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An Iliad, a stage piece based on Homer's epic poem, opens this Friday night at the La Jolla Playhouse. I offer the following as evidence of my lifelong fascination with Homer and the tale of Troy. I think I was 17 or18 when I wrote it.

"Come look, father! Oh come see all the lights! Never have I seen the like. The whole beach is bright with campfires - as bright as noon. Like the torches of our palace they flicker in the dark night. And so many! There must be more fires than stars in the sky!

"And come see all the mighty ships! They line the sand to the horizon's end. Ships from many lands, father (some even larger than ours). And such strange shapes - who knows how they crossed the sea!

"Some lie flat, almost, on the water - for speed? They must bounce like a bubble in a good breeze. Others must have fifty oars.Still others with hulls so deep they must anchor off-shore, away from the warm fires and the smell of the inner-meats (may they please the gods) roasting on great spits.

"Oh yes, and father? Come now and see the city that stole the Spartan's bride. Up there it lies, on a hill at the end of the plain. Its torches, too, burn a hole into the night. And its towers must pierce the clouds.

"Come see it, father. Let the men unload the ships and sharpen your spears! Come with me at once and see it all!"

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Twister Aug. 17, 2012 @ 2:33 p.m.

Someone said there were 26 buck seats, but I can find only 46 buck ones, the the time I want to go is almost sold out.

Have you gone to the website? Pretty clunky, pretty limited. What's going on out there? Are you going to attend and write a review? Please do. And listen to the interview by FM 88.3.

But more comment on the timelessness of the central themes of power, force, and unbridled momentum, please. Now, if you please. And the various translators and their merits; the difficulty of translation--especially of poetry.


Jeff Smith Aug. 18, 2012 @ 10:40 a.m.

Twister. I can't just now. I have a review due, and a history column due on Monday, and...and... But I will do a blog or two. And see the show if you can. I saw it last night. It's really something!


Twister Aug. 19, 2012 @ 8:50 p.m.

Was your teenage piece a translation of yours from the Greek?

Have you read Simone Weil's? MacDonald helped her?


Jeff Smith Aug. 20, 2012 @ 9:21 a.m.

T: it wasn't a translation. Just something I wrote back then that managed to survive the various demolitions of stuff I wrote back then. By Simone Weil, do you mean her "The Iliad, or The Poem of Force"? It's not a translation. It's a brilliant study of the poem, just a pamphlet, but one of the few times where criticism reads like literature. She wrote it in 1940, just after France (Troy) fell to Germany (the Greeks). I've been tempted to blog her/it. In fact, take "poem of force" and Alexander Pope's preface to his translation (one of my two favorites, the other being Robert Fagels') and that's all the intro one would need for the Iliad.

Dwight Macdonald printed "Force" in Politics (1945, the Mary McCarthy trans.). He helped in that sense.

Listen to Weil: "Soon, however, he grasps the fact that the weapon which is pointing at him will not be diverted; and now, still breathing, he is simply matter; still thinking, he can think no longer."


Twister Aug. 23, 2012 @ 3:58 p.m.

JS: You're quite right, but I wondered whether or not she was reading the Greek or a translation. I have the pamphlet.

Thanks for straightening me out on the translators. Sorry, my brain is crumbling, but I will mention again Edna St. Vincent Millay's essay on translation in the introduction to her and George Dillon's translation of "Flowers of Evil." I'll have to look up those by Pope and Fagel.

Most of my early work was stolen from a garage I rented for storage when I went into the military. I have recently uncovered, quite by accident, some more recent, but still old writings of my own. It appears that not only have I not improved, I have declined.

Let us hear more of your "youthful" work . . .


Jeff Smith Aug. 24, 2012 @ 10:27 a.m.

T: I read what's left of my early stuff and say "he was so YOUNG." I recognize the guy, and appreciate that he wasn't trying to imitate other writers, even at ground zero. But as the poet sayeth, "but I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now."


Twister Aug. 25, 2012 @ 9:46 p.m.

"Aye, laddie--and dinna forget, 'tis frriction's brisk, rough rub, 'at pr'vides the vital spark!"


Jeff Smith Aug. 26, 2012 @ 10:03 a.m.

I like that. Someone asked theater director Anne Bogart if she chose plays for their political content. She said no. She chose the ones with the most "friction."


Twister Aug. 28, 2012 @ 5:28 p.m.

I fear I have committed the worst kind of plagiarism, neglecting to credit to Alexander Reid Martin from whom I not only stole it, but mutilated it too.

I hope Martin will forgive me.


Jeff Smith Aug. 29, 2012 @ 10:02 a.m.

AW T - man it hurts to hear that. Isn't there some penance, some act of expiation you could do? Wait. Got it. Read Weil's pamphlet. With all your heart. Then pass it on. And hey, if that doesn't absolve you, the world's even harsher than she imagined!


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