Monday, June 8, 2015

Word for Word Classical Poetry Editions (Week of June 8)

We have a collection of very talented guest bloggers to cover the Word for Word Poetry series this summer. They capture a first-hand account of the poetry readings, as well as help to interpret the work of our visiting poets who present at the Bryant Park Reading Room sponsored by HSBC

Michael Broder for Word for Word Poetry, June 9th, 2015
Featuring Aaron Poochigian and David Hadbawnik 

On Tuesday, June 9, the Bryant Park Reading Room presented a Word for Word program of classical epic poetry in translation from the Ancient Greek and Roman world in partnership with Penguin Books. Aaron Poochigian read from his recent translation of Jason and the Argonauts by the Greek poet Apollonius of Rhodes, and David Hadbawnik read from his translation-in-progress of the Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil.

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.

Aaron Poochigian
Translator Aaron Poochigian is a gifted poet with a doctorate in classics from the University of Minnesota who has written a number of critically acclaimed translations of works by Ancient Greek authors including the lyric poet Sappho and tragic poet Aeschylus. His translation of Apollonius’s Jason and the Argonauts is a departure for Penguin Classics because it is written not in prose but in iambic pentameter, the lofty meter of English poets from Shakespeare and Milton to the present day. Many poets can write elegant iambic pentameter verse, but Poochigian has an outstanding gift for writing iambic pentameter verse of soaring grandeur that manages to capture the epic tone of the Ancient Greek hexameter while remaining fresh and accessible to today’s reader. It takes no special knowledge of poetry or Ancient Greek literature to enjoy the beauty and clarity of Poochigian’s verse, as in these opening lines of the poem:

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.

David Hadbawnik 
The Roman poet Publius Vergilius Maro (known as Virgil in English) was born in 70 BC. His great Aeneid, tells the story of Aeneas, a mythological Trojan hero who survived the sack of Troy by the Greeks and, with his elderly father, young son, and a small group of his surviving countrymen, set sail for Italy, where Aeneas and his followers hoped to make a new home and restore the Trojan people. David Hadbawnik has taken a diametrically opposite approach to his translation of the Aeneid from that taken by Poochigian with his Jason and the Argonauts. Hadbawnik has written a free verse translation that seeks to translate not just Latin into English, but the lofty artifice of Virgil’s dactylic meter, borrowed in fact from Apollonius and his Greek predecessors like Homer and Hesiod, into the gritty rhythms and diction of everyday speech, as in these lines from Book 5, which he read in Bryant Park:
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
their balls
“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

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment