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Abstract: The persistence of ancient poetic craft in the modern world

My project is a hybrid of translation and comment.  I set out to translate Pindar’s fourth Pythian and seventh Olympian odes and to write about them in order to explore the continuity of at least some aspects of poetics from ancient to modern poets.  But I later realized that it wasn’t poetics in the broadest sense that interested me, but only those stances, strategies and many aspects of poetic craft which still survive.  My purpose is best served, then, by selecting passages that clearly illustrate this most curious aspect of poetry, which is that despite enormous cultural, historical and linguistic differences, many elements of ancient Greek poetic craft (as, I presume, of other ancient poetry in Indo-European languages) are still in use today by poets who have no knowledge of ancient poetry.  With translations and comments, I intend to spell out some of this apparently unwitting heritage.  It comes down to us across the tremendous gap between the public ceremonial and cultural function, as well as the artistic practice of the poet Pindar, on the one hand, and on the other, the sheer variety of present-day poetic practice in European languages and the absence in the latter of almost all functions except the individual, expressive one.  I have now chosen a number of passages, mostly very brief, in which Pindar comments (sings!) metapoetically about his craft and art and his purpose as a poet, and I am organizing them into a scheme of poetic craft, along with the craft elements themselves.  I have begun to translate longer passages that I will use as specimen texts.  In March during my last visit of this short-term-fellowship year, I had the good fortune to discuss with Leopoldo Iribarren some archaic ideas about poetics and poetic craft.  I was also lucky to coincide with Ryan Platte and to learn about his project on “equine poetics,” which also interests me a great deal, and bears on a different essay on poetry on which I have been working for some time.  Both of these continuing interchanges will continue to be immensely helpful to me.  I hope to complete this project by the end of the summer.

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