Matthew Arnold praised the Iliad for its 'nobility', as has everyone ever since -- but ancient critics praised it for its enargeia, its 'bright unbearable reality' (the word used when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves). To retrieve the poem's energy, Alice Oswald has stripped away its story, and her account focuses by turns on Homer's extended similes and on the brief 'biographies' of the minor war-dead, most of whom are little more than names, but each of whom lives and dies unforgettably - and unforgotten - in the copiousness of Homer's glance.
'The Iliad is an oral poem. This translation presents it as an attempt - in the aftermath of the Trojan War - to remember people's names and lives without the use of writing. I hope it will have its own coherence as a series of memories and similes laid side by side: an antiphonal account of man in his world... compatible with the spirit of oral poetry, which was never stable but always adapting itself to a new audience, as if its language, unlike written language, was still alive and kicking.'
- Alice Oswald
A glitteringly original new poem which is also a version of Homer's Iliad, from prize-winning poet Alice Oswald
Alice Oswald lives in Devon and is married with three children. Dart, her second collection, won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2002. Her third collection, Woods etc, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize 2006, and in 2009 she was awarded the Hawthornden Prize for Sleepwalk On The Severn, a poem for several voices set at night on the Severn Estuary.