October 2, 2014, by Richard Rawles

Happy Classical National Poetry Day!

In great haste…

I spotted this morning, while procrastinating, that today is National Poetry Day!

This clearly needed to be marked, and I’m just back from some rapid poetry-bombing of the Humanities Building.

I felt that what was needed was some poetry in English (I wanted it to speak too everybody in the building) that had clear Classical interest, but was easily consumable by a poster (not something you need to take off the wall to read very slowly at a desk — more like a kind of ‘Poetry on the Underground’ thing…). But I didn’t have much time: I have teaching to prepare for this afternoon.

So for one poster I chose Ezra Pound’s poem ‘Papyrus‘, which is something a bit like (and a bit unlike) a translation of a Sappho papyrus fragment.

Third year classicist and poetry fan Jo Kelen inspects Pound's 'Papyrus'.

Third year classicist and poetry fan Jo Kelen inspects Pound’s ‘Papyrus’.


And my second choice, from very nearly a century later, was the death of Sarpedon, from Alice Oswald’s brilliant Iliadic re-imagining ‘Memorial‘.


from Alice Oswald's 'Memorial' (London: Faber & Faber, 2011)

from Alice Oswald’s ‘Memorial’ (London: Faber & Faber, 2011)


But as I say, I chose very hastily. Suggestions of alternative poems or excerpts to fit the criteria suggested above are very welcome in the comments!

Happy National Poetry Day!




Featured image: Sarpedon’s body carried by Hypnos and Thanatos (Sleep and Death), while Hermes watches. Side A of the so-called “Euphronios krater”, Attic red-figured calyx-krater signed by Euxitheos (potter) and Euphronios (painter), ca. 515 BC. H. 45.7 cm (18 in.); D. 55.1 cm (21 11/16 in.). Formerly in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (L.2006.10); Returned to Italy and exhibited in Rome as of January, 2008. Photo by Jaime Ardiles-Arce. Source: Wikimedia commons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Euphronios_krater_side_A_MET_L.2006.10.jpg accessed 23.01.2014

Posted in AnniversariesGreek mythGreek poetryHomerSappho