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  • mariaprophetessa
    For Louise, with kindness and humor . . . an irrational communication . . . Bona Fortuna, Mary There is a moment in The Iliad when the useless devastation of
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31 9:49 AM
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      For Louise,

      with kindness and humor . . . an irrational communication . . . Bona
      Fortuna, Mary

      "There is a moment in The Iliad when the useless devastation of war
      suddenly comes into focus, when all its associated bravery &
      implicit nobility is revealed as pointless & stands for the
      catastrophe it invariably is. The Iliad, after all, is the song of
      Ilium, or Troy, and there comes a moment when the destruction of
      Troy is inevitable, when it is clear to all concerned that Ilium has
      no future.

      That moment is the death of Hector, firstborn son of the king, at
      the hands of Achilles. Hector understands the futility of his fight
      going into the match &, at his death, his father, Priam, bemoans the
      loss of his sons, Hector most of all, & Hector's widow cries out not
      only for her dead spouse, but for the future that awaits their son
      Astyanax, of whom Homer says:

      now his life is only filled
      with misery and a pathetic path

      This moment is the focal point of "Iliad XXII", a stunning book &
      terrific translation by Lisa Jarnot, just published by Atticus/Finch
      books of Buffalo. Of all the political acts against the current
      debacle in Iraq, this is surely the most elegant. Not simply because
      of the translation nor the production values (a new level of
      excellence for Michael Cross, who is rapidly joining the legendary
      fine press printers of Buffalo, NY, alongside Kristen Gallagher &
      Kyle Schlesinger, but because of the sly way this particular passage
      points out that Homer was clear 2800 years ago about some of the
      basic dynamics of history that so clearly elude W & his neocon brain
      trust.

      "Iliad XXII" is fascinating not simply as political gesture. Lisa
      Jarnot has already demonstrated herself to be one of our most
      resourceful & talented poets. Her translation is doubly sly for the
      ways in which it calls up yet another bellicose rightwinger, one who
      in fact had more than a little interest in Homeric verse:

      So then the Trojans
      poured down through the city
      and fled there like deer
      that were brightened
      with sweat,
      and they drank
      and they cooled down
      their thirst,
      and they
      rested themselves
      in the city's embankments

      and all of the troops of Achaeans
      with their shoulders to steady their shields

      and then there was Hector
      where fate made him stay
      in front of the city
      and alone at its gate.

      The first word of this passage is almost uniformly
      translated "Thus," so that Jarnot's insertion of a word favored by
      Ezra Pound – the two final words of Canto I are So that – hardly can
      be an accident.

      Iliad XXII is not a Pound imitation. The style Jarnot adopts for the
      translation, however, falls clearly in a long line extending out
      from Pound, and which would include Charles Olson, Paul Blackburn's
      great translation of "The Poem of the Cid" – one of the all-time
      major neglectorino texts – & others whom Jarnot herself thanks in a
      brief acknowledgements note. It is true, and not that often
      acknowledged, that right at the front of the Pound- Williams-
      Zukofsky tradition & that of the Projectivist poets who followed
      most closely in that same vein, right there in the very first Canto,
      lies a version of Homer. Which may be why this literary vein, among
      all others, has stood up so well as a mode for epic translation –
      contrast Blackburn's Cid with the "bloodless mess" put forth by Bill
      Merwin. Jarnot stays close to this Pound/post-Pound tradition, tho
      she is capable of sounding positively beat, as when Athena comes to
      Hector in the guise of his younger brother:

      "Sir
      my elder brother,
      Achilles of the swift foot
      is working his bad shit on you,
      chasing you around the city of Priam
      in that sleek fast way that he has –
      but come indeed
      let's stand here
      and fend off
      his next approaching."

      So this is not a Lisa Jarnot poem, even if it is a Lisa Jarnot work.
      It is, however, a translation that is turned in more than one
      direction: at Homer, at Bush & Co., at Pound, at an entire tradition
      of writing as a mode of literary transcription, at the questions of
      bravery & fate, and of the consequences of war, that leveler of
      civilizations, destroyer of families. That's a lot to get into just
      two signatures of paper sewn into perfect-bound boards. But hardly
      anyone sets the bar for their work as high as Lisa Jarnot, and this
      is no exception."

      Ron Silliman
      http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/


      Iliad, Book XXII

      So then the Trojans
      poured down through the city
      and fled there like deer
      that were brightened
      with sweat,
      and they drank
      and they cooled down
      their thirst,
      and they
      rested themselves
      in the city's embankments

      and all of the troops of Achaeans
      pressed close to the outermost walls
      with their shoulders to steady their shields

      and then there was Hector
      where fate made him stay
      in front of the city
      and alone at its gate

      while Phoebus Apollo he turned
      to the son of Peleus and spoke:

      "O Achilles, son of Peleus
      why run here
      when you are a man
      and I am a god?
      Or can't you see yet who I am?
      Or are you just hell bent hot and crazy?
      Or doesn't it matter at all—
      the toil of Troy
      the ones you have scattered
      those who ran frightened
      into the city—
      they ran there from you
      while you ran here to me—
      but to kill me,
      that won't come—
      for I am not among the doomed,
      my fate is not to die."

      And Achilles swift-footed
      he spoke filled with anger:

      "You've screwed me, Apollo,
      you biggest headfucker of all the gods,
      you turned me here now
      from the tall city wall
      and those many men
      who could have been dusted
      before they slunk back home to Troy—
      you took all my glory
      by helping them
      without any care of your own,
      since nothing comes back to bite you—
      and I swear if I could
      I would visit you with vengeance
      if that was the force I possessed."

      So spoke he
      and he went he
      off toward the city
      thinking great thoughts
      and running
      like a race horse
      with a chariot
      that can open up
      a stretch of field
      with ease,
      and thus went Achilles
      of the swift feet
      and the strong

      and red raw knees.


      by Lisa Jarnot
      excerpt "Iliad XXII"
      Atticus /Finch Chapbooks
      http://www.atticusfinch.org/contact.htm
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