Working on Ovid's extraordinary but often much-neglected exile poetry with an old second-hand Latin dictionary one stormy spring morning, Josephine Balmer noticed a school-boy's faded name inked on its fly-leaf and a date, January 1st 1900. The Word for Sorrow explores the story of this dictionary and its owner, who, as a subsequent Google search uncovered, later fought with the British yeomanry in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign of World War I, near Ovid's own Black Sea exile. Alongside versions and interpretations of Ovid's Tristia - the text the dictionary translates - soldiers' original diaries and letters from Gallipoli provide another rich vein of source material for the original poems of the volume, which also follows Balmer's own journey as she excavates these entwined narratives, underscoring how the emotional charge of the past still resonates down through the centuries. Like Chasing Catullus, Balmer's acclaimed first collection, The Word for Sorrow explores an interplay between translation and original, text and translator, past and present, giving new resonance to ancient grief. An engaging detective story in verse, the work traces the invisible lines that connect us to often surprising points in history, finding common ground in unexpected places, forging often unexpected links between past and present. From Ovid's Rome to the blood-soaked trenches of Gallipoli, its powerful and engaging poems give voice to the universal suffering of exile, war and grief, celebrating the enduring common humanity that binds us across countries and over centuries, whether we live at the beginning of the first, the twentieth or the twenty-first century.
|Publication date:||29th July 2013|
|Categories:||Poetry by individual poets,|
Josephine Balmer is a poet and translator whose books include Chasing Catullus (2004), Sappho: Poems and Fragments (1992), Classical Women Poets (1996) and Catullus: Poems of Love and Hate (2004). Her journalism has appeared in the Observer, the Independent on Sunday, the Times, the Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman, amongst others. She studied Classics at University College, London and has a Ph.D in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Sussex and Cornwall.More About Josephine Balmer