Tag Archives: Book 4 Ovid’s Metamorphoses

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

10 Jul


George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

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

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


Poems Inspired by Book 4



Karin Heyer and Greg Mackie


An Ancient Feminist

by Karin Heyer

(Inspired by the tale of Salmacis and Hermaphhroditus)


Outrageous, Shameless,

She outstripped the moon

the moralist cried,

‘Even in modern days’!

Moralists prefer the wavering count:

‘he loves me, he loves me not,

he loves me, he loves me not…’

She must wait,

Pained and demure,

For his first move.



Dare I, dare I not?

I dare, Salmacis cried:

I desire this beautiful youth,

Equality does not forbid daring.

In love they were one

and thus completed their destiny.




by Greg Mackie

(an acrostic)



all-seeing Sun;

I offered –



infinite love  –

love, eternal.



My embrace,

wholly ignored.



he laughed  –


grew hateful  –




thus is love.


I cannot,

order undone

love’s discovery –


erotic enemy,

never once mine  –


rejecting  –




You can find out more about Greg and his work here:

Greg Mackie


or follow on Twitter here:



Karin Heyer, as yet, does not have a website.


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

2 Jul


George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

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

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


Poems Inspired by Book 4



Sadaf Fatima, Nat Hall


by Sadaf Fatima

Overwhelmed by emotion,
You become Pyramus and Thisbe.
Where emotion comforts,
It also destroys.
Where you see the beam of hope,
Dark clouds also gather.
The longing does not go,
It stays in the soul,
Cracking it every second,
Hurting you all the time.
Yet what is life without emotion,
What is it without your soul longing?

the well

by Nat Hall

from the divine,
son of adam,
daughter of eve, fruit of apples, starts with a h-

>>>>>h for Hermes,

e for ego, experiment extraordinaire,
r for rondo written in haste when all is dark,
m as mountain metamorphosis to winged child,
a for amour, for whom a nymph fired passion inside the well,
p as prayer to be united forever, the peculiar duality,
h for hailingheal me, baby” in a halo,
>>>>r for result or redemption,
>>>>>>>>o shaped their lips like an omen,
>>>>>>>>>>>>d for derelict womb-mama-man
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>i incarnates
>>>>>>>>>>>>their raison d’être,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>u for uniformed by great gods,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>s for no one but Salmacis.

© Nat Hall 2013



‘Cry Mercy and Gentleness’ Cry 3/5: Transformations Poems (Book 4)

25 Jun


George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

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

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


Poems Inspired by Book 4



Lenka Monk, Nell Perry


Ballad of a mulberry tree

by Lenka Monk


A blueprint for every wall is the secret in each stone

Every whisper that passes through

Every colour, every tone.


Whatever sin, whatever pain it keeps it all well hidden

Without a sound tells a story

Of real love that’s forbidden.


He stumbles upon crimson veil in the depth of night

His dreams dissolve, death awaits

By the morning’s first light.


The sword plunged deeply into hollowness of his chest

The sacred aged mulberry tree

A place for his final rest.


But she still breathes calling his name with no luck

Fear claws at her heart

When only silence screams back.


She sees her lover’s lifeless form, blood pouring still

Tie a knot on twisted fate

When treasured love is killed.


Nobody to hold her soul all is forlorn in her mind

With a blade that is still warm

She dies by his side.


The once white fruit now dark of colour as the deepest sea

For it is said their purest of love

Seeped into the tree.




by Nell Perry


Nell Perry book 4


 Click image for a closer view



You can find out more about Lenka and Nell and their work here:

Lenka Monk


Nell Perry




‘Cry Mercy and Gentleness’ Cry 2/5: Transformations Poems (Book 4)

18 Jun


George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

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

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


Poems Inspired by Book 4



Richard Biddle, Rebecca Audra Smith


If I were the Sun…

by Richard Biddle 


If I were the Sun…
I’d be a confused recluse
living in open solitude
93 million miles away from everyone.

If I were the Sun…
I’d combust all poetries but one, mine
and create a shrine to the divine
temperature, Fahrenheit 451.

If I were the Sun…
I’d shrink to the size of a coin and
lie on the pavement, shimmering and
golden, scolding swindled fingers.

If I were the Sun…
I’d be a 24-7 voyeur, simmering on the brink.
Pent-up with white-hot rage and unspent

If I were the Sun…
I’d be a flamboyant superstar. A bleached
smile, radiating mythical status, addicted
to crack cocaine.

If I were the Sun…


As it is, I lurk in libraries flicking through
dictionaries & thesauruses looking up
alternative words for ‘light’ & ‘heat’



Daughters of Minyas

by Rebecca Audra Smith


Gossip clings treacle sticky on the fingers,

bitter in the mouth and sweet in the veins.

Chatting over spindles, chatting over knitting;

babies in their cradles and the women sit


airing dirty laundry, hanging it out to dry;

men are tutted, the children are bribed.

Outside in the streets people are dancing

while the women spin tales, such a pretty pattern.


A woman sits with her thimble

thumbing through her thoughts,

whispers of seduction in the broad daylight,

shameless hussy!


how she tried to hide her secret but another

told it to her father who buried her alive.

That soil choked the mouth up

stopped its little secrets, serves her right.


Woman sits with her needle

threading through her words,

choosing them with care,

the girl wouldn’t join the others,


wouldn’t play along had to be alone-

Vain husband snatcher!

She came to a sticky end all right,

Drowning, water in the ears and eyes.


Gossips churning out their chatter

think that they’re above it,

hark to the husbands coming home,

 Look at them try to find a shadow


 Fumbling for safety, better say a prayer

While you’ve time, till he gets angry,

You’ll keep tongues to yourselves

You’ll be a warning to the others, wives.




Phaeton’s Twin Sister

Sonnet V

by Rebecca Audra Smith


The moon’s path long silvery trail forwards
She dodged the scorpion’s snapping claws
Till a lily maid stumbling in a stream
stooped and looked, stopped with awe
Blossoming night flowers scenting the air
Her feet soon rooted in the silt
Her face follows the moon since then
Longing to catch another glimpse

Of the maiden-moon hauling her hope
Her bright dream baggage a glowing load
The glowering Gods turned a blind eye
To her torturous journey flying by
Diana paced and cursed the stars
To see the rebel reaping the night.



You can find more about Richard and Becca and their work here:

Richard Biddle



Rebecca Audra Smith





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

11 Jun


George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

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

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


Poems Inspired by Book 4



James Knight and Kate Garrett


13 Medusa variations

by James Knight


1. Dreams

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

2. Little Black Dress

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

3. Humdrum I

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

4. Book

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

5. Mermaid  

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

6. Alice

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

7. Humdrum II

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

8. TV

They sit in their millions, fixed by her stare.

9. Creation Myth

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

10. Cupid

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

11. Humdrum III

She inspects her grey skin in the hand mirror.

12. Art

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

13. Reflection

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


Sticks from Stones

(After Ovid’s ‘Leucothoë and Clytië’)

by Kate Garrett


I. Frankincense


She radiates memories from perfumed

jewels, her limbs encrusted with them:

a fragrant shrine to the gods’ indiscretions.


Suffering seeps through, blooms: gather

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

Burn it down; smoke rises to Heaven.


II. Heliotrope


She follows the trajectory of lost

love with her violet-gaze. Devotion

enhanced by the green leaves


coaxed out by saltwater from her

once-upon-a-time eyes. She wasted

away, but still thrives in his light.



Snake Haiku

(After Ovid’s ‘Cadmus and Harmonia’)


Two forked reptilian

tongues, and coils of pebbled skin

restore the balance.



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

James Knight:



Kate Garrett:





Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project: Book 4 Deadlines and Optional Prompts

30 Apr


February 2013-March 2014

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

See the Transformations Page For More Details

George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses


Here we go month 4 is close upon us and here are the new deadlines and optional prompts for Book 4 . I’ll be posting out all the poems inspired by Book 3 throughout May.

Book 4 has a wealth of well-known stories in it; one of which, the descent of Juno into the underworld,  is one of the earliest mythic stories in ancient history. Book 4 also contains many a tale which has also inspired the likes of Shakespeare. .  If you missed the overview I did of it, you can find it Here

Again, enjoy the process! Be as free, as contemporary and as inventive as you like!


Deadline for Book 4 Poems:

Thursday 30th May


Each Poet Can submit a maximum of two poems per book.


 Optional Verse Form Prompt: 

(which you can use to inform or inspire your poetry if you like)

This month it’s :

Luc Bàt:

‘Lines of 6 syllables alternate with lines of 8 syllables – in fact the name Luc Bat means six-eight. The general rule is that each rhyme occurs three times – first at the end of an 8-syllable line, then at the end of the next 6-syllable line, and finally as the sixth syllable of the next 8-syllable line. The end loops back to the beginning. You can make the poem as long or as short as you like. ‘



Optional Word Prompts: 

Burning, Shoulders, Held,  Lobe, Released, Hood,  Knuckles, Fade, Mortality, Passionately, Aneurysm, Closet


 An Audio Version of  the tale of ‘Daughters of Minyas’  (should you not have time to read Book 4)



I wish you lots of luck with this month’s poem, and if you need anything do let me know. 

If anyone missed out on the great Book 2 poems. You can find them here, here, here , here & here


Your participation, as always, is very much appreciated!


N.B. 1. I’ll be posting the overview of Book 5 on Tuesday 21st May

N.B. 2.  Michelle Vinciis still  running her Global Twitter Poetry Project. If you are interested you’ll find more information here.


Metamorphoses Book 4 Overview: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

22 Apr
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses


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 April with our third deadline for Book 3 poems for this Thursday 25th April.

This post sets to provide an overview for Book 4 with a deadline for the poems of Thursday 30th MayBook 2 poems are still being posted out steadily over April; May will be filled with Book 3 poems.

This month it’s been a real joy to pick poems for the weekly posts that slightly contrast or compliment each other in texture and form. It’s also been a  real pleasure to see people experimenting!  If you missed any of the Book 2 poems you can find them here, here here   I’ve also created a Transformations poems tab on the menu for ease of access. 

I will be putting out the Book 4 Prompt and Deadline Details on Tuesday 30th April.


Overview of Book 4:


While Danae’s heroic son enthralled

The chiefs of Cepheus’ court, a noisy mob

Crowded into the palace-not the sound

Of happy wedding songs, but heralding

Battle and blood, the banquet suddenly

Transformed to tumult, like a quiet sea

That winds in fury rouse to raging waves


And so begins Book 4… 

Quite a few of the more well known tales which have been taken up by other authors can be found in this particular book, specifically that of Pyramus and Thisbe, the tale of whose love affected Shakespeare  explicitly in his creation of both Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In this book we also see Ovid lifting from other epic writers such as Homer in the story of Mars and Venus.  

In Book 4 Ovid delves into some of the most ancient myths in recorded history , ones that were recorded on the tablets of Sumer in 300BC, specifically  Juno’s decent into hell which represents the descent of Inanna, Queen of the Heaven’s into the Under World.

In terms of narrative structure this book is also framed by the trope of a servant woman telling a sequence of tales as she and her friends weave. This weaving acts as a winding vehicle through which to explore the consequences of not showing appropriate respect and honour. Strikingly, in Book 4 there is also a depiction of sexual violence instigated by a woman;  and we are also reminded that the god’s follow their own codes of conduct.

The daughters of Minyas act as ‘internal narrators’ alongside Ovid as narrator and tales are told within tales. The stories also coalesce to explore the idea of passion thwarted and the ramifications of divine anger and do so quite often with comedy, particularly in the story of Perseus.


Summary of the Tales in Book 4:


The Myths and Key Characters: The Daughters of Minyas; Pyramus and Thisbe; The Sun Is Love; Salmacis and Hermaphroditus; The Daughters of Minyas Transformed; Athamas and Ino; The Transformation of Cadmus; Perseus and Andromeda

The Daughters of Minyas; Pyramus and Thisbe, The Sun Is Love 


The Daughters of Minyas, alongside Pentheus also refused to worship Bacchus and showed this by continuing with their weaving and daily pursuits during the holidays ordered by Bacchus. Ovid interestingly explicitly sides against the daughters and with Bacchus in this instance.  During one of these weaving sessions one of the daughters’ serving-women tells them a stream of stories. She tells them of Pyramus and Thisbe and the death of the two lovers… She tells them of how Vulcan (the god of fire and metalwork ) corners his unfaithful wife Venus (the goddess of love) by trapping her in a chain he has fashioned out of metal whilst betraying him with Mars (the god of war). Venus punishes the sun god who informed Vulcan of her betrayal by punishing the god’s lover Leucothoe (the daugther of Eurynome ). Clytie, a rival of Leucothoe, reports her behaviour to her revival’s father and he turns her into a Frankincense bush. Clytie is transformed into a sunflower, constantly turning away from her faithless lover.

Salmacis and Hermaphroditus

Alcithoe (the serving woman of the Daughters of Minyas) then tells the tale of  Salmacis (a naiad), a  fountain who makes men weak (both a pool and a predatory female unlike Echo). She pursues Hermaphroditus (the child of Mercury and Venus) who rejects her. She wraps herself around him (serpent-like) trying to rape him. The description of this rape has been called one of the most disturbing in ancient literature, and I must say it’s more than a bit feisty and tenticular. To escape, Hermaphroditus  asks for a curse to be put on Salamacis’ pool.

The Furies

The Daughters of Minyas Transformed & Athamas and Ino

The divine power of Bacchus has been established by now and Bacchus punishes the Daughters of Minyas for their lack of worship by turning them into bats. In this story Ovid takes up the control of the narrative and borrows from Virgil’s Aeneid heavily in his depiction of Juno’s journey into the underworld.

Ino (the aunt of Bacchus) is very proud of Bacchus, but Juno, not liking the fact that this rival family should prosper, requests that the Furies should descend and destroy the happiness of Ino’s family. The Furies turn Ino and her husband Athamas insane and they kill their own children. Venus feels sorry for the couple and turns them into divinities.   

The Transformation of Cadmus

In this story the consequences of godly wrath are explored and we see the fulfilment of the prophecy that Cadmus would end his life as a snake. Cadmus and his wife, not knowing Venus had stepped in, mourn the loss of Ino’s and Athamas’ children. They flee from the city where they live to take up a life in exile. He accepts his fate having killed a sacred snake previously, and he and his wife are turned into benevolent serpents

Perseus and Andromeda

Ovid starts this story right in the middle of things: blood dropping from the sky and transforming into snakes. Ovid presents us, however, with a different Perseus one who is more concerned with love than war in contrast to the setting within which he finds himself.

Bacchus has  descended down to Olympus with all of India and Greece worshipping him. Only the King of Argos and Perseus (the child of Jove) are resisting Bacchus now. Perseus, who has come back with Medusa’s head, having killed her, tries to befriend Atlas but because of a past prophecy Atlas is suspicious of  Perseus. Perseus shows Atlas Medusa’s head and he is promptly turned into stone.

Perseus flies to Ethiopia and on his way he sees Andromeda (the princess and daughter of Cassiope and Cepheus) chained to a rock by her mother because of her vainity and beauty and he falls head over heals in love.  The  god Ammon  punishes Andromeda by letting a monster guard her. Perseus decides to attack the monster guarding her and in return for her freedom asks her parents if he can marry her. He defeats the monster by planting Medusa’s head in the ground and he retells the story of how he killed Medusa.


Themes, Analysis and Relevance

Here are some of  the primary themes flowing through Book 4: the power of the gods; their personal code of conduct; the ramifications of divine anger; sexual violence instigated by women; passion and unfulfilled love. 

Some specific themes highlighted in brief for you:

  • Unfulfilled Love- This book features a variety of characters all connected by the theme of unfulfilled love: Pyramus and Thisbe, separated by their family; The Sun only able to help Leucothoe by turning her into a Frankincense bush and the frustration of Salamacis’ one-sided love for Hermaphroditus. 
  • Divine Wrath- In Ovid’s focus on the story of Cadmus again he flags up the unrelenting nature of the god’s wrath through the continued  destruction of Cadmus’ family. Juno’s rage  over Ino’s worship of Bacchus is explicit. And wrath comes round in full circle (the story intimates) with Cadmus being turned into a serpent. What goes around comes around.
  • Hereoism/The nature of a hero:  Ovid examines the nature of heroism through his oft-times comic characterisation of Perseus. Perseus rather than being brave, is fearful and his fight with Atlas is not aggressive and does not involve  combat. In so doing he delicately questions the texture of violence and the intent of those that perpetrate it. This is also challengingly explored in the tale of Salmacis which disrupts our perception of the dynamics of violence by foregrounding female violence.

>Things of Interest:

>Below you’ll find a rather more modern engagement with Metamorphoses by ‘Pants On Fire’:

‘Before sea, land and sky are created, there exists only one form, chaos’


As I’ve put together this post I have kept coming across references to poet, novelist and thinker Robert Graves and his definitive book,The Greek Myths’. The quote below, although not directly about Metamorphoses, gives us something to think about in relation to the archetypal themes with which it engages.

Robert GravesMyth has two main functions, the first is to answer the sort of awkward questions that children ask, such as ‘Who made the world? How will it end? Who was the first man? Where do souls go after death?’ …The second function of myth is to justify an existing social system and account of traditional rites and customs.”

 Robert Graves, “Introduction,” New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (v)

 Nothing to do overtly with myth, but a poem by Graves engaging with religion (but maybe the two are actually closely linked??) A Boy in Church 


I’ll post out the prompt and deadlines post for Book 4 on Tuesday 30th May. I  will also include an audio recording of ‘The Daughters of Minyas’ story in case anyone is too busy to read the whole book. And watch out for the poetry inspired by Book 3 which will be posted out during May.



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: contiuum

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

 SparkNotes: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/metamorphoses/section1.rhtml



%d bloggers like this: