Tag Archives: Medea

‘Struggle and Treachery’ Action 4/4: Transformations Poems (Book 7)

11 Oct

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 7

 

.Featuring:

Nat Hall, James Knight and Karin Heyer

_

 

Medea’s Dream

by Nat Hall

.
Face without eyes.
chère toison d’or, cire ou de plomb*,
from dragon’s clutch,
protect my
heart.

.
Boy without face.

.
From the chariot drawn by the great fire breathers,
I shall not flee from fleece of love,
crush my own genes, or
drink from
tantalising cups…

.
Eyes without heart.

.
From sympathy to illusion,
don’t turn that girl
into a witch,
I shall not
bleed
or
betray you.

.
Heart without face,
I’ve lost my way across the sea,
where women weave
from handspun
waves,
kelp
and lust tides,
and find solace, here,
in West sky, as twilight awakes
Arcturus, space Argonaut among Perseids.

.
Face without boy.

.
This is where the shadows come to play**,
now let me enjoy meteors.

.
Nat Hall 2013

.
*) dear golden, wax or fleece of lead
**) from Somewhere in Between, Kate Bush, Aerial (2005) that accompanied this piece

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Myrmidon*

by James Knight

.

Soil-spawned men

Murmuring

In the unreal light

 .

It’s cold

 ..

Imagine looking down

On the crowds agitating

Across Waterloo Bridge

.

An insect has a head,

An abdomen,

A thorax

Six legs

 .

Male ants and queens

Have wings,

Fly incompetently

.

One day a year

They broil in their thousands

On my lawn

 .

Imagine

All those people

Scurrying around London

Imagine

They’ve lost their humanity

To mindless endeavour

 .

Now imagine you’re somehow different

 .

Your life made up of a million minute Tasks

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Medea

by James Knight

 .

Coiled

in the winter

of her womb,

 .

a nightmare

awaits the warmth

of a bitter spring

.

.

Pointed Horns

by Karin Heyer

 .

Then, many times the moon

had brought together

the points of her horns

To show her splendid, clear, completed form.

A fearful pestilence hit my people

lassitude struck them to the pillaged ground.

Burning skin and panting breath plagued

their polluted bodies and foaming lips.

Screaming, dying children women and men:

Helpless, abandoned to the forces of hell.

What images, what fear.

A cruel fate hit men and land.

No-one knew whence it came.

.. 

And now transform this image:

News-flash, August 2013, Syria,

an inflicted, fearful pestilence

struck its people

shown to the world

no-one knew whence it came.

But they did know and drew a red line

.

.

*= a poem which has been chosen for our Transformations art and poetry exhibition in September 2014 at Hanse House, Norfolk

__________

You can find more about Nat, James and Karin here:

Nat Hall:

http://nordicblackbird.weebly.com/index.html

https://twitter.com/nordicblackbird

James Knight:

http://thebirdking.com/

https://twitter.com/badbadpoet

Karin, as yet, does not have a website

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Struggle and Treachery’ Action 3/4: Transformations Poems (Book 7)

2 Oct

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 7

.Featuring:

Richard Biddle and Carol Robson

_

Love letter to the Wind

by Richard Biddle

.

Gentle breath that knows no malice, whose body blows could knock out

a city’s lights or flatten a forest; when first your dust-stirring gusto brushed

my rougued cheeks, lust stirred a must-have itch in my loins. 

.

A longing came to move toward your tornado touch, a hankering for a

hurricane hug, a need to be at the heart of a twister’s eye.

 .

What folly it is to tumble through barren deserts, picking up piles of junk,

unpredictable as a drunken brawl, when I am here waiting, unrequited,

hour by hour, and ready to be taken by your turbine-turning power.

I lie awake; jealous of the attention you pay the waves and autumnal leaves,

Won’t you calm your squalling zigzag transit, made visible by smoke

and flags, to a warm, embracing zephyr and lavish upon my heated desire

a cool and tender breeze? 

.

Enchantress *

(Medea)

by Carol Robson

.
To fall in love with her
is so bewitching,
being well connected
a woman who usually
gets her way,
love on her terms
her will to be met
with challenges.

.
Fearing for her new love
to be brought under her charms
spellbinding in her efforts
for the charms
of his affections
his promises.

.
In conspiracy,
to bring about life and death
loves blindness
of being used
for her lover’s needs,
torn to run
on chariots from high.

.
Returning spurned
her wrath fingered
upon the innocent
and the blood kin
between her
and her true love,
anger raging
the enchantress flees
to new horizons
never to be misled
or wronged again.

.
©Carol Robson 2013

_____

* =One of the poems to be included in our ‘Transformations’ Exhibition/Poetry reading September 2014, Hanse House, King’s Lynn, Norfolk

You can find out more about Richard and Carol here:

_______

Richard Biddle

‘Struggle and Treachery’ Action 2/4: Transformations Poems (Book 7)

24 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

__________________

Poems Inspired by Book 7

>>Featuring:

Kate Garrett and Eleanor Perry

___

.

Maybe Medea*

by Kate Garrett

.

I stand at the far

edge of the fields,

beyond the patch

of cornstalks, facing

the hedgerow and scents

of honeysuckle blooms,

crushed sassafras leaves.

.

She waits there,

mother of crossroads,

beneath the darkest

sky. She asks if I

would bathe in, or drink

them: fresh milk, sweet

honey, sheep’s blood.

.

She knows my auntie

shows men their true

form, lets them roll

like pigs around her feet,

offers plenty of mud,

and scraps to keep

them happy.

.

She also knows it’s not

enough for me. I need

their lives. They owe

me their salvation

and destruction alike.

But all the same, auntie

taught me well, and my

dark crone understands.

.

I slit the bleating throat

as my lady asked, mix

the claret flow with white

and gold. She sends the chariot,

drawn by dragons. Or

are they men? I’m laughing,

skin splashed with red,

as they drive me away.

 

.

Maybe Aurora (Red Sky at Morning)

by Kate Garrett

.

Look. The sky,  the sunrise,

and all for you. Why don’t

you want it? Bright scarlet,

.

like a passion, a tantrum,

your heart, and the hole

In her chest. Just wait;

.

wait for another dawn, a lot

like this one. Go. Wait. And

don’t say I didn’t warn you.

.

Myrmidon.

by Eleanor Perry

.

myrmidon by Nell Perry Book 7 JPG

 

.

_____

.

* =One of the poems to be included in our ‘Transformations’ Exhibition/Poetry reading September 2014, Hanse House, King’s Lynn, Norfolk

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You can find out more about Kate and Nell here: 

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‘Struggle and Treachery’ Action 1/4: Transformations Poems (Book 7)

18 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

__________________

Poems Inspired by Book 7

>>Featuring:

Adam Wimbush and Rebecca Audra Smith

___

.

Jayson and the Astronauts*

by Adam Wimbush

.

The Astronauts blast through the atmosphere.

Fresh from the Thrace system where previously they had been,

Fighting the flying half-female forces of Harpeeys;

A race of soul tormentors who breathed fear and each one was a thought thief.

Fortunately their deformed forms were destroyed

Freeing the starved and tormented colony underneath

Who in return presented Jaysun with a compass with which to unlock the Cosmos.

Once cracked the cryptic coordinates guided him to the planet Colchis,

Where he would claim the “Shimmering Skin” from the savage Thing.

But the negotiations were complicated, revealing even more arduous adventures.

For Jaysuns cache would be empty if he couldn’t inspire and

Overcome the three layer test set out by the Thing.

But oh, how he oozed hero, sending waves of intoxication through Meedeeuh.

Her emotions flare and the alien love grows inside.

It mutates the meanings of the savage Things many mean manifestations,

Which now become meaningless.

Like the planets gravity she’s magnetised.

Caught in a prism of contradiction…she’s got the wrong triangle tingles…attracted to xeno-zones.

Feelings fluctuate in fancy frequencies as her moral compass flickers.

Surrounding powers sneak; they weave through inhuman web works

Were they can’t be understood.

Pumping god fluid into the pupa of paradoxical peril where the hatchlings of danger await.

Observing these dilemmas the snakes of her syntax hiss as she forges a shield of love.

A force field so strong no Layer Boss can penetrate.

.

.

Hazardous emotions reign creating a vortex in her soul

Which re-swirls images of alternative futures.

She commences to conjure.

Illusions solidify as realties dematerialise.

The galactic jigsaw pieces begin to slot together as,

Another goddess helps them piece together the puzzle of perception.

For within the circuits of the cosmos sparks hide, and

Tapping into this hidden electricity Meedeeuh and Jaysun decide to dive.

.

Layer 1:

.

With his force field glowing Jaysun confronts the Oxatons;

They vomit vortexes, they roar louder than black holes sucking in anti-matter.

They tear the fabric of space with their thunderous talons,

Horns of pure malice to the marrow, with which they rip reality.

Jaysun in his cocoon cruises into the beating black heart of the Oxatons hatred,

Were upon they release a shockwave of terror.

The negative energy is absorbed by the barrier of love and reflected back.

So their whirling withers, their energy dissipates and

The Oxatons dissolve into a time lapsed sunset.

.

Layer 2:

.

From the Things Terror Capsule

A handful of fossilised fangs where flung,

Biting deep into the flesh of the planet.

From these teeth seeds terrible things sprung,

Melting upwards into horrible humanoid creatures

Made from malignant bits, fetid flesh and bizarre bones, weaved together.

Their bio-weaponery stank, shooting rancid lasers at violating velocity.

These rotting robots wouldn’t stop till Jaysun was dead.

Their mangled forms advanced and

It seemed our hero would be overcome with their putrid power.

Fearing her love shield wouldn’t suffice

She uses a voice engine

Rendering her words sentient.

The wicked whisper seemed to swim

Corrupt and confuse their regurgitated bodies from within,

The Zombots fuse into a pulsating cancer of bone and meat

This violently erupts,

Spitting sinews and splintered bone, cutting its diseased neighbour down.

.

Layer 3:

.

Now armed with Meedeeuhs shamanistic song shadow

He prepares for the ultimate battle; to tackle the malevolent Monsect

With its bastardised exoskeleton and an array of angry appendages.

Ghostly heads that gorged on grief.

A tongue that seemed to fork forever

Searching for death from a mouth even evil was afraid to lurk in.

Despite its destructive capabilities it wasn’t immune to Meedeeuhs murmuring machine.

So when Jaysun synchronised it while unloading his Spray Gun

the Monsects consciousness evaporated.

In that frozen moment he snatched the Shimmering Skin from its golden holding cell.

Leaving behind this hell

With Meedeeuh as his wife and sporting an extra magic epidermis,

They flew off to the planet Iolcos in love.

.

(and that’s another story)

.

Medea

by Rebecca Audra Smith

i

Brew me a new life
out of green thumbs and songs.
Make me young as I was when I thought
our souls are made of sky colours.
I will plaster myself in marble
I will build my own tower
I will let you slit my neck
and fill me with fresh flowers. 

ii

She promised youth,
she said, give me an ewe,
no, on second thoughts, a ram-
head heavy with horns-
and I will restore spring.

The pot was too small.
She stuffed the whorled body,
legs sticking out at right angles,
it bleat and then it shrunk,
leaving behind the sack of its old shape. 

iii

Drain out the stale blood,
we must fill ourselves with life.
Daughters, stab your fathers,
sharpen the knives. 

When the corpse is quiet
and the moon is high
we will fill it like a chalice,
we can but resurrect or die. 

.

_____

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* =One of the poems to be included in our ‘Transformations’ Exhibition/Poetry reading September 2014, Hanse House, King’s Lynn, Norfolk

.

You can find out more about Adam and Rebecca here: 

.

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.

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Adam Wimbush

http://wrongtriangle.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/Wrong_Triangle

A warm welcome goes out to Adam who has joined the project half-way through.

nb. The group of ‘Transformations’ poets is now formerly closed. 

Rebecca Audra Smith

http://beccaaudra.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/BeccaAudra

 

 

>>>>>

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Metamorphoses Book 8 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

13 Aug
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 August with our deadline of Book 7 poetry being Tuesday 20th August

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 8 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Wednesday 25th September. The first batch of Book 6  poems went out yesterday featuring  JAMES KNIGHT and RICHARD BIDDLE  (here).  The other great Book 6 poems will be posted out during the rest of  August. It’s a great book- inspiring and full of blood and gore! 

If you missed out on  Book 5  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.

Overview of Book 8: 

Book 8’s narrative flags up ideas around continuity and change by following the path of  more  rebellious women who although follow in  Medea’s footsteps have strikingly different fates. In so doing,  Ovid explores the complexity of  what is considered a’ heroine’. In Book 8 much greater emphasis is also put back onto the theme of war , particularly  in  relation to Minos’ war with Athens.

In Book 8 Ovid uses a complex narrative style to mirror the complexity of his characters and the complexity and artistry of Metamorphoses as a book. This is particularly the case with Daedalus (a skilful craftsman and father of Icarus) whom Ovid uses to explore notions of nature and art.  Among other things Ovid also explores what  the nature of an ‘epic’ is  and  looks at the theme of betrayal for the sake of love (amor). Transformation is also used as the vehicle for both the punishment and reward in this book. We see the relationship of married couple Philemon and Baucis set up as an antidote to the more aggressive forms of love and transformation we have seen in previous books.  

Summary of the Tales in Book 8 

 

>>>>Philemon and Baucis

The morning star revealed the shining day,
Night fled, the east wind fell, the rain-clouds rose,
A steady south wind speeded the return
 Of Cephalus with the Aeginetan force.
Their passage prospered and the fair breeze brought
Them sooner than their hopes to Athens port.

.

The Myths and Key Characters: Scylla, Daedalus and Icarus, Daedalus and Perdix, Meleager and the Calydonian Boar, Philemon and Baucis, Erysichthon

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paintedbunting>>>

Scylla

Minos (King of Crete)  has been laying siege to Megara (a city ruled by King Nisus , King of Megara, who is known for the lock of hair he grows from his head that protects his power). King Nisus has a daughter called Scylla who has fallen madly in love with Minos whilst watching him from a palace tower.  Very much like Medea, she speaks in depth of her love for Minos. Scylla, like Medea (See Book 7) betrays her father’s trust for the love of Minos and dis-empowers her father by sacrificing the lock of his hair. She also sacrifices her city for the love of Minos. In contrast to Medea,  Scylla is transformed from a woman of disgrace into a woman with whom we can empathise. Although Scylla has betrayed, as Liveley puts it, ”her pater (father) and her patria (fatherland)’ (82) Ovid portrays her as a victim of love; a person of sympathy. Scylla gets her comeuppance though and is spurned by her love Minos,  even though she has helped return the city of Megara to him. He sails off into the sunset without Syclla,  leaving her with nothing. Scylla, distraught,  goes after Minos and clings to the prow of his ship but she is transformed into a bird called the Ciris  (from the Greek word ‘to cut’ which forever connects her to her betrayal). Nisus is transformed into an osprey and follows her seeking revenge.

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Daedalus and Icarus

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Daedalus and Icarus

Ovid introduces the character of Daedalus in this book who is King Minos’ architect, and  who created a massive labyrinth in which to house a Minotaur (half man half bull) created out of the union of a real bull and Pasiphae (the daughter of Helios, the Sun).  Minos, in the story of the labyrinth, is portrayed as tyrannical and oppressive, and Ovid foregrounds how much effort Daedalus made to leave his patron. We see Daedalus playing with his little son Icarus who puts on a pair of wings his father has made and then attempts to fly. This, to all intents and purposes, is a transformation but it is not like the normal sort of transformations we have seen in previous books. In attempting to fly both Daedalus and Icarus are changing the ‘proper’ order of things (for humans are not meant to fly) and as they enter a zone which is normally only for the gods they are challenging the natural order of life).  Daedalus advices his son to not fly too close to the sun . Icarus not paying attention  loses his wings and falls into the sea and dies. The sea which Icarus falls into takes his name and  so does the island where Daedalus buries him. 

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perdix_vs8

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Daedalus and Perdix

Daedalus is very jealous of his nephew Perdix’s natural talent, so much so that he tries to push him off a tower. Minerva (Goddess of wisdom and the arts)  stops this happening by turning Perdix into a partridge. In the fall we have a link to not only Icarus but Phaethon (youngest son of Helios) from  Book 1.  Through this story Ovid also flags up the danger of competition.

Meleager and The Calydonian Boar

Having taken us into the labyrinthine world of Daedalus Ovid throws us back into the world of  Theseus’ (founder king of Athens) . Theseus’ fame is widespread because  he  killed the Minotaur. Due to his defeat of the Minotaur  the Calydonian people are looking to him to kill another monster that has been sent down upon them by Diana  (Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt) because they had been neglecting her in their sacrifices.  They call upon all sorts of other heroes to help them defeat the monster, and they all go off an Calydonian Boar hunt in an attempt to slay it. Ovid fills the hunt with horror, comedy, violence and tribulations- the whole works! Meleager, who is the local hero,  eventually manages to kill the boar/monster. He offers the boar to a tomboy Atalanta (who’s come along on the hunt for entertainment) , but his offering to her is snapped away by other townsfolk  and Meleager , insulted, kills them.

The focus is then firmly placed on  Meleager’s mother Althaea who although is gleeful about her son’s victory in the hunt is also simultaneously mourning the death of her brothers (who were part of the clan who took the spoils from Meleager and whom he killed). She becomes extremely angry with Meleager because of her brothers’ deaths. She takes a piece of enchanted wood which the Fates decreed would last as long as her son’s life and decides to avenge the death of her brothers. Like Media and Scylla she becomes another woman with a huge dilemma. To kill or not to kill?  Yet again like Scylla and Medea we have lots of description and a soliloquy which establishes her dilemma profoundly.  Ovid portrays her as being torn between mother and sister.  In the end she throws the wood in the fire causing Meleager a horrible death. Althaea cannot bear what she’s done and commits suicide. Meleager’s father and sister are irretrievably upset.  The sisters are so upset that Diana turns them into guinea hens .

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perimele-2

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Achelous and Perimele

On Theseus’ way back to Athens Achelous (the swollen river and river god) makes it difficult for him to go on his way by blocking his path and inviting Theseus into his home. Achelous retells him the story of a  group of nymphs who he punished because they did not honour him sufficiently. Achelous also tells the story of Perimele (daughter of Hippodamas) who he once loved and who he also raped and then transformed into an island.

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Philemon and Baucis

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Philemon and Baucis

The story of Philemon and Baucis  is of particular importance as it rests right at the centre of Metamorphoses. Ovid having shown us time and time again the violent and torturous side of love and passion now shows us the flip side and he gives us a representation of a good marriage.  Pure and noble and completely different in feel to the other relationships we have seen. Lelex (a companion of Theseus tells this story – a tale of an older  husband and wife who get rewarded by the gods because of their kindness. Jupiter (king of the gods) and Mercury (patron god of financial gain, commerce and eloquence/poetry) disguise themselves  as humans and come down to earth and find that only Philemon and Baucis welcome them into their house wholeheartedly. They share their food and make them welcome. Eventually the couple realise they have gods in their midst, and they  try and find more luxurious sacrifices to meet the needs of their visitors. The gods punish all the other discourteous inhabitants  around by creating a flood, but they save the older couple to thank them. The older couple cry as they see the destruction  around them, only to see that their house has been turned into a  splendid temple where Jupiter offers them any wish they like.

The couple continue to live their pious lives and decide they both want to become priests. After years of service they find themselves turning into trees, whispering goodbye to each other as their mouths are sealed by bark. This story is in marked contrast to the others told about love…which makes a change and provides contrast.

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Erysichthon

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Erysichthon

In contrast to Philemon and Baucis,  Achelous tells a story of greedy Erysichthon who saws down a tree brutally killing the nymphs, transformed, within. He is punished by Ceres (goddess of agriculture)  for this act by being made to feel hungry all the time.  The glutton calls for a feast and sells his daughter time and time again so that he can have money for more and more food. The story culminates in Erysichthon eating himself.

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As Achelous moans about the loss of the horn missing from his forehead he hints that this is another tale to be told,  and this prepares us for what will be told ………. in Book 9!

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Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 8 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  • Continuity and Change:  The women Scylla and Althaea all follow in Medea’s shadow but are shown in a more sympathetic light by Ovid. Showing how moral dilemmas do not always have to follow in loss and horror but can also lead to positive transformation.
  • Reward and Punishment:  Once again Ovid shows the omnipresent power of the gods and how diversely metamorphoses is used as an acknowledgement of good behaviour and of bad. Like  Philemon and Baucis whom are turned into trees or Scylla who is changed into a bird.
  • Artistic Excellence,  Nature and Realism: Through Ovid’s portrayal of Daedalus and his attempt to imitate the act of flying with his son Icarusand the tragedy that follows, we are left with the very clear impression that flight in nature is far superior than man made attempts. Man cannot better what is in nature and should not  meddle with something that is already perfected naturally. 

 

Things of Interest:

 Here’s a video of the tale of Daedalus and Icarus….in Lego….

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and

‘Ovid Rocks For sure…..’ An interesting article from The Guardian

The transformative effect of Ovid’s Metamorphoses on European art

>> >>>

Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts: Wrong, Voyage, Railway, Dipped, Hunting, Gratitude, Torn, Hidden, Golden, Blunder, Misfortunes,  Squashed, Footsteps
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Verse Form: Onegin Stanza  – Stanzas have 14 lines of iambic tetrameter rhyming ababccddeffegg. The pink letters indicate feminine rhymes (i.e. the lines in question have an extra unstressed syllable) and the blue letters are for masculine rhymes.

See here for more information.

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

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book 6 coming out throughout August and September.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 7 Poetry is Tuesday 20th August.  

  __________

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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Metamorphoses Book 7 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

17 Jul
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 July with our deadline of Book 6 poetry being Wednesday 31st July

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 7 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Tuesday 20th August. The first batch of Book 5 poems went out yesterday featuring KATE GARRETT and RICHARD BIDDLE (here).  The other great Book 5 poems will be posted out during the rest of  July.

If you missed out on Book 4  poems you can find them  here, here, here , here and here. I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access.

Please note 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 7: 

The focus of Book 7 firmly places itself on Medea and her psychology. The book leaps into the story of Jason and the  Argonauts and  the well known tale of the Golden Fleece  but Ovid skirts over much of the detail of this story, assuming his audience is familiar with the details.  In this particular book Ovid uses his skills of rhetoric to define much of the substance of Medeas’ story. The story of Jason and Medea in this book is considered one of the finest in Metamorphoses– a true mixture of poetic skill and psychological insight. In  Book 7  Ovid gives Medea a beautiful soliloquy outlining the painful choice she has to make between Jason and her father.

‘My heart for sure is moved! Unless I help,
The bulls’ hot breath will blast him; he will meet
Fierce foes of his own sowing, earth-created,
Or to the dragon be cast for pray and prize.
If I permit such things, I’ll surely own
A tigress was my dam and in my heart’
I nurture iron and stone! 

Through the breadth and depth of Ovid’s portrayal of Medea’s tortured psychology Ovid touches upon the themes of love (amor) and loyalty; and through Jason- bravery and heroism.

Book 7 also marks a profound shift in Ovid’s narrative moving us away from a tale concerned with the Gods to a tale which considers mortals and their relationships. Also in this book Ovid  plays with the relationship  between our ideas and preconceptions about certain topics. Themes such as destruction are initially presented to us with harshness, cruelty and blood and then subtly imbued  with tenderness, turning meaning on its head and  playfully offering us another perspective on the tale/issue. In so doing he plays with our understanding of the nature of destruction and/or love and makes us question the texture of our understanding of these themes.

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Summary of the Tales in Book 7

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JasonandMedea

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And now the Argonauts from Thessaly
Were cutting through the billows. They had seen
Old Phineus dragging out his hapless age
In endless night and Boreas’ two sons
Had driven the Harpies from his piteus lips.
At last Jason and his men
Reached after many travails the swift stream.
Of muddy Phasis

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The Myths and Key Characters: Medea and Jason; Theseus and Aegeus, Minos, Aecus and the Plague at Aegina

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Medea by J .W Waterhouse

Medea and Jason:

The Argonauts arrive at Colchis where they ask for the return of the Golden Fleece.  King Aeetes makes a serious of ludicrous demands for the  return of the fleece.  Medea (his daughter), falls hopelessly in love with Jason and  offers to help him get the fleece back. Medea battles with her conscience as to whether she should betray her father for Jason in his hour of need so he can possess the fleece again .  Her conscience goes back and forth but finally she sides with Jason. Jason, in return, offers to marry Medea if she helps him. Medea provides Jason with various potions and magic herbs so he can steal the fleece back from its secret hiding place and from the clutches of  the dragon who protects it.

Jason takes Medea home with him and puts her powers to good use restoring Aeson (deposed king of Thessaly and Jason’s father) to his youth again, and she also finds a way to get rid of King Pelias (who usurped Aeson).   As Medea returns in her chariot drawn by dragons  from her murder of Pelias Ovid, as we look down from Medea’s perspective upon the lands below, takes us delicately through a series of mini-metamorphoses including the killing of her own children. On Medea’s return from dealing with Pelias she finds that in her absence Jason has taken a new wife. Medea kills the bride and escapes to Athens.

In this story Ovid takes us on a journey in relation to our response to Medea:  making us initially feel sympathy and compassion and then as she morphs  from an innocent girl into a horrific, cruel  witch who can kill heartlessly, makes our feelings transform into those of disdain.

theseus-and-aegeus-rock

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Theseus and Aegeus

King Aegeus (King of Athens) marries Medea. But her position is threatened when Aegeus’ son Theseus arrives. (Theseus  grew  up in another country and so was  unknown to his father). Medea, in contrast,  realises his son’s  threat to Aegeus as ruler and she tries to poison Theseus.  However  in the end,  Aegeus recognises Theseus and knocks the poisoned cup Medea has given him away from his son  and saves his life.  Medea is forced to flee once more.

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The Plague of Aegina

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Minos, Aeacus and the Plague at Aegina

Theseus eventually becomes King of Athens and his reign is successful until King Minos (King of Crete and son of Jove and Europa) is killed during a visit to Athens. Minos then declares war on Athens. King Minos prepares for war and he casts around for allies to support him. He gets much support from various states around him all apart from Aegina which  has an allegiance with Athens.  Cephalus (an envoy of Athens) arrives in Aegina to affirm their allegiance only to find that the Aeginian land has recently been blighted.  King Aeacus (the King of Aegina)  narrates a truly horrific story of death, plague  and disease. This story  is awash with  doctors dying, animal sacrifices, well people committing suicide. The whole works! 

During the plague King Aeacus prays to Jupiter (King of the Gods and the Sky) in the hope that he can provide people to repopulate the land. He has a prophetic dream where he sees ants growing larger and larger  and then finally take human form. The next day he finds that his dreams have become real and a new race is born: The Myrimidions (from the Greek word for ant).

In this story Ovid turns epic preparations for war and destruction cleverly into a tale of Metamorphoses and hope.

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cephalus_procris_pic

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Cephalus and Procris

Phocus (son of Aeacus) takes up where is father left off and entertains the envoys. He notices that one of the envoys (Cephalus) has a javelin and he asks him the story behind it.  Cephalus, clearly upset, recounts the the story of his wife Procris  who gave him the weapon as a gift.  (Procris, daughter of one of the kings of Athens –Erechtheus)   He recounts how she dies in an untimely fashion.  The telling of this story is unusual in contrast to the the normal epic stories told before war. Liveley describes it as ”elegiac’ (p80). She goes on to say that the roots of elegy etymologically rest  in the Greek ‘to cry woe’ (ibid) and how fitting this is as Cephalus weeps for his wife .

The story is in two parts separated by a metamorphoses in which Cephalus’ dog is turned into a marble statue.  The first half  tells of Cephalus after he has got married; when he goes off hunting. Out on an expedition he is to all intents and purposes raped by the Goddess Aurora. Once home, triggered by the rape,  Cephalus becomes jealous of Procris and thinks she has been unfaithful. In order to test her he disguises himself and makes an indecent proposal to her. She dithers and Cephalus reveals himself to Procris and  accuses her of adultery.  She runs to the hills and becomes a follower of Diana (Goddess of the moon, the hunt and birthing) until Cephalus begs for her forgiveness and she says she will come home. On her return he presents her with her own spear and her own dog.

Cephalus and Procris  live happily for awhile but  then Cephalus is overheard calling upon the wind by the name ‘aura‘. This is mistakenly heard as ‘Aura‘ Cephalus’ previous lover, and heartbroken Procris goes to spy on him to find out the truth. Cephalus mistakes her for a wild animal and kills her.

There has been much debate over Ovid’s intentions with this particular story- whether it is indeed a comedy of errors or a tale of tragedy (81). Ovid almost leaves this up to the reader to decide.

 

Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 7 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  • Psychology and Mental States:  Through Ovid’s portrayal of Medea we are taken into the depths of a woman’s psychology when she is pulled between family loyalty and love.  Liveley calls Medea’s story a vehicle  through which Ovid explores ‘the psychology and pathology of human love’ (77).  The tension is only too apparent as we watch Medea thrown from innocence to witchery. How we judge this is up to us but he profoundly depicts her crisis of conscience.
  • The Challenging of Expectations (playfully): Again the Medea tale can be seen as an example of this as can the story of the Aegian plague-turned from a tale of utter devastation into a tale of hope. Thus challenging our preconceptions.
  • Male and Female Relationships: Ovid, in Book 7, turns this matter on its head again, particularly in the tale of Cephalus and another striking male rape by the Goddess Aurora. In so doing questions of power are challenged and of right and wrong. Indeed, this can also be said of the Medea story too.
  • The Use of Rhetoric/ways of Storytelling:  Ovid in this particular book plays with our feelings towards certain characters through the narrative techniques he uses.  Giving us the dynamics of  an argument, the dilemmas,  letting Medea present them to us via her soliloquies, and then turning it all on its head via Medea’s transformation from innocent girl to witch.  Ovid gives us  all the information we need to understand Medea’s behaviour and then leaves the judgement ultimately up to us.  Equally in the story of the Plague of Aegina we can see a similar occurrence happen where we see Ovid create a picture of pure destruction only to have him then turn it into a story with a silver lining.  In both these cases Ovid uses his power of description to subtly give depth to  the well know themes  of love and fidelity and destruction and in so doing invigorates and innovates them.

Things of Interest:

 Here’s a video of a scene from Medea by Euripides:

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And here’s a bit of background on the art of Rhetoric touching on Artistotle’s definition:

The 3 Pillars of Persuasion:

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‘What It takes to persuade human beings to do something’

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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts: Concentration, Hermetically sealed, Squirming, Muse, Radiating, Anathema, Dog-ends, Motionless, Belts, Democracy, Bumpy , Remonstrate, Blood.
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Verse Form: Ronsardian Ode with the specified rhyming scheme of  ababccddc, with syllable counts of 10, 4, 10, 4, 10, 10, 4, 4, 8.

See here for more information.

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

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book 5 coming out throughout July/August.

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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