Why Poetry Matters

Monday, July 08, 2019

Often, while working at Costco and taking breaks, I’m at the books display. Weeks ago, I saw a recent translation of The Odyssy, by Emily Wilson, professor of classical studies at U Pa. If I could relive life as I wish, I’d have become immersed in a specific area of the literary world. Over time, I’ve done this casually by becoming an armchair expert on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Jane Austin, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. I couldn’t resist bringing home Wilson’s Odyssey.

While working through her version of Homer’s poem, another recent book popped to my attention. It re-visualizes the mythological Odyssy character, Circe, by Madeline Miller, a classical scholar (who like Wilson) lives in PA.

In Homer’s poem, Circe, a daughter of the god Helios and the nymph Perse, grows into a beautiful goddess of magic who eventually has a complex affair with Odysseus. In Miller’s Circe, we follow, in first person narrative, the goddesses’ life from birth onward.

Most striking about Miller’s accomplishment is letting her reader sense the reality of Circe’s life and thoughts, and also recognizing that Circe is a dreamy, physically shapeless myth, like all else in that world–gods, goddesses, and landscapes. Miller forces a reader’s brain to shift from a character’s reality in thoughts, ambitions, and interactions–to its dreamlike, non-physicality. I’m astonished how well this narrative reflects typically common conflicts in human perceptions.

Of course, that’s why ancient mythology forever lives and captures imaginations. Regardless of what anyone perceives about today’s mishmosh of politics and sociology, this is a time of wonderful artistic creativity. Artists have the freedom and courage to look anew at things, and the modern rapid technology to share their visions with the world.

Dear Friends, Humbly, “courage, freedom, technology” also includes blogging. Diana

2 thoughts on “Why Poetry Matters

  1. I loved Circe too.
    As for The Odyssey, I remember working on it in junior high school. Now I wonder that her teacher chose this book for a class of eleven-year-olds. But she must have been very good because I have actually good memories of the book.


    1. Thanks for your comments and memories. The classics are wonderful! It’s a jolt while exploring ancient history, to recognize that the sorts of observations and thoughts we consider modern were recognized and written about eons before the common era. I like that teacher of yours!

      Liked by 1 person

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