Michael Broder for Word for Word Poetry, June 9th, 2015
Featuring Aaron Poochigian and David Hadbawnik
Apollonius of Rhodes lived during the first half of the third century BC, the Hellenistic period of Ancient Greek history. This is the period after Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, built an empire that extended from Greece to northwest India. Alexander made his capital in Alexandra, a city he founded in Egypt in 331 BC that soon came to eclipse Athens as the cultural center of the Mediterranean world. Apollonius came to Alexandr1a, attracted by its cultural riches, much the way writers and artists of modern Europe would flock to Paris, London, Rome or New York.
Jason and the Argonauts tells the ancient mythological story of Jason, a hero from the city of Iolcus, who sets out on his famous ship, the Argo, to obtain the Golden Fleece from King Aeëtes of Colchis, a remote city on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. Jason is sent on this dangerous mission by Pelias, the king of Iolcus, who believes, based on a prophecy, that Jason poses a danger to his rule. Pelias does not expect Jason to make it back alive. Fortunately for Jason, however, King Aeëtes’s daughter, Medea, is a beautiful young sorceress who falls in love with Jason and helps him accomplish his mission.
Taking my lead from you, Phoebus Apollo,
I shall commemorate the deeds of men
born long ago. King Pelias insisted,
so they drove the taughtly fitted Argo
up through the narrows of the Pontic Sea
and past the cobalt Clashing Rocks to win
the golden fleece.
epic poem, the
Aeneas holds the fleet steady
cleaving black waves and glancing
back at the flames
rising from Dido’s walls—what
might’ve caused this the men
wonder but knowing women
how pissed-off they can get
their anger in love
a strange foreboding creeps around
“Why keep going?”
asks the pilot
“when darkness surrounds us
with such storms?”
Poochigian and Hadbawnik showed the wide range of possibilities in translating classical verse from Ancient Greek and Latin into modern English. In doing so, the provided an entertaining and stimulating evening of poetry to a rapt and attentive audience,
Michael Broder is the author of This Life Now (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014), a finalist for the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. His poems have a appeared in American Poetry Review, Assaracus, BLOOM, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, OCHO, and other journals and anthologies. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, the poet Jason Schneiderman, and a backyard colony of feral cats.