Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gods and Mortals (A Review)

Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical MythsGods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths by Nina Kossman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great book that takes a modern look at classical greek mythology.  A great reference to making the mythic relevant in this troubling time. Why Myths? -from the Introduction the editor Nina Kossman explains why myths resonate with our 21st century lives.
"The venerable tradition of doing a Greek mask is often used by poets in order to speak of things they would have found difficult to approach otherwise."xix  Kossman believes that truth is found in the pure expression of the arts, "If we think we know the answers, it is because the questions were first posed in antiquity... And perhaps it is because the myths echo the structure of our unconscious that every new generation of poets finds them inexhaustible source of inspiration and self-recognition."xx

One example of a poem I really dig is Zbigniew Hebert's Old Prometheus:
He writes his memoirs. He is trying to explain the place of the hero in a system of necessities, to reconcile the notion of existence and fate that contradict each other.

Fire is crackling gaily in the fireplace, in the kitchen his wife bustles about- an exalted girl who did not bear him a son, but is convinced she will pass into history anyway. Preparations for supper: the local parson is coming, and the pharmacist, now the closest friends of Prometheus.

The fire blazes up. On the wall, a stuffed eagle and a letter of gratitude from the tyrant of the Caucasus, who successfully burned down a town in revolt because of Prometheus's discovery.

Prometheus laughs quietly. Now it is the only way of expressing his disagreement with the the world.
Translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter. Gods and Mortals Modern Poems on Classical Myths ed. Nina Kossman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).

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Gods and Mortals Modern Poems on Classical Myths ed. Nina Kossman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991),

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