee will be writing 1 piece of found poetry per fortnight:

A found poem is created when words in an existing piece of writing are lifted from that writing and rearranged to create a greater emotional response. A found poem is shaped from a collection of words or phrases found in one text or a selection of texts to shape an entirely new poem.  

The poets are free to use any texts they like, and I throw in one found text of my choice per fortnight just to mix it up a bit. For the Week 1 poem I chose a section of text from W.G. Sebald’s The Ring’s Of Saturn (you’ll find the section at the bottom of the post, should you wish to read it). 

.

…….rings

by Lydia Allison

.

walls hung with copper masks,
hand-coloured and perhaps untouched

………….wear it: bankers, investors,
……………………people who believe in symbolism 

………….plaster blotches moth-eaten
………….a ghost bowed by sorrows

colourless, pink, blue,
………….green, champagne,

there are moments, through rooms
sure of the shores or the heart

…………..the symbolism is clear:
there is only one

…………..the dark continent.
…………..say which decade for ages co-exist

.

note: I have used The Rings of Saturn text, along with texts from three sites about wedding ring stone meanings. Here are the links:

http://www.beau-coup.com/blog/wedding-attire/the-meaning-behind-colored-gemstone-engagement-rings

http://www.ringswithlove.com/gemstones/gemstone-names-colors-meanings-characteristics/

http://www.myloveweddingring.com/engagement-ring-guide.html

—-

On Tea & Sympathy

by Kate Garrett

.

The walls are hung
with rich violet hues.
The Queen of Tulips
fills copper kettles:
green tea, freshly
brewed by an artist,
calms your senses.

The exquisite flowers,
mottled with scarlet
& purple blotches
lift your spirits
into a realm hand-
coloured by Modernism –

a country house
for healing,
some kind of no-man’s-land,
luscious, depending
on which blossoms
the bees have buzzed.

The yellowish air
filling the dark night
brings your fantasies alive –
the Emblem of Love,
a ghost bowed by sorrows,
enveloping you, helps
the ages co-exist.

.

*Written using only words from the text provided (extract from The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald) and various scent descriptions on twelve boxes of Tulasi incense sticks (see photo).

.

incense found poetry

The Rings

by James Giddings

.

After what feels like two thousand years
in the heart of the dark continent, I find you
under the shores of the Arctic Ocean. 
I dig
and dig until the mottled, moth-eaten fur
of your stuffed polar bear springs up in its red felt
African mask; the coloured faces of artist’s portraits
yellowish with bedpan-relief. You must have passed
through the rooms to heaven, or to a country house
in Suffolk. You ask me to stay and no one can say
which decade or century it is; I know this is the afterlife
your body, half a wedding-suit, lost in the shadows.

.

*Found poem. Created from bits of the following:
The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
Salmon by Pascale Petit
The Second Husband by Pascale Petit

notes on cardiac physiology

by Joanna Lee

.

hung with bedpans and hussars’ sabres the human heart
has a discriminative touch.

mottled scarlet, it routes a solitary pathway
across continents, Oceans, losses.

the profound shores of forehead, scalp tongue
are excitatory ghosts bowed by sorrows,

safari trophies that include the entire body
of its dark.

The stuffed polar bear at its entrance stands yards tall.

it receives different blood by moment, tastes
red of serotonin, is spared no-man’s-land

by the lacrimal tearing of vessels.
it is intractable. it is artist. it is acute,

an arctic gag reflex with a visceral
trajectory but no position sense.

known to be a major circuit,
its fibers course through copper battles,

and may produce pain.

.

*Found from:

 Neuroanatomy: An Atlas of Structures, Sections, and Systems, Fifth Edition, Sections 7-3 to 7-8: Sensory Pathways. by Duane E. Haines and The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald.

.

 To find out more about Lydia, Kate, James and Joanna please visit:

.

Lydia Allison:

http://lydiaallison.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/LydiaAllison13

Kate Garrett:

http://www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/kate_garrett

James Giddings:

https://jamesgiddings.jux.com/

https://twitter.com/giddingstweets

Joanna Lee:

http://the-tenth-muse.com/

https://twitter.com/la_poetessa

.

Lydia, Kate, James and Joanna will be back on Monday 24th March with some more great found poetry. I’ve sent them their text just a moment ago. Tomorrow, you’ll find Millfield School’s first FreeSpace with a range of Short story openings from their pupils. Thank you for your interest. 

.

*If you want to see the piece of text I sent the foundlings. Here it is:

The walls are hung with copper kettles, bedpans, hussars’ sabres. African masks, spears, safari trophies, hand-coloured engravings of Boer War battles- Battles of Pieters Hill and Relief of Ladysmith; A Bird’s Eye View from an Observation Balloon-and a number of family portraits painted perhaps some time between 1920 and 1960 by an artist not untouched by Modernism, the plaster coloured faces of the sitters mottled with scarlet and purple blotches. The stuffed polar bear in the entrance hall stands yards tall. With its yellowish and moth-eaten fur, it resembles a ghost bowed by sorrows. There are indeed moments, as one passes through the rooms open to the public at Somerlyton, when one is not quite sure whether one is in a country house in Suffolk or some kind of no-man’s-land, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean or in the heart of the dark continent. Nor can one readily say which decade or century it is, for many ages are superimposed here and co-exist. (35-36)

My Misbehaving Poetry by Daniella Sciuto & J. Matthew Waters (FreeSpace #3)

2 Oct

Welcome to the final FreeSpace from poets Daniella Sciuto and J Matthew Waters. ‘My Misbehaving Poetry’ is the third of three collaborative pieces that Daniella and John have created together.

 

paper-screwed-up

My Misbehaving Poetry

 

a mess of discarded words
surround the waste paper bin
a screwed up frustrating mishmash
of misbehaving poetry
sent to Coventry
the current state of affairs
keeps missing the mark
ideas bouncing off rims in silence
not even a dead klunk
to rattle my soul
to let me know
if I more accurately honed my aim
matched that rhythm zigzagging
in and out of my own personal alphabet
if I took an occasional Z
rhymed it with W instead
attached it to an A, B or C
would poetry suddenly
work for me

exhausted I pause
stare deep into the double-hung window
a handful of flies
trapped between the panes
gasping for fresh air
crawling and buzzing
schizophrenically searching
for the only way out
watching me in a frenzy
weighing up the worth
over-thinking the import
of a few lonely words
which my pen decides
to frantically override
in indigo ink

the day turns to dust
water turns to wine
turns to blood in a trice
I raise my ancient chalice
toasting and praying
to the poetry gods on high
for an ounce of inspiration
as I drift into stars
the night showers reams
of words falling free
my pen and my paper
and my mind all three
collaborate with the gods
to write dream poetry

in the morning I awake
feel the words as they bleed
dead flies on the sill
empty paper
empty pen
an empty state of mind

 

Poets’ Biographies

 

Daniella Sciuto: I’m a writer from The Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Proud owner of an unused degree in Anthropology. Am owned by many, many books which don’t seem to want to leave once they have been read. My first story to be published was on a pillow. I can be found, together with my ramblings, at bluebellina.wordpress.com and @iwasaplatypus on Twitter.

J Matthew Waters is a poet residing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After earning his liberal arts degree in English from the University of Iowa in 1984, he has since enjoyed a career in the financial services industry.  His first collection of poetry entitled “Five Hundred Pieces” was self-published in 1997. His second collection entitled “In the Middle of Somewhere” was self-published as a Kindle ebook in 2011. His most recent work can be found at his poetry blog jdubqca.com.

You can also follow Johnhttps://twitter.com/jdubqca

 

If you missed out on the other two FreeSpace poems by Daniella and John you can find them here:

Proclamation: http://wp.me/p2tYft-2xy

Rewriting the Universe: http://wp.me/p2tYft-2z9

 

FreeSpace is a creative opportunity that offers 3 posts on ArtiPeeps to an individual or group for showcasing or a project. The slots can be taken in a cluster or spread over a period of months.

Metamorphoses Book 15 Last Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

27 Mar
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

TRANSFORMATIONS

Started in February 2013, 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid‘s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

Here we are at the end of March with our deadline for Book 14  poetry being today Thursday 27th March

This post sets out to provide an overview of the last book of Metamorphoses Book 15 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Wednesday 30th April.  This is the last overview I’ll be writing for this particular collaboration. I’ve learned a lot from doing them.

The latest batch of Book 13 poems went out yesterday and featured KARIN HEYER and ELEANOR PERRY  (here).  Book 14 and 15 poems will be posted out across April and May.

If you missed out on some of the other  Book 13 poems you can find them  here, here, here . I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access if you want to see more.

Thank you to all those who have taken an interest in these overviews, and to all those in the Transformations project who have stuck with it through until the end. It means a lot. Here’s to the next one!

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Overview of Book 15: 

In this book we are transported into the present time of Ovid’s world. It is a space where mortals are turned into Gods, and imperial order is established and where battle is transformed into peace.  Ovid initially, rather than moving forward chronologically leaps forward in time to focus on Romulus’ successor Numa (where he is told the tale of Myscelus and Hercules). In  book 15 notions of morality are questioned (Mysecelus); the character of Pythagoras is foregrounded so the origins and causes of life can be explored retrospectively; and Ovid uses the character of Hippolytus to re-introduce notions of heroism. The book is finished with an Epilogue which serves to delve into the relationship between poet, poem and longevity.

 Summary of the Tales in Book 15

Pythagoras

Pythagoras

 Meanwhile the question is who will sustain
The burden of so great a charge, who can
Succeed so great a monarch. For the throne
Fame, truths prophetic herald nominates
Illustrious Numa
 
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The Myths and Key Characters: Myscelus, Pythagoras, Egeria and Hippolytus, Cipus, Aesculapius, The Apotheosis of Julius Ceasar, Epilogue

.Hercules

..

Myscelus

 In a dream Myscelus (a descendent of Hercules) sees a vision of Hercules (the son of Zeus). He tells him to leave the city (which was at the time an act with a penalty of death attached to it). As he prepares to leave he is captured and tried for his crime. However, a serendipitous transformation occurs  as the voting pebbles used in the court change from black (guilt) to white (innocence) occurs, and he is allowed to leave. He departs to build a new city.

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Pythagoras 2

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..

Pythagoras

We move on to see Pythagoras (greek philosopher and mathematician) describe at length to Numa (second king of Rome) , how the universe came into being. He covers such themes as divinity and  the origin and causes of life.

Over the previous two books in Metamorphoses we have seen Hercules, Aeneas and Romulus deified; transformed from mortals to gods.  Pythagoras’ speech almost acts as a long recapitulation of everything that we have read previously. The speech ranges from touching on: vegetarianism (Cyclops in book 13 and Lycaon in book 1 in the Iron Age); the idea of sacrifice (to fulfil the desires of the gods); and notions of the human soul (which can just as easily be held in a non-human form).

Pythagoras goes on to address the theme of death and old age (which we are not to dread). Neither are we to fear the Underworld as our souls are immortal. He indicates that all is in flux including time:

All is in flux. Any shape that is formed is constantly shifting (Lively:146)

We then move on to the concept of cosmology. In book one we saw chaos and disorder, and here at the end we are once again thrown into a similar cosmic chaos where the elements are thrown into asunder.  There is a perpetual state of flux between earth, air, fire and water. Pythagoras posits that the cosmos is in eternal competition with its elements. Once again this description could be describing Metamorphoses, the book, itself.  Pythagoras takes us through creation and the formation of bodies of water and transformations of geography. He then takes us through a list of cities and their fate: ‘the rise and fall of civilisations and cultures’ (147). They range from Sparta to Rome with Aeneas’ power transforming the city into a super-power.  Pythagoras makes a prophecy that Rome will be the greatest of all cities and the most powerful. However, if everything is flux, surely this cannot be permanently true? Ovid does not declare that this power will be permanent. Rome can still be transformed. It’s power may not last.

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Egeria and Hippolytus 

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Egeria and Hippolytus

Numa took Pythagoras’ tenets and used them to reign over the states he ruled over- in peace and in war, until he died.  Egeria, his wife flees into the woods full of sorrow where he meets Hippolytus (son of Theseus)  worshipping at an alter for Diana (goddess of the hunt, moon and birthing). Hippolytus tells of his own troubles in order to salve Egeria’s grief.

In bringing in Hippolytus at this time he re-introduces the notion of a Roman hero and transformation (as Hippolytus, wounded is healed and resurrected by Apollo (god of light, sun, truth and prophecy) and Diana. Once changed he reigned over Latium in Italy under the name of Virbius. Hippolytus’ journey represents great strength and fortitude.

As Philip Hardie puts it, this movement is:

‘one of the culminating moments in the accelerating movement of the last books of the poem from the Greek to the Roman world. ‘ (Liveley: 140)

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Cipus

Cipus

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Cipus

Even though Hippolytus has tried to cheer Egeria up, her sorrow is still not assuaged.  She weeps so much that she dissolves into her own tears. Both Diana and Hippolytus are amazed at this. Ovid uses this story to jump into a sequence of transformations and tales which involve amazement, particularly that of Cipus (a famous Roman general) who one day found horns growing out of his head. This tale seems oddly placed within the narrative as Ovid uses it to  jump to the telling of a later period of Roman history.

Cipus returns from a battle conquest and finds horns coming out of his head, confused he goes to a seer and is told  he is Rome’s new king.  However, Cipus is a republican and rejects the kingship. He is exiled and lives outside the city walls. By way of thanks the people of the land give him as a reward as much land as he can plough; and a memorial is carved on the city gates.

It is Cipus, within this tale, that finally brings in the figure of Julius Ceasar who also had refused to accept his crown, and in so doing Ovid brings the story nearer to his own times.

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220px-Asklepios_-_Epidauros

Aesculapius

Aesculapius

Ovid calls to the Muses as he begins to tell the story of Aesculapius (a man-made God) celebrated in Rome for healing a devastating illness that fell upon the people and which brought about their destruction.

In the form of a snake, the god is welcomed into Rome with great verve comparable to those welcomes of the great generals like Julius Caesar. The masses  gather to welcome him. As Aescalapius sheds his snake skin the people are healed of their disease. As Julius Caesar would heal the politics of Rome.

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Augustus Caesar

Augustus Caesar

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The Apotheosis of Julius Caesar

We enter the age of Augustus (founder of the Roman Empire).

In this section of Metamorphoses Ovid ignores Caesar’s deeds in preference to focusing on his metamorphosis.  He reminds us that it is in fact Augustus that made Caesar a god. This is a reversal of the deifications we have seen previously, where mortals were made gods for their great acts of bravery (Hercules, Aeneas, Romulus).  Caesar is made god because of the divinity of his chikdren. Ovid argues that Augustus must be the son of god, therefore Caesar must be that god. Ovid then turns to Venus, as the mother of Rome, who has concerns for Caesar. She tries to save Caesar from the murderous plotting that surrounds him. However she cannot save him as the Fates will not allow it.  Jupiter reassures Venus of her destiny. He states that Caesarr will die, be made a god and Augustus will take over. Augustus is praised on high.  The same level of attention to the Caesars is given in the final book as in book 1 in order to balance the tale at its conclusion.

Ovid returns us to the beginning. The whole continuous poem has been an exploration of the causes that have lead up to this moment- to the Age of Augustus.

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Ovid Rocks

Ovid

Epilogue

Here in the epilogue we are treated to one, final, concluding transformation, that of Ovid himself: that with the existence of Metamorphoses his life will be perpetuated. He will be immortalised by his work. As Lively puts it: ‘the poet will become his own poetry’ (153).  And as the ages pass and change so will he, in flux- his identity and life embeded in his poem.

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Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 15 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  •  Overview of History:  In conclusion Ovid takes on an eclectic journey engaging with both battle and quietude. Giving us a very particular take on the journey he has lead us through.
  • Origins and Causes of Life: Through the character of Pythagoras Ovid engages with the impermanence and flux of life and how this connects to notions of mortality. How men are made immortal through deification and the ramifications of this. He looks back through the previous books to do so.
  • Notions of Heroism: In this last book Hippolytus, a great Roman hero, wounded badly,  is saved by Apollo from dying bringing into question the exact nature of heroism.  Is Hippolytus really a hero if he has been saved by a god? Hippolytus endures and prevails against all odds, but what is the real value of this?
  • The immortality of a Poet through his Poem: The relation between a writer and their work has been explored perpetually by writers themselves and by critics. By creating a poem about creation, renewal and death that embodies prehistory and history Ovid immortalises himself for the rest of time by his endeavour.

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Things of Interest:

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The Importance of Ovid

http://www.editoreric.com/greatlit/authors/Ovid.html

 

Hippolytus by Euripides

http://classics.mit.edu/Euripides/hippolytus.html

 

Magic

by Ovid:

YE elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
When he comes back, you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm’d
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And ‘twixt the green sea and the azur’d vault
Set roaring water; to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire, and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With hiw own bolt; the strong-bas’d promontory
Have I made shake, and by the spurs pluck’d up
The pine and cedar; graves at my command
Have wak’d their sleepers, op’d, and let ’em forth
By my so potent art.

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/magic-58/

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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts:  Storm, Hero, Sins, Mystery, Filaments, Dreams, Mountains, Violin, Perishing, Childhood

 

Verse Form:  

Hir a Thoddaid

Is the most common form of a welsh form of verse called the Awdl

Each line has 10 syllables – in no particular metre, though I seem to have lapsed into iambic pentameter here. All lines of each stanza, except for the penultimate one, rhyme together in the conventional way. The penultimate line rhymes with them all in an unconventional way – its seventh, eighth or ninth syllable contains the rhyme. Furthermore, the word at the end of the penultimate line rhymes with a word somewhere in the middle of the last line.

The first 4 lines are the hir, and the last two are the toddaid (which mutates to thoddaid when you put the phrase together, due to the endearing peculiarities of the Welsh language). The hir can have 2 lines or 6, rather than the 4 used here, but all its lines must always rhyme together.

See here for more information.

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n.b. I will shortly put up  an audio of the Epilogue in case any of you are too busy to read the book.

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book  14 and 15  coming out throughout March and April.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 1 Poetry is today Wednesday 30th April

 

 

  __________

References:

Brunauer, Dalma H (1996) The Metamorphoses of Ovid, New Jersey Research and Education Association

Hughes, T (1997) Tales from Ovid, London: Faber and Faber

Liveley, G. (2011) Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A Reader’s Guide,  London: continuum

Ovid (1986) Metamorphoses, World Classics, tr. A.D. Melville, Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

 >>>>

 

 

Metamorphoses Book 14 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

27 Feb
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

TRANSFORMATIONS

Started in February 2013, 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid‘s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

Here we are at the end of February with our deadline for Book 13 poetry being today Thursday 27th February

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 14 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Thursday 27th March. I can hardly believe that we’re nearly at the end of this epic poetic journey. 

The latest batch of Book 12 poems went out  on Wednesday and featured KATE GARRETT and ELEANOR PERRY  (here).  The last poem from book 12 poems will be posted out next week and then the book 13 poems will be posted out  across our new season of work starting on Monday.

If you missed out on some of the other  Book 12 poems you can find them  here, here, here . I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access if you want to see more.

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Overview of Book 14: 

Book 14 continues the story of Glaucus and Syclla started in Book 13 with the transformation of Scylla into rock. It also continues the story of the aftermath of the Trojan War and the settling of Rome by Aeneas and his followers. As per usual, in contrast to his predecessors and their ‘take’ on this epic battle,  Ovid focuses on the minor stories of the journey of Aeneas. In particular the book famously features a reverse transformation:  of Aeneas’ ships into nymphs. The book also has within it the last love story in Metamorphoses that of ‘Pomona and Vertumnus’. This tale is significant for its handling of the themes of violence, deception, victimhood and the objectification of women.

 Summary of the Tales in Book 14

. Circe by John William Waterhouse

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‘Goddess’, he said,
‘Have pity on a god. I beg of you. 
For you alone can ease this love of mine.
If only I am worthy. No one knows
Better than I the power of herbs,
for I was changed by herbs..
 
 
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The Myths and Key Characters: Glaucus and Syclla, The Wanderings of Aeneas II, Aeneas’ Descendants, Romulus

.Glaucus and Syclla Book 14

..

Glaucus and Syclla:

 Circe (goddess of magic) encounters Glaucus (sea-god, born mortal and turned immortal) and Syclla (a monster that lived on one side of a narrow channel of water). Circe falls head over heals in love with Glaucus when he, ironically,  visits her to get a love-potion so that Syclla can fall for him.  Glaucus pushes Circe away and she is angered hugely, and seeks revenge on Syclla. She puts poison in one of Syclla’s favourite pools and sprinkles magic herbs in it to lure her in.  Sycllla cannot resist, and she goes into the pool waste deep only to find  that the lower half of her body has been transformed into a mass of horrific barking dogs’ heads.  Horrified, Syclla tries to escape from the dogs, but to her dismay she can’t as they follow. The transformation in itself symbolises the fate of her life now as a victim.

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Aeneas_and_Turnus

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The Wanderings of Aeneas II

Ovid briefly mentions bits of the story of Aeneas’ (Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises)  journey to Italy.  He only focuses on the parts of the story that make reference to transformations.  He almost sidelines Aeneas’ hero importance unlike Virgil’s version of the events.  Ovid does make some extended reference to Aeneas’ meeting with the Sibyl Cumae though.  

However, by preference, Ovid focuses on two  comrades of Ulysses. These  tales are outlined by Achaemenides (son of Adamastus of Ithaca, and one of Odysseus‘ crew) ranging from the story of him hiding from the horrific Polyphemus (giant son of Poseidon and Thoosa)  whilst watching his peers being eaten alive by the Cyclops, to his tale of being rescued by Aeneas. The character of Macareus (one of the Heliadae, sons of Helios and Rhodos) then takes up the tale of his encounters with Aeolus (son of Poseidon) and his time on Ulysses’ ship as well as the flesh eating Laestrygonians (tribe of giant cannibals).

After this Ovid takes us to the island where Circe lives. He retells the story of Circe’s most famous transformation of Ulysses’ men into pigs, (this is the oldest tale of human transformation in the canon of western literature (137)). We hear this tale through Macareus.  However Ulysses manages to persuade Circe to undo her spell and the metamorphosis is reversed.

Ovid  follows Aeneas through his fight against Turnus ( King of the Rutuli, and the chief antagonist of the hero Aeneas) for the hand of Lavinia  in marriage. (the daughter of Latinus and Amata, and the last wife of Aeneas) He tells a sequence of tales and ends up focusing on the tale of Venulus (a representative of Evander) within which he tells the tale of a local shepherd who had mocked some local nymphs and been turned into a wild olive tree (the bitterness of his words represented by the  bitter berries of the tree).

Even the reverse transformation and the warning of the shepherd being turned into an olive tree does not stop Turnus from pursuing Aeneas to the death. Ovid  briefly touches on this tragedy, and we are left at the end of this tale seeing Aeneas firmly rooted in Italy with a large Trojan settlement. All the gods democratically agree that Aeneas should be deified and he becomes a god.

 

Pomona and Vertumnous 

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Aeneas’ Descendents

Ovid then takes us on a little journey through the other kings of Rome before Aeneas, and settles down to tell the love story of Pomona (goddess of fruitful abundance) and Vertumnus (the god of the seasons) which is the last love story in Metamorphoses as a whole. It is a tale within a tale like many of the others we’ve seen previously.

Vertumnus attempts to seduce Pomona through the power of his words alone. He even tries to dress himself as a woman to fool her. But none of his efforts have any real effect and he eventually resorts to force as like many of the gods before him. Brutality wins out. However, the rape proves unnecessary when Pomona eventually sees how attractive he is without his disguise. This tale is significant for its handling of the themes of violence, deception and the objectification of women and the notion of victimhood.  These themes, having been established, are then followed through in the next story. 

Romulous and  Remus Jean_Auguste_Dominique_Ingres

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Romulus

After the ‘love story’ of  Pomona and Vertumnus Ovid returns to the history of Rome. He covers the conflict between Proca’s  (one of the Latin kings of Alba Longa ) sons; the rise of Romulous’  to power; and the rape of the Sabine Women. Ovid then recounts Romulous’ deification and how he became founder of Rome and joined the gods under the new identity of the name Quirinus. His wife Hersilia also joins him with the gods ,,,which leads us into book 15……

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Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 14 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  •  Refocusing on the detail: Throughout the books overtly dealing with the Trojan war (12-), Ovid very deliberately, in direct contrast to say Virgil, focuses our attention on minor stories and occurrences putting the major battle and its calamity into a form of relief. Preferring to focus our attention on emotional issues and their texture, which by their very contrast force us to question the nature of war.
  • Reverse Transformation: In this book we see for the first time the metamorphoses of inanimate objects back into human form in the tale of how Aeneas’ ships were turned into nymphs. At this late stage in the sequence of books he puts a twist on the patterns of transformations.

 nb. In this book we are also introduced to the oldest tale of human transformation in the cannon of western culture, in the form of how Ulysses men were turned into pigs.   

  • The Last Love Story: In the story of Pomona and Vertumnus we see how Ovid questions and addresses notions of power (whether by word or physical force). He does so, once again by focusing on the rape of Pomona. In so doing he questions the notion of love subtly and foregrounds the brutality which underpins much of Metamorphoses’ depiction of love.

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Things of Interest:

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Dido and Aeneas:

by Henry Purcell

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The History of Rome

 A weekly podcast tracing the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas’s arrival in Italy and ending with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. 

http://www.revolutionspodcast.com/the-history-of-rome

You can scroll through and find some interesting audios on the Trojan War.

Odysseus and Circe:

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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts:  Mirrors, Moon, Sighs, Divinity, Remembering, Consequences, Battle, Desire, Spirit, Friendship
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Verse Form:  

Ode

An ode has more than one stanza. There are 10-line per stanza rhyming ababcdecde, with the 8th line iambic trimeter and all the others iambic pentameter

See here for more information.

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Here is  an  audio of the tale of Syclla and Glaucus in case any of you are too busy to read the book.

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book  13 and 14  coming out throughout March.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 13 Poetry is today Thursday 27th February.

  __________

References:

Brunauer, Dalma H (1996) The Metamorphoses of Ovid, New Jersey Research and Education Association

Hughes, T (1997) Tales from Ovid, London: Faber and Faber

Liveley, G. (2011) Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A Reader’s Guide,  London: continuum

Ovid (1986) Metamorphoses, World Classics, tr. A.D. Melville, Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

 >>>>

 

 

Metamorphoses Book 13 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

31 Jan
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

TRANSFORMATIONS

Started in February 2013, 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid‘s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

Here we are at the end of January with our deadline for Book 12 poetry being yesterday, Thursday 30th January 

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 13 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Thursday 27th February.

The fourth batch of Book 11 poems went out  this Wednesday featuring  NAT HALL and GREG MACKIE  (here).  There’s one more great Book 11 poem and then Book 12 poetry will be posted out for the rest of February.

If you missed out on  Book 11 poems you can find them  here, here, here . I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access.

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Overview of Book 13: 

Book 13 is the longest of all of the books in Metamorphoses.  It endeavours to embrace, at great length, as many of the same stories and characters as are featured in either  The Illiad or The Aeneid.  Ovid, in a similar fashion,  also creates an ‘epic cycle’. However Ovid, in contrast to his predecessors, also attempts to  challenge and  transform the actual epic form at the same time. As in previous books Ovid does so once again by engaging with a variety of different forms of narratives, creating his own textual transformations. In so doing  he retells and reshapes many of the tales therein. He focuses particularly on the small happenings between the large scale events, in contrast to those usually featured in the Greek and Roman tradition. Ovid picks on unfamiliar aspects of some tales in a micro manner. He formerly uses a particular rhetorical technique called ‘variato’ which was often deployed in a variety of  rhetorical debates (Lively: 127) to serve this purpose. You can see this particularly at work in the debate between Ajax and Ulysses (Odysseus).  He is in effect creating a new form of storytelling which subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) subverts the classic tradition.  The themes of elegy and lament (Ajax and Ulysses) are also touched upon, as is an exploration of heroism- feminised  in ‘The Sorrows of Hecuba’.

 

Summary of the Tales in Book 13

. The Fall of Troy

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The captains took their seats; the rank and file
Stood in a circle round. Then Ajax rose,
Lord of the sevenfold shield, now quick as ever
To anger, and turned his smouldering gaze towards
The fleet that lay along Sigeum’s shore,
And, pointing to them cried ‘Before these ships,
By Jupitor I plead my cause-and my
Opponent is Ulysses!
 
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The Myths and Key Characters: The Debate Over the Arms of Achilles,The Sorrows of Hecuba, Memnon, The Wanderings of Aeneas, Galatea and Polyphemus

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..Odysseus

The Debate Over the Arms of Achilles

In this particular story Ovid wryly squishes the whole of the Trojan war into a few lines in order to focus on the more micro elements of the tale.  The narrative starts off with Ajax (the son of Telemon and Penboea) and Ulysses (Greek King of Ithaca) listing  the events of the Trojan war in their own fashion. Each also outlines why they should inherit Achilles’ armour instead of the other.

Characterised as a man of action Ajax eventually suggests to Ulysses that they should fight over who inherits the armour. Ulysses, rather than attacking Ajax directly with his words, instead targets his reply to the Greek leaders who are around him,  through their response moves his argument towards ‘us’ the readers. Ulysses’  eloquence is well known and the leaders are persuaded by his argument. They award him Achilles’ armour, which exemplifies the fact that:

‘Words carry more weight than deeds’ in Metamorphoses. (Lively 129).

This is in direct contrast to the tone of the other epic narratives.  Instead of depicting the full breadth of the heroes’ action, Ovid  gives us the power of their words;  he lets them speak. In this particular section Ajax is foregrounded as a more traditional hero, and Ulysses as a more dynamic, new version. Ovid lets the latter win as the better storyteller. He takes on the rhetoric of elegy and we are met with the themes of commemoration and lament. 

As the fight climaxes Ajax  commits suicide by falling on Achilles’ sword, and a purple hyacinth springs up from his blood. The petals in a pattern of AIAI. The flower then acts as a memorial lament for this epic hero (130).

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Hecuba

..

The Sorrows of Hecuba

Book 13 then goes on to  commemorate the heroism of the Trojan survivors of war as they similarly honour their dead.  Ovid places much more emphasis on the act of this commemoration than on the actual deaths of Priam (King of Troy during the Trojan war)  and Paris his son.  Side-lining the entrapment of the Trojan women,  he Instead focuses on the Trojan queen Hecuba (wife of King Priam).  Ovid highlights the particulars of this and uses it as a metaphor for the fall of Troy. 

In an example of how the moral  weight of the dead  place a heavy burden on the living , Achilles (greatest Greek hero of the Trojan war) initially comes out of his grave and states that he wants a share of the Trojan women. In order to assert himself he also orders the slaying of Hecuba’s only surviving daughter (Polyxena) to commemorate his death. This imitates the sacrifice of Iphigenia (daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra)  at the beginning of the Trojan war. Polyxena is ripped from her mother’s arms and accordingly meets her death. She is depicted very much like an epic hero who courageously meets their foreshortened life (unlike Ajax and Ulyssses who fight against their deaths). She is, as Lively puts it,  a hero  in a ‘new-and improved-feminine form’ (131).  This in itself is a transformation of epic heroism.

Polyxena gives a very moving speech before she dies, and Hecuba in parallel  also lists her own burdens. Both women move everyone to tears.  As Hecuba then goes to clean her now dead daughter’s feet, she also happens up her dead son (Polydorus) and woe is piled upon more sorrow.  Hecuba cannot bear the torment of these two deaths and is stunned dumb -frozen. Hecuba transforms emotionally from grief to anger. She becomes livid and  snarls and rages and in so doing is transformed into a dog. Her transformation takes place so she can snarl and rage for the rest of her life. She does so at a place named Cynossema (the Dog’s tomb). A memorial to her strife.

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Aurora 

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Memnon

Everybody:  enemies, gods and the greek people around are overwhelmed and moved by the story of Hecuba, all apart from Aurora (goddess of the dawn) who has her own burdens of motherhood in the form of her son Memnon.  Ovid once again spotlights a minor story foregoing the bigger tales of an epic nature.

Aurora is still devastated by the death of her son who was killed years before in the Trojan war.  She pleads to Jupiter (god of the sky and thunder) to allow her to commemorate her son in some way. Jupiter agrees to Memnon’s body being burned on a funeral pyre. The fire appears to take on the shape of a bird. A metaphor becomes a metamorphosis and turns into real birds. This metaphor prepares us for the next retelling…

.Aeneas_and_Turnus

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The Wanderings of Aeneas

 In this particular part of book 13 we now follow Aeneas (son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (Venus))  as he founds a new Troy (Rome). Aeneas flees, along with other evictees  and his father and son (Ascanius). He leaves his wife Creusa behind him, failing to pay her due regard (which is typical of an epic hero). This imbalance is then something that Ovid attempts to rectify.

The story continues to follow Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius to Delos where an  old friend (Delian king Anius) lays on a party for them. Anius tells the story of how his 4 daughters, who despite having the symbolic power to turn whatever they touched into wine, corn and oil had been turned into doves. Agamemnon  had forced the 4 daughters to use their powers against the might of Troy. Anius presents Aeneas with a gift of a delicate bowl depicting the story of his daughters. The tale depicted on the bowl parallels that of Anius’ daughters exactly. He also recalls the fate of Memnon and Polyxena and in so doing once again highlights the theme of female self-sacrifice and re-birth in Metamorphoses

Ovid then follows the refugees as they leave Crete and a variety of other places, finally ending up in Sicily where Syclla (not the Syclla in Book 8)  attempts to destroy their ship. Ovid details the terrifying nature of this new beast who was once a beautiful girl and is now a snarling dog

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Acis and Galatea

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Galatea and Polyphemus

Before the telling of Syclla’s love stories (a monster that lived on one side of a narrow channel of water) we are given the story of her sister Galatea  (sea-nymph and daughter of Nereus and Doris) . Syclla tells of a three way love story between Galatea’s lover Acis and the horrific Cyclops Polyphemus ( the giant son of Poseidon and Thoosa). In Ovid’s interpretation of this story, Polyphemus is transformed by Venus. His personage  starts to change moving away from his  beast-like appearance.  He even rejects his violent ways and sings and plays the pipes.  The Cyclops sings of Galatea, and he promises his love to her. He gives her gifts of fruit and cheese and a pair of small bears (which will (ironically) grow up to be as wild as him in their nature).  In his song he also threatens to hurt Acis his rival. And slowly his gentleness vanishes and he is transformed into something violent once again.  Polyphemus sees Galatea in Acis’ hands and crushes him to death with a huge rock. Galatea saves Acis by transforming him into a river god. She then swims away to join her sister Syclla in the sea.

The story then swaps to Syclla and we see her wandering the coastline. She is wooed by Glaucus (a sea god ). Syclla finds Glaucus abhorrent and runs away.  Glaucus then tries to get a love potion from Circe to change Syclla’s feelings.  Thje story of these two characters spreads into Book 14…

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Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 13 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  •  Engagement With the Notion of Epic Texts: In Book 13, Ovid most overtly engages with the diverse range of epics that have preceded him and knowingly plays and transforms them. He plays with the notion of telling and re-telling in an overt way too. He focuses on smaller more micro happenings instead of the larger more epic narratives usually foregrounded  and in so doing draws our attention to the more subtle emotional aspects that bring depth. See the story of Ajax and Ulysses for this. 
  • Exploration of heroism and female self-sacrifice : In  ‘The Sorrows of Hecuba’ we are given a whole different take on the nature of heroism.  We have Polyxena who  embodies the male traits of heroism but in a transformed, feminised way. This juxtaposes against Hecuba’s soulful outpouring. Both are brave but in a different way that challenges our notions of what bravery and heroism is.

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Things of Interest:

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Greek Tragedy, Women and War, with Nancy Rabinowitz

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 Hecuba

by Euripides

Click the link and you’ll find the text of the play

http://classics.mit.edu/Euripides/hecuba.html

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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts:  Whistle, Murder, Wonder, Yelling, Speckled, Linoleum, Breaking, Triumph, Mountain, Beaten
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Verse Form:  

Rictameter

Form of syllable counting verse. It has the syllable count of  2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, and the first and last lines are identical.

See here for more information.

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Here is  an  audio of the tale of ‘The Fall Of Troy’ in case any of you are too busy to read the book.

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book  11 and 12  coming out throughout February.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 12 Poetry was Thursday 30th January.

  __________

References:

Brunauer, Dalma H (1996) The Metamorphoses of Ovid, New Jersey Research and Education Association

Hughes, T (1997) Tales from Ovid, London: Faber and Faber

Liveley, G. (2011) Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A Reader’s Guide,  London: continuum

Ovid (1986) Metamorphoses, World Classics, tr. A.D. Melville, Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

 >>>>

 

 

Metamorphoses Book 12 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

12 Dec
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

TRANSFORMATIONS

Started in February 2013, 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid‘s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

Here we are in the middle of December with our deadline of Book 11 poetry being Thursday 26th December

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 12 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Thursday 30th January.

The second poetic batch of Book 10  poems went out  this Tuesday featuring  NAT HALL and RICHARD BIDDLE   (here).  The other great Book 10 poems will be posted out during the rest of December and January.

If you missed out on  Book 9 poems you can find them here, here, here, here I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access.

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Overview of Book 12: 

In this book Ovid focuses on the telling of the Trojan War. He consciously transforms this well known epic story and  stretches his reworking across two books : books 12  (often known as Ovid’s ‘little Iliad’ (Lively:119) and book  13 (often known as Ovid’s ‘little Aeneid’ (119).

In book 11 Ovid gave us a sequence of stories focusing on married love. In book 12 he follows on with this theme of love  BUT within the context of the epic, Trojan  war. Rather than starting at the beginning he throws the reader right into the middle of the war through the re-telling of the story of Paris and his stolen wife Helen.

The classic theme of the  moral dilemma between duty and family is also dealt within Book 11. In the story ‘The Greeks of Aulis’ Agamemnon  (the son of King Altreus) is faced with a choice between is responsibilities as a father and his responsibilities as a king.  In this book too Ovid directly challenges the past  narrative heritage of the telling of the trojan war. For instance he overtly parodies Homer and Virgil and rather focusing on the male warriors as victims of war, puts a focus on the impact of war on the females in the stories. This is in direct contrast to tradition.  Ovid also engages with a representation of the dynamic between civilisation and barbarismvia the story of ‘The Battle of Lapiths‘.

Summary of the Tales in Book 12

. Ceyx and Alcyone

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In the broad ring that with his frightful horns
Charges the scarlet cloak that baits his wrath
And finds his wounds eluded. The iron point
Perhaps was loose and lost; but no, he found
It fixed fast to the shaft. ‘Then is my hand
‘So weak’, he said
 
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The Myths and Key Characters: The Greeks at Aulis, Rumour, Cycnus, Caeneus, The Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, The Death of Achilles.

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Priam

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The Greeks at Aulis

Ovid begins by tacking the tale of Helen  and Paris (son of King Priam of Troy) onto the tale of Aesacus (another son of King Priam). We see Priam is holding a funeral for Aesacus unaware that he is still alive but in the form of a birdAll of Priam’s sons are attending the funeral  apart from Paris (who is busy off somewhere seducing Menelaus’ wife Helen).

Ovid draws our attention to Aulis  (a greek port town) where a massive fleet of ships is about to set sail to find the adulterous couple (Paris and Helen).  Amidst this setting instead of focusing on the war aspect of the story in the traditional way (like Homer) Ovid homes in on the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia to appease Diana (the Goddess of the Hunt).  Agamemnon attempts to make this sacrifice so that Diana calms the tumultuous sea which is impeding the search for Aesacus. Agamemnon is completely  torn between the duty of a father and the duty of a king.  Diana recognises this and substitutes the soon to be sacrificed Iphigenia for a deer. This story is traditionaly told with lightness but Ovid, in contrast, focuses on the darker side: on the real intentions of Diana’s intervention. Ovid’s highlighting of Iphigenia as the centre of this story exposes his  real intention of focusing on the female victims of war. This is in direct contrast to tradition which focuses on male heroes and epic narratives.

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Rumour

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Rumour

In this section of the book Ovid directly challenges Virgil ‘s narrative version of the Trojan war by completely re-staging (in every sense) the battle. In so doing, Ovid makes the re-telling of the war a narrative battle as well.  As the fleet of ships crosses the sea Ovid establishes a personification of Rumour which is entirely based on Virgil’s Book 4 of The Aeneid.  However, directly in contrast to Virgil,  ‘the cave of sleep’  is consistently noisy. ‘The House of rumour’, as Lively puts it, ‘becomes a good representations of Ovid’s approach to the retelling of his stories’:

 ‘ a flimsy throng of a thousand rumours, true and fictitious/wandering far and wide in a turbulent tangle of language’ (121).

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Cycnus 

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Cycnus

Rumour’ not only makes sure everybody is ready to commence battle but  also acts as a springboard for Ovid to launch into the scenes of war. Uniquely and challengingly instead of foregrounding the exploits of  Achilles (Son of Peleus) he initially highlights the exploits of  Cycnus (Neptune’s son) who is also known to be a great fighter.

In the original story it is Achilles who has been looking for Hector (favourite son of King Priam) but Ovid, in direct contrast,  replaces the figure of Hector with Cycnus. And instead of giving Cycnus an epic fight (like a Homeric hero) he lets Cycnus tease Achillies by taking off his armour and in so doing Achilles is unable to harm him. Achilles is furious at the fact he can’t hurt Cycnus and he becomes overwhelmingly angry. He jumps down from his chariot and eventually manages to kill him by strangulation with his helmet straps. This form of death is most definitely not a heroic. To top this off Achilles goes to claim Cycnus’ armour only to find that Cycnus has been transformed into a white swan.  He shares his name with the swan.

Ovid challenges epic narration and the usual tropes attached to heroism by transforming Homeric anger into a temper fit.  After the death of Cycnus a truce is forged between the Greeks . They tell stories to each other.  Achilles  is foregrounded in the telling of these stories initially, but the narrative ignores the bravery attached to his exploits. Nestor then takes over and becomes the internal narrator and tells a series of strange stories which fill the rest of book 12.

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Caeneus_by_DustpanGirl

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Caeneus

 Nestor tells the strange story of Caeneus (formerly Caenis, a woman who was transformed into a man and then became a warrior). Like Cycnus,  Caeneus lived through a  merciless attack unscathed. The story is told as a tale of hearsay. According to the story Caeneus was born a girl (Caenis) renowned for her beauty. She was raped by the god Neptune who asks her what she would like in recompense. She asks to be turned into a man so she can never suffer in the same way again, and in so doing Caenis becomes Caeneus.  Fuelled by his/her background the warrior Caenus emasculates  all those he fights against: the attackers swords and weapons become redundant.  In a similar way to Cycnus the only way Caeneus is killed is by suffocation.  And this feeds into the next tale….

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The Battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs

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The Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs

Nestor, using evidence from a first-hand account, tells of Caeneus’ skills as a warrior at a wedding celebration of Pirithous (King of the Lapiths) to Hippodamia. There are a mixture of guests including Centaurs attending and the wedding guests are all reclining and enjoying themselves but chaos begins to break out.  Eurytus (son of Menelaus)  becomes drunk and grabs the bride and attempts to rape her. Each of the centaurs then follow suit. In so doing ‘the battle of the Lapiths’ is unleashed, as is  a representation of the forces of civilisation overcoming barbarism. Order defeats chaos ‘all over a girl’, just like in the Trojan war.

Theseus (son of Aegeus) throws a bowl at Eurytus’ face causing blood and gore to ooze out; the other wedding guests follow suit and use wedding utensils as weapons. A centaur uses a chandelier to smash into a face of a Lapith; an alter is used to crush someone and a burning log is used to set someone else on fire. And there are also a number of  disembowelments.

Amidst all of the mayhem and horror Nestor tells another tale of the death of two young centaur- lovers: Cyllarus and Hylonome. This brings in an elegiac feeling into the epic (as relief).  The characterisation of Hylonome  follows Ovid’s description of  the trope of a  ‘sophisticated lady’ (as he outlines in Ars Amatoria, his book on the art of love). The two lovers love equally (countering the usual behaviour of Roman lovers). The depiction also mirrors the love shown by other characters previously like Baucis and Philemon in Book 8 and Iphis and Ianthe (in book 9) (125). Cyllarus is killed by a javelin and Hylonome throws herself on the very same sword. They unite in death.

This story serves as a break for the reader from the aggression and violence of the wedding mayhem. It offers an ‘alternate world of peace and domesticity. ‘(125).  Nestor, as the narrator, then questions the validity of his own narration and  muses on how good his memory is.  Tlepolemus (son of Hercules) asks Nestor why Hercules and his heroic acts have not been mentioned in the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs. Nestor explains and  acknowledges that he hates Hercules for the murder of his brothers and the destruction of his home.

‘All narratives are unreliable it seems , subject to biases and prejudices, inventions and exclusions.’ (226)

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Death of Achilles

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The Death of Achilles

Just as Nestor selectively chooses what he shows of the Trojan war so does Ovid and he skips a swathe of stories crossing a number of years (unlike the Iliad).  He then drops us once again straight into the story of the death of Achilles. Ovid tells of the anger of Neptune  at the death of his son Cycnus.  He tells how Neptune persuaded Apollo to send one of Paris’ arrows into Achilles and in so doing insured that a great warrior gets killed by the wimpy  adulterer Paris (See book 12).  Equally, going against tradition again, Ovid does not spend any time detailing Achilles’ funeral and just mentions that this once great hero is now merely a mound of dust (128). However,as the book concludes Achilles’ fame does live on and the other great fighters argue as to who shall have his armour.

 

Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 12 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  • Different Focus to Traditional Narratives:  In this particular book it is apparent that Ovid is playing and re-working the usual narrative texture represented by the texts written by  Homer and Virgil. By choosing to exclude certain stories, flag up others, he undermines and refreshes notions of heroism and  gender and the very heritage of the narrative tradition he is re-working.
  • Civilisation versus Barbarism In ‘the Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs’ Ovid depicts the dismantling of what appears to be one of the embodiments of civilisation- marriage  (which holds within it notions of  love and communion). He does so by knowingly, flipping this notion of civilisation on it’s head, and turning it into a depiction of rape, blood and gore (barbarism). The two sides of the coin are represented and we can see how swiftly civility can be fractured into chaos and mayhem. 
  • Love versus War Within the context of the Trojan war Ovid also chooses to focus on love within war and the problematics of that. He shows us the tensions embodied by a father torn between duty and family, and the consequences of adultery in war. This serves as an interesting contrast to the bloody, physical consequences of war and creates a powerful contrast to the blood and gore and traditional, detailed battle scenes. 

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Things of Interest:

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  • BBC Documentary On The Trojan War

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Christopher Hitchens on The Odyssey

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 The Myth of the Trojan War: The British Museum  Online Tour

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http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/online_tours/greece/the_myth_of_the_trojan_war/the_myth_of_the_trojan_war.aspx

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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts: Knots, Appearance,Divinity, Stories, Dinner party, Murder, Warrior, Shards, Candlestick
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Verse Form:  Lai -The syllable count in each triplet of lines is 5, 5, 2, and each triplet rhymes aab. The number of such triplets must be the same in each stanza, and at least two. It’s a version of  virelai ancien, with the stanzas not linked by rhyme. In fact the virelai is just the same as the lai with a couple of extra rules:

  • There must be nine lines – three triplets – per stanza.
  • The short lines in one stanza rhyme with the long lines of the next. Similarly, the short lines in the last stanza rhyme with the long lines of the first.

See here for more information.

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Here is an audio  an  audio of the tale of ‘Caenis’ in case any of you are too busy to read the book.

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book  10  coming out throughout November and December.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 11 Poetry is Thursday 26th December.  

  __________

References:

Brunauer, Dalma H (1996) The Metamorphoses of Ovid, New Jersey Research and Education Association

Hughes, T (1997) Tales from Ovid, London: Faber and Faber

Liveley, G. (2011) Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A Reader’s Guide,  London: continuum

Ovid (1986) Metamorphoses, World Classics, tr. A.D. Melville, Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

 >>>>

 

 

Metamorphoses Book 11 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

18 Nov
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

TRANSFORMATIONS

Started in February 2013, 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid‘s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

Here we are in the middle of November with our deadline of Book 10 poetry being Thursday 28th November

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 11 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Thursday 26th December.

The second batch of Book 9  poems went out today featuring  ELEANOR PERRY and KATE GARRETT (here).  The other great Book 9 and 10 poems will be posted out during the rest of  November and December

If you missed out on  Book 8 poems you can find them here, here, here . I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access.

Overview of Book 11: 

The dynamics of narration,   the relationship between a storyteller and his tale and the character who is telling the tale, is constantly highlighted in Metamorphoses. This is  particularly the case in book 11 where we are once again dropped into the ongoing tale of Orpheus and his demise (having been set up in book 10). Within this framework of tales within tales  Ovid’s voice can clearly be heard- supporting or castigating the character’s he has created. 

Within book 11 Ovid  develops and embellishes very well known tales such as king Midas. The story of Ceyx and Alcyone is also to be found here with its engagement with the sadness and complexity of death and dying, and the nature of sorrow. The principle of the Golden Mean is suggested, where nothing should be taken to extremes. Book 11 also paves the way for our introduction into the Trojan war which is engaged with more heartily by the books to come.

Ovid also touches upon the theme of love and marriage via the story Peleus and Thetis. Ovid once again prepares the way for this through his retelling of the tale of Midas and the consequences of his foolish, greedy requests to the gods. The story of Laomedon delves into the  nature of betrayal. And famously, there is a beautiful personification and embodiment of sleep in the tale of Ceyx. There is a constant layering of stories which all have a sequential impact- one on the other.

Summary of the Tales in Book 11

. Ceyx and Alcyone

The sorrowing birds, the creatures of the wild,
The woods that often followed as he sang,
The flinty rocks and stones, all wept and mourned
For Orpheus; forest trees cast down their leaves,
Tonsured in grief, and rivers too, men say,
Were swollen with their tears.
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The Myths and Key Characters: The Death of Orpheus, Midas, The Song of Orpheus, Laomedon’s Treachery, Peleus and Thetis, Peleus and Ceyx, Pygmalion, Ceyx and Alcyone, Aesacus.

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The Death of Orpheus

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The Death of Orpheus

Orpheus’ voice and Ovid’s voice blend in this story, with the more critical of the two voices (Ovid’s) ringing through. The Women of Thrace are mortified by Orpheus’ treatment of women (Eurydice, the Propoetides, Myrrha, and Atalanta, and his rejection of women for boys). The women are disempowered initially because Orpheus’ music makes the weapons the women throw harmless. However, angered, in retaliation they begin to drown out his music with their own raised voices and music. They become a mass of caterwauling  maenads (female followers of Dionysus).  The Thracian women rip Orpheus apart. His head and lyre  drift off down the river Hebrus still producing music- – a lament.  Orpheus  finally joins Eurydice in the Underworld. However, Ovid’s real focus is on the punishment of  the Thracian women for Orpheus’ death. They are transformed into an oak tree.  This transformation is imbued with a ‘jokey’ feel  as Ovid takes us back to our first introduction to Orpheus in book 10 where he plays to an audience of trees. 

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King Midas

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Midas

Ovid throws us right into the middle of the story of Midas  (King of Phrygia) who requests that whatever he touches be turned to gold. The trope of a character coming to regret asking something of the gods (like Phaethon in book 2 and Semele in book 3) is repeated.  We hear the cries of Midas suffering amidst all his wealth (as we have heard Narsissus in book 3, Byblis in book 9, Iphis in book 9, Myrrha in book 10 and Pygmallion in book 10). King Midas prays to give up his gift and the gods show kindness and remove his ability to turn things into gold. The gods ask Midas to wash the gold away in the river Pactolus.  Midas is then asked to judge a music competition between Pan and Apollo, and he stupidly judges the rustic music of Pan’s pipes better than the god Apollo’s lyre. He is punished for this by being given donkey’s ears. Midas tries to keep his donkey’s ears a secret but they are exposed when he has his hair cut at the barbers.  The barber is forbidden to discloses his find and has to whisper it into a hole for good measure.

 Laomedon

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Laomedon’s Treachery

In this sequence of tales Ovid explores the nature of betrayal via the telling of two specific stories.  Firstly, Laomedon  (Trojan King, son of Ilus) who withholds payment from Apollo and Neptune for the building of the walls of Troy. The two gods come after Laomedon  but he chases them away therefore betraying their trust. For this error the god’s ask that Laomedon’s daughter be sacrificed.  The second tale recounts how Laomedon tried to cheat Hercules out of his prize for rescuing his daughter from a sea monster. To fight back against Laomedon’s deception Hercules leads an army against Troy aided by his brothers Telemon and Peleus.  

Ovid then takes us back in time and launches into the tale of  Peleus and Thetis who are the parents of Achilles. In so doing, Ovid re-roots Metamorphoses back in time and casts a new light on what has been and what is to come. 

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Peleus and Thetis

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Peleus and Thetis

 Ovid tells the tale of how Peleus (son of Aeacus king of Aegina) forces Thetis (a sea nymph  able to shape-shift and daughter of Proteus) to be his bride.  This story is very reminiscent of the other aggressive couplings we have seen in previous books. Thetis tries to escape from Peleus’ forceful attention. Peleus tries to rape Thetis while she sleeps and she transforms herself into various shapes to escape. But despite this Peleus eventually ties her up and  unable to retaliate has to yield to Peleus. At this point in Metamorphoses particularly, questions have always been raised as to Ovid’s portrayal of women and violence against women. What does Ovid actually feel about these women, is his portrayal pornographic or empathetic?  Amazingly, Peleus and Thetis actually get married. However Ovid focuses his attention much more on the rape than the marriage. It is from this difficult joining  that Achilles (hero of the Trojan War) is born. 

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Peleus-and-Thetis

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Peleus and Ceyx

This story follows Peleus and Thetis into exile. In the city of Trachin King Ceyx welcomes them and he tells them the story of his brother Daedalion (Athenian architect)  and his neice Chione.  Chione was raped by two gods and then killed by Diana (goddess of the hunt) on the same day. As Ceyx tells this tale a report comes in of a vicious wolf who has killed Peleus’ herd (punishment, perhaps, for the death of Phocus (son of Aeacus). The wolf is turned into stone. Ceyx also tells of how Daedalion was turned into a bird. Both these transformations prefigure the famous story to come- Ceyx and Alcyone.

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Ceyx and Alcyone

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Ceyx and Alcyone:

We are introduced to Ceyx (the son of Esophyrus, king of Thessaly) and Alcyone (daughter of Aeolus, married to Ceyx). Ceyx, troubled by the previous sequences of transformations visits the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Alcyone begs Ceyx not to go. He ignores her and goes off to sea. A storm wreaks havoc and drowns all those on board, including Ceyx. Juno (chief goddess, daughter of Saturn  and partner to Jupiter) feels sorry for Alcyone and decides to tell her of Ceyx’s death via a dream.  In the telling of this moment ~Ovid creates a metamorphic rendering of sleep in the formation of ‘the cave of sleep’. Within the words he uses he creates a feeling of  sleepiness as he forms the cave. He tells how Iris (personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods) brushes away cobwebs like dreams. Shape-shifter Morpheus (has the power to take any person’s shape and appear in dreams) is also brought into life. Morpheus transforms into the likeness of Ceyx. He appears to Alcyone in a dream and as she reaches out to him he vanishes. She begs Ceyx to take her with him. Her lament echoes those of the myriad of other female laments we have heard before.

Alcyone then decides she will join Ceyx in death. Alcyone goes to the shore where she said goodbye to Ceyx  and she sees Ceyx’s body washed up upon the shore. She runs into the ocean ready to embrace the body and is turned into  a sea-bird. The two lovers are then reunited in death to bring their children up together on the calm seas. The overall atmosphere in this story is one of ultimate quiet before the storm; a moment of respite before recalling the horror of Troy. Comparisons can be made between Peleus and Thetis (Lively: 118).


Aesacus

Aesacus

An old man who sees the sea-birds that Ceyx and Alcyonae have been transformed into (the Alcyonae) is inspired to tell the tale of  Aesacus (the grandson of Laomedon, (son of Priam). He tells of how Aesacus falls in love with a  nymph Hesperia (one of the Hesperides) who tries to flee from him.  Whilst Aesacus chases after her a snake hidden in the grass bites Hesperia in the foot and she dies. Aesacus holds Hesperia in his arms after death (mirroring Ceyx and Alcyone). and  Aesacus traumatised asks that his his life be taken also. However, the goddess Tethys (goddess of the waters of the world) feels sorry for him, and as he throws himself off a cliff transforms him into a diving sea bird. In so doing we see the metamorphoses of a Trojan prince who might, had he not undergone this metamorphoses, have been as famous as Hector (greatest fighter in the Trojan war).

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Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 11 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  • The dynamics of Narration- Within Book 11 Ovid clearly plays with the dynamics of narration, sometimes placing his bias in direct contrast to that of his characters and sometimes aligning them with his opinions. In so doing this challenges the relationship between the story teller and his stories. This technique allows Ovid to challenge the morality of his tales. The morality can either be underpinned or challenged, leaving it unclear as to what Ovid’s actual opinion is.  This feels very modern.
  • Love, Marriage and Betrayal– Aggression is generally the thread that runs through Ovid’s depiction of love and marriage. This book is filled, once again, with  problematised depictions of love (‘amor). But the reader is also given tender depictions of real connection, love and despair- Ceyx and Alcyone and Aesacus.
  • Preparation for the Retelling  of the Trojan war in books to come: Ovid  reintroduces the heroic tales of Hercules and Achilles in the form of flashbacks. We are taken to the foundation of Troy in the story of  ‘Laomedon’s Treachery’. This fits in with Ovid’s intention to chart the history of the world.  However Ovid shifts the tales around sequentially  therefore taking history and the origins of creation in his own hands giving them a new point of origin (115).

 

Things of Interest:

Edith_Hamilton

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  • Edith Hamilton’s ‘Mythology’ Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes

A fascinating woman….well worth checking out…

“Recognized as the greatest woman Classicist”. She was sixty-two years old when The Greek Way, her first book, was published in 1930 and Mythology came out in 1942.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Hamilton

For an online version of  Mythology go to: http://www.scribd.com/doc/88808169/Mythology-Edith-Hamilton-1942

 

  • King Midas and his Lust for Gold…

1953 puppet animated tale of King Midas. Early Ray Harryhausen film:

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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts: Daughter, Time, Flicked, Inevitability, Sanctuary, Damnation, Ceiling, Massacre, Tower, Eddy
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Verse Form:  Pantoum  -The pantoum is a Malay verse form that reached us via France and is said to be one of the hardest verse forms to master.  The stanzas rhyme abab, with the second and fourth lines of each stanza reappearing as the first and third lines of the next. To complete the loop, the second and fourth lines of the final stanza are the same as the first and third lines of the first stanza.

See here for more information.

Here is an  audio of the tale of ‘King Midas’ in case any of you are too busy to read the book.

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book  9 coming out throughout November and December.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 10 Poetry is Thursday 28th December.  

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References:

Brunauer, Dalma H (1996) The Metamorphoses of Ovid, New Jersey Research and Education Association

Hughes, T (1997) Tales from Ovid, London: Faber and Faber

Liveley, G. (2011) Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A Reader’s Guide,  London: continuum

Ovid (1986) Metamorphoses, World Classics, tr. A.D. Melville, Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

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