1. Exquisite Tweets from @EmilyRCWilson

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    For #worldpoetryday: the oral-poets of the Odyssey. Phemius on Ithaca, and Demodocus on Scheria. They tell of an interestingly narrow array of poetry topics: arguing, fighting, troubled home-comings, and divine adultery.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    First song: Phemius, Book 1:
    .... sang how
    Athena cursed the journey of the Greeks
    as they were sailing home from Troy.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Penelope begs Phemius to sing something else:
    "Stop,
    please, Phemius! You know so many songs,
    enchanting tales of things that gods and men
    have done, the deeds that singers publicize...
    Stop this upsetting song that always breaks
    my heart, so I can hardly bear my grief".

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    But Telemachus roughly contradicts her:
    "You must not criticize the loyal bard
    for singing as it pleases him to sing.
    Poets are not to blame for how things are...
    The newest song is always praised the most.
    So steel your heart to listen to this song."

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Demodocos in Scheria, bard of the Phaeacians, sings 3 songs. The first is like an alternative-Iliad:

    "An episode whose fame has touched the sky:
    Achilles' and Odysseus' quarrel."

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    2nd is about cheating & craft & performance -- the ultimate poetic subjects?

    "The poet strummed and sang a charming song
    about the love of fair-crowned Aphrodite
    for Ares, who gave lavish gifts to her.."

    Her husband traps the lovers in his web -- and then they go free.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    3rd, song of the Wooden Horse:

    "He sang how the Achaeans
    poured from the horse, in ambush from the hollow,
    and sacked the city; how they scattered out,
    destroying every neighborhood."

    A song of triumph which is also a song of agony and pain.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Poets are important in this poem. They sing about adultery, but they also try to prevent it. Agamemnon assigns a poet as a chaperon for his wife, which seems to work out well for a little while:

    "When her husband went to Troy
    he left a poet, ordered to protect her."

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Demodocus is a blind poet, blessed and cursed by the Muse:

    "She took his sight away, but gave sweet song".

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Only 2 household members who have served the suitors are spared from slaughter. One is the slave Medon. The other is the poet, save by his art:

    "I beg you, Lord Odysseus! Have mercy!
    Think! If you kill me now, you will be sorry!
    I have the power to sing for gods and men!"

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    The Homeric moral: read, write and listen to more poetry. It connects you to the real and imagined past. It helps you see different points of view. It can be upsetting. It can be enchanting or honeysweet. One day, it might save your marriage, or your life.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson