Reading Homer

My sister Susannah and I were looking for a pandemic friendly activity to share when she delighted me by coming up with the perfect idea.

We decided to read the Odyssey–aloud on zoom–in the newest translation, by Emily Wilson. This is the first time a woman has translated the poem into English.

Susannah had vivid memories of my father reading The Odyssey aloud–first to me, then to our sister Rachel, and finally to Susy herself, as youngest of the three. I remember that it was the Lattimore translation.

In college, Robert Fitzgerald was my senior year tutor, and my thesis advisor. Dry and gentlemanly as he was, I still worshiped him and benefited from his mentorship. We translated Ovid, but mostly I wrote my poems and Fitzgerald chopped them to bits every week–line after line, stanza after stanza. I don’t remember ever talking directly about Homer, but of course I read his translations.

So, off Susannah and I went. We loved that Wilson called Odysseus “a complicated man.” The music of each line was enchanting. And Dawn wasn’t just “rosy-fingered” but described with many floral manicures.

Then, we were startled. Susy was reading the hardback–I the paperback. And the versions were not identical! What had happened?

Inspired to find the answer, I wrote the translator. And she wrote back! (As authors will. Unless a writer is a superstar a fan note often gets an answer.) Wilson basically said she was still tinkering, couldn’t stop trying to perfect, and made changes in the paperback version.

It is a wonderful translation–lyrical, humorous, intense–following the story in that seemingly effortless way that can only be produced by hard labor.

And what a story! Adultery, war, revenge, sacrifice, and one-eyed giants. We’ve just finished Book Five, where our hero finally leaves the island where the nymph Calypso has him trapped as her unwilling live-in boyfriend. Calypso speaks at length–she is a practical if alluring immortal, and realizes he has to go.

Susannah noticed that Calypso talks more that all the women of the Torah put together. The Feminine is alive and strong in this poem–both in women and goddesses.

As a rule, women in Britain and America were denied a classical education that included Greek. How else were we to read about the adventures of Odysseus if not in translation into English?

And it feels just right for sisters on zoom.

In The Monastery of A Nice Day to Start Again–Miriam Sagan

In The Monastery of A Nice Day to Start Again

as if the sea rose
came up the two
front steps
covered the mat
foamed at the front door

sleep deposited its cargoes
love also
ebbed and flowed
set my naked body
next to yours
as I pillowed your head
beneath my chin

I danced
watching the mountains
out to the west
Billy Idol
belting
I danced
my crippled girl
and my other self
together

the mountain was not
just watching
it was dancing too
only its movements in time
imperceptible

Self Interview: Me, Myself, and The Minotaur

Where are you?

Me: Sitting Bull Falls–an exquisite spot in southern New Mexico, near the Guadalupe Mountains. And we were completely alone!

Love your coat!

Me: Thanks, me too. I got it second hand years ago at the Traveler’s Market behind de Vargas mall.

You have a new novel coming out?

Me: Thanks for noticing.

What is it about?

Me: The heroine, Thea, lives through the war in Bosnia and comes to Brooklyn, only to find herself missing her shadow and unable to cross the street. On the block, a cast of characters from a surfer acupuncturist to a Hasidic rabbi attempt to heal her.

I gather you started writing about three years ago. Was it difficult to revise during the pandemic?

Me: Ha ha. You mean was it hard to write about isolation and agoraphobia during covid? Yes and no. Hard because it was something I made up that I was then experiencing. Not hard because the themes were suddenly more intimate.

When is the launch?

Me:

I’ll be reading from my new novel “At” Bookworks. Launch event for SHADOW ON THE MINOTAUR

Wednesday January 13
6 pm Mountain Time

Here is the link to the event. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89236897974
It is a registration-required event, so folks should go to the event page to register.
https://www.bkwrks.com/minotaur

How can I order it?

https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781952204050/shadow-on-the-minotaur.aspx

I gather Thea bakes cakes compulsively throughout the book. What is a recipe?

ROLAT

Ingredients:
5 egg whites
4 dessert spoons of sugar
5 egg yolks
4 dessert spoons of flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Beat egg yolks. Add the sugar.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold
everything together.

***

(3/4 cup is 6 fluid ounces?
1 cup or 8 fluid ounces or half a pint equals?

What is the relationship of cake and snow?
I don’t need a doctor to tell me I’m crazy.)

What We Wrote on the Water

We hope you can come view this–by appointment only.

Maternal Mitochondria

Maternal Mitochondria has a new art show up with Vital Spaces arts organization! Located in the Midtown Annex, 1600 St. Michaels Drive, and available by appointment only (in order to ensure COVID-safe practices), What We Wrote on The Water is a video installation constructed from the poetry of borders, drumming in a dream, the scarce commodity of water in the desert, and gestures in ink. The installation will be available to experience from January 9th-February 8th, and there is no fee!

In a dark enclosed womb of space, the video projects over a large vase, filled with water. It features the Japanese art of suminagashi, spoken poetry, and percussive drums. The projection overlaps the glass, creating new shadows and reflections. This is an immersive experience, playing with materials such as ink and glass, and the metaphor of water as the unconscious mind.

What We Wrote on the…

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The Star: Poem by Miriam Sagan

The Star

west on shabby Agua Fria street
in the solstice dusk
to the village itself
where strands
of blue lights
hang in otherwise
bare trees
and the occasional
solitary star
adorns the roof
of an old lady
whose son-in-law put it up

from this tender portion
of what I call my world
we watch
Saturn and Jupiter
conjunct, appear
as one
while in reality
they are
456 million miles
apart

with you driving
and me
riding shotgun
in the passenger’s seat