Tag Archives: Arachne

‘Spindles and Webs’ Thread 3/4: Transformations Poems (Book 6)

3 Sep

TRANSFORMATIONS

George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

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

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

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Poems Inspired by Book 6

>>Featuring:

Carol Robson and Nat Hall

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Silky Weaver

(Arachne and Minvera)

by Carol Robson

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Weaver of tales
resplendently regaled
self-indulgent
from humbleness,
interlacing her stories,
gathering her fame
in silkiness
of living threads.

.
Disguised challenge
old woman confronts
respect the goddess,
silky weaver
in defiance
unbending
that her substance
of threads
of weaves
are the finest
to behold.

.
Battles of weavers
spinning their tales,
tapestries in arrogance
silky weaver
ridiculing
scorning
the Gods
in weaves
of their
debauchery.

.
In ire
silky weaver
encounters
wrathful goddess,
striking silky weaver
in anger.

.
Atonement
head hanging shame
by the weaved noose,
then in pity
resurrection
of silky weaver
to poisonous
silky spinning
Arachnid.

.
©Carol Robson 2013

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Spinning Spirits

by Nat Hall

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Inside her web of dreams,
she feels world souls
pass through
her
hands,

thinnest of yarn,
white filaments caress fingers
as she sits tight behind
her wheel.

She knows
the beauty of
each thread, rhythm of
her foot on treadle, the joy with which hooked flyer spins
in a rengaine…

Apparatus built for a song.

Her eyes,
drawn inside
every ounce of wool
she washed & brushed with
so much care
now looks
fine silk;

she does not
listen to
others,
but
a
north
wind that
filters through
the wooden frame of
her own gift…

For days on end,
she simply stops to
watch the clock,
as spinning
spirits
fill
her
heart.

She does not know,
she will be punished for
her deed, as jealous
hands are told to
turn her
mortal
skills
in
a
new
shape,
her abdomen
became her wheel.

© Nat Hall 2013


Inspired from the tale of Arachne & Minerva

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You can find out more about Carol and Nat here: 

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‘Spindles and Webs’ Thread 2/4: Transformations Poems (Book 6)

20 Aug

TRANSFORMATIONS

George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

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

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

__________________

Poems Inspired by Book 6

>>Featuring:

Kate Garrett and Nell Perry

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spider bitten

by Kate Garrett 

(After Ovid’s ‘Arachne’)

yes, weave these tales well:
webs of gods, men, heroics.
misjudge the goddess,
race against her loom. spindly
creature, hanging from a thread.

Revenge Englynion*

by Kate Garrett

(After Ovid’s ‘Tereus, Procne and Philomela’)

Tereus must pay the price
Procne makes her sacrifice
After Bacchanalian rites.

Itys nursed at Procne’s breast,
At her hands his gruesome death –
Buried in his father’s chest.

Sister’s ruin beat mother’s care:
Philomela’s life is spared –
Nightingale upon the air.

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*“Englynion” is the plural of “englyn”, or various short, rhyming Welsh verse forms. The form used here is the englyn milwr, or soldier’s englyn: three lines of seven syllables each, with end rhymes. I put three of them together to make one poem, hence “englynion”.

 Leto & Niobe

by Nell Perry

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…………. …grief is arrow-shaped,
turning flesh to
something blunt,
shifting
in the light’s filmy
residue,

.
………….while
reckless language is
formless like foam.
Unfastened words
are violent
nymphs, each
electric with exquisite
chaos. Salt

.
water can be both
a teardrop or a
mighty sea; what

.
……………remains is
bereft, a petrified
stump that may once
have been
something motherly…

The Swallow

by Nell Perry

 

………….…is it with its silence that

the swallow

bothers you, whefting swoop-

threads over

the clouds’ upturned hooks? There is

recognition in the songless

stitching

but not peace. And embellishment;

.

………….unstrung

murmurations, as in all

embroidery. A tongue is a fanciful thing, but

without it there is only

.

tapestry

on which to tether weightless thoughts

………. …and this the swallow knows

more than most, entwined, as she is

.

………….with the sky’s slub yarns. In

spite of everything we ingest the ones we

love, unknowingly. Split strands are

interlaced, like those

.

……. …..blithe

loops whorled across the fabric of the air…

— 

 

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You can find out more about James and Richard here: 

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‘Spindles and Webs’ Thread 1/4: Transformations Poems (Book 6)

12 Aug

TRANSFORMATIONS

George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

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

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

__________________

Poems Inspired by Book 6

>>Featuring:

James Knight and Richard Biddle

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Arachne

by James Knight 

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My crime was telling stories too well. .

I dished the dirt,

spilt the beans,

exposed saucy secrets

in lurid words.

.

I dropped names,

all of them,

every last rotten one:

bosses, head honchos, rulers, gods,

the prime movers and mountain shakers,

seducers and liars.

.

There was no hiding!

.

Of course, that bitch won’t tell you

(not even privately)

that it was my way with words

that angered her,

that she was mad with envy

when she saw my divine prose

towering

over her mundane maundering,

inching her out,

grabbing the headlines.

.

She’ll say I peddled salacious pap,

and that’s why I had to go.

.

Her hypocrisy disgusts me.

.

Now,

from the shadows,

I spin little stories

that no one reads –

.

Mayor Dies Suddenly

New Estate Planned

Twin Puppies Drowned

.

– still hoping that one day

I’ll catch something big,

a story that will go down

in history,

a legend.

_

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Spider Diagram

by Richard Biddle

. I blink Or do I? Something flickers – An electric buzz like the moment before thunder when hair fizzes and bones bristle. In a matter of nanoseconds, a 16mm film inflates my bustling brain with a hurricane of cinematic whispers. All my life rushes through me like a brakeless freight train. It comes to a mind-shattering stop at my skull’s centre. My body sizzles to a magnet of static needles flexes its pea-sized muscles. Limbs that once worked memory’s loom retract down to this one-pointedness. Two thumbless hands knotted together; eight fingers, eight scuttling wires. Pulp, fist and knuckles knit into a purple abdomen. .I’m no ordinary arachnid. —– .

Web of Words

by Richard Biddle

. A spider, still as a sentry. . He moves closer. His breath disturbs her and he catches a glimpse of what she’s guarding; a murky pool. . Beneath its oily meniscus something glints. He dips his hand in, retrieves the object; a rusty key. . She scurries up his arm towards his ear. . And here she spins a yarn telling him no lock exists for this ancient tool. Then she vanishes. . Looking deeper into the black, black water he sees himself. . .

You can find out more about James and Richard here: 

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Metamorphoses Book 6 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

19 Jun
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 June with our deadline of Book 5 poetry being Thursday 27th June. It comes around quickly!

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 6 with a deadline for the poems inspired by that book being Wednesday 31st July. The second  batch of Book 4 poems went out yesterday and Book 4 poems will be posted out for the rest of this month.

If you missed out on Book 3 poems you can find them here, here, here and here. I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access.

Please not that from now on I will combine the overview post with the prompt, deadline and optional verse form post. This seems to make more sense and keeps it all in one place.

Overview of Book 6: 

 

The_SpinnersDiego_Velazquez_014 Arachne and Minerva

Pallas [Minerva] had listened to the tale she told

With warm approval of the Muses’song

And of their righteous rage. Then to herself-

To praise is not enough; I should have praise

Myself, not suffer my divinity

To be despised unscathed’. 

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Book 6 is subtly connected to book five by the theme of contest/war/conflict. It also significantly drives the subject matter and thought of the previous books in a different direction. Ovid turns the placid goddess Minerva on her head and transforms her into a punishing deity who chastises  a mortal just for her gift of creating magnificent tapestries and for being proud of that fact. Ovid transforms  a seemingly slight tale into a story of conflict between two master weavers who both imbue  their work with their world view and biases. Indeed, the tapestry that Arachne  (a girl  of humble origins with amazing weaving skills) creates is used to  embody the themes of books 1-3 in its skeins. Ovid uses this scenario to  challenge the power of the gods; perhaps, suggesting their influence should be taken lightly.

Book 6 also has the tale of Niobe (Queen of Thebes and wife of Amphion) which embodies an important principle of Greek thinking- ‘that one must not tempt the gods by boasting of luck, good fortune or happiness’ (Brunauer: 64). Importantly, it is also in Book 6 that the epic crucially goes in a different direction:  away from the subject of mortals challenging gods towards a story of  ‘human lust’, brutality, and bloody vengeance within families’ (William S. Anderson in Brunauer: 64). The first part of the poem in Book 6 focuses on the Gods and the second part on mortal men and women.

Summary of the Tales in Book 6 

The Myths and Key Characters: Arachne; Niobe; The Lycian Peasants; Marsyas;  Pelops; Procne and Philomela; Boreas and Orithyia

Arachne

Arachne:

The goddess Minerva/Pallas disguises herself as an old woman in order to punish a young girl (Arachne) for boasting about her skills at weaving. Arachne refuses to pay any heed to what Minerva says. In order to undermine Arachne’s refutation Minerva reveals herself as a goddess but Arachne still refuses to listen challenging her to a weaving contest. They both produce phenomenal pieces . Minerva’s tapestry represents her win over Neptune’s (Roman God of freshwater) patronage over the city of Athens and the folly of mortals who challenge the gods’ power. In contrast, Arachne chooses to depict the way the god’s play with the lives of mortal girls. She particularly highlights Jove (Lord of Heaven). Minerva realises Arachne’s work is exceptional and batters her viciously and this so traumatises Arachne she tries to hang herself. Minerva takes pity on her and lets her live but transforms her into a spider.

325px-Niobe_JacquesLouisDavid_1772_Dallas_Museum_of_Art

 

Niobe

Niobe (Queen of Thebes, mother of 7 sons and 7 daughters)  tragically offends nymph Latona (Mother of Apollo and Diana) by thinking the thought that she was the’ happiest of mothers’. Latona calls upon her divine children to exact vengeance on Niobe by killing all her family with her children’s arrows. Grief-stricken at her children’s death she turns into stone. This transformation occurred in order to remind other mortals what can happen when mortal boasting affects Gods.

The Lycian Peasents:

An unnamed narrator now  tells the story of nymph Latona. The importance of this story becomes apparent when read in sequence with the Niobe story as their arrangement is part of the particular tapestry Ovid is creating. In this story Latona is driven into exile  by Juno (Queen of Heaven). Thirsty and unable to breast feed her children Lacona tries to drink from a village pond but is harassed by some villagers and she turns them into frogs out of vengeance. Ovid foregrounds the injustice of Latona’s treatment and the nastiness of the local’s behaviour. To turn them into frogs does not seem harsh enough he seems to suggest. The story acts as an example of how context shapes the nature of what is right and wrong and how this shapes meaning.

Marsayas

Marsayas

This story also presents us with a contest- a contest between artists and the punishment that results from it.  Marsayas (a satyr) is skinned alive for threatening Apollo in a music competition and not winning.  Here we have another example of an artist being punished for their art.  The tale is gruesome but it is butted up against a pastoral depiction of sadness at Marsayas’  fate.  The  tears of Marsayas’ kinsfolk  turning the blood of Marsayas into a river of the same name.   Despite Marsaya’s challenge to authority, and because of his punishment, he gains notoriety and fame and his art goes on forever.

Procne and Philomela

Tereus, Procne Philomela

The Lycian storytellers continue to tell a sequence of other stories which represent blasphemies in history. The tale of Tereus (King of Thrace)  is retold. The king who sent his army to aid Athens against a barbarian invasion. Out of gratitude Tereus is offered the daughter of Pandion (King of Athens)-  Procne as his wife. Procne asks Tereus if her sister Philomela can visit, he agrees but when he collects her he  is overcome with passion for her and he incestuously rapes her (some critics have seen this section as pornographic Liveley: 74). Philomela threatens to reveal his crime to Procne her sister. In order to prevent this happening Tereus cuts out her tongue and repeatedly rapes her. He leaves her abandoned and lies about why she has not returned with him.

However Philomela manages to get a message to her sister who swears vengeance on Tereus. During an orgy for Bacchus Philomela disguises Procne and removes her from Tereus’ clutches. In punishment for Tereus’ behaviour she serves him his own son in a meal. The two sisters afraid of Tereus’ rage flee and are turned into birds. Tereus is himself transformed into a hoopoe.

Boreas and Orithyia

Pandion (the father of Phiolmela and Procne) is heartbroken at the loss of his daughters. He recounts the story of the rape of his granddaughter Orithya  (daughter of Erechtheus) by Boreas (the North wind) who abducts her. Pandion goes in to decline and his throne is taken by Erechtheus. In this tale we see Erechtheus’ children grow into manhood, take wives and sail in the ship Argo across the seas in search of  The Golden Fleece. The story of their search is split between Book 6 and 7.

Themes, Analysis and Relevance

Here are some of the primary themes that run through Book 6:

  • The nature of right and wrong in relation to context and circumstance (e.g. Niobe). The first half of Book 6 flagging up the state of the Gods and the second mortal man.
  • Punishment: being punished for your art and how art can be seen as a way of immortalising yourself through time. The story of Marsayas highlights this.
  • Violence and Rape, the cruelty and horror of extreme violence. This is particularly exemplified by the story of Philomela and Procne.
  • Silence and Speech- and the impact either ‘withholding’ or ‘speaking out’  has; i.e. the ramifications of sticking up for yourself. An example of this again being Procne and Philomela.

Things of Interest: 

 

T.S Eliot

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T.S Eliot’s poem The Wasteland makes reference to the tale of Phiolmela:

Lines 97-103:

Above the antique mantel was displayed
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
“Jug Jug” to dirty ears.

Eliot’s Note:

99. V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, Philomela.
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Images from this story recur throughout the poem. In his note for line 100, Eliot directs us to an echo of the Philomela story in Part III. The swallow appears again at the end of the poem.
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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts: Bridge, Absorb, Accident, Fantasy, Eclipse, Playful, Truth, Dazzle, Bed, Steam, Argue , Inversion, Golden.
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Verse Form: Rhyme Royal – sometimes known as the Troilus stanza – has 7 lines of 10 syllables each (normally iambic pentameters) and a rhyming scheme of ababbcc.

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See here for more information.

Here’s an  audio of the tale of ‘Marsayas’ in case any of you are too busy to read the book:

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by book 4 coming out throughout June.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 6 Poetry is Wednesday 31st July  

 

 

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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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