To Homer


To Homer

You sang of Achilles
with wingéd words,
which makes me suspect
you knew the sounds of anger
as well as birds.

You sang of the wine dark sea
before many-benched ships,
which makes me feel your lips,
dried out upon long lines,
pining for the tang
of retsina.

You sang of a hero
who, calling himself “nobody”,
seared the Cyclops’ eye,
the giant then crying that he’d been blinded
by nobody–
which makes me sigh
at your sense of humor–

but also makes me sure–
that “man of resource” forced
to wander ten long years
that even the grey-eyed goddess could not
steer him through,
not with her night-sharp owl–
that, yes, you knew a thing
or two
about anger.


Here’s a draft and possibly cheating poem for Brian Miller’s challenge to write like a “blind poet” on dVerse Poets Pub.  

Process Notes–Homer, the allegedly blind alleged poet of the great Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, wrote of Achilles, the angry hero, of the Iliad.  In the Odyssey, Odysseus, that “man of resource”, blinds Polyphemus, the Cyclops son of Poseidon, the God of the Sea, with a sharpened heated log, then is essentially punished by Poseidon and made to wander years before reaching home, while Athena, the grey-eyed goddess devoted to Odysseus, watches, unable to save him from this fate. 

Retsina is Greek wine, which is, I believe, aged in pine barrels and has a taste of pine resin. Some scholars now say that ancient greek did not have a separate word for blue and that the wine-dark sea should be translated wine-blue sea, and even that there may have been something alkaline in the water that made ancient greek wine blue.  Everyone seems to still like that phrase though–wine-dark sea–which is used many many times in Homeric texts.  I was reminded of it in a recent poem by Joy Ann Jones, Hedgewitch.

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21 Comments on “To Homer”

  1. claudia Says:

    the sound of anger… cool… the wine dark sea… thanks for the footnotes as well…need to re-read some of the greek masters…used to love them when i was a teen but have forgotten so much..

  2. Polly Says:

    I like this very much k. Esp the first two lines 🙂

  3. Brian Miller Says:

    how interesting…if i knew that of homer, i had forgotten it…intriguing to have built such a story is he was blind…and what was it he pulled from….what he knew…maybe anger for sure…and the sensations of his world that he did….

  4. Steve King Says:

    How apropos to use Homer for this prompt, and Polyphemus. You’re certainly on to the fact that Homer knew a thing or two about rage (and about everything else, too). I enjoy the way you use the familiar stock phrases to bring back a sense of both narratives in just a few words. A great choice.
    Steve K.

  5. Beautifully crafted poem and great subject choice and pic. The worst hangover I have ever had in my life was from drinking Retsina
    (my one and only time:)

  6. Ella Says:

    I love how you crafted yours! I love the narrative in your storm~

  7. hedgewitch Says:

    This is lyric as well as epic, k. I love that second stanza–and the cyclops tale has always been one of my favorites, it encouraged me as a child with its logical simplicity–and the lesson of how someone smart can so easily win in a contest with blind stupidity. Thanks for the process notes about retsina, which make me love that descriptive phrase even more. (thanks for the shout-out to my much simpler and clumsier poem, as well.)

  8. Glenn Buttkus Says:

    Enjoyed the excursion into Mythos. Interesting that for Brian, this time, we all became blind poets, so your piece speaks to us all.

  9. Wow – great. And great answer to the prompt. You address him on several levels – as a man of his time, as a man of our time, and a great poet of all time – which is right. It is that familiarity which bowled me over because you took me into a certain place with you as though he had been waiting for us to come and discuss his poetry all along.

  10. Brendan Says:

    What an odyssey for the man blinded by his anger. For me, “illiad” is that purple text and “Odyssey” how we somehow get home from it. What does it mean to string a lute with one’s furies? Drag a Hector, sack a Troy, murder a bunch of suitors, hmm … what kind of homecoming could there be? Excellent take …

  11. This has a real classic feel… when you write to an audience of the ancient myths … i really like that.. and yes thinking into the blind poet… Himer trying to understand how he captured his lyrics..

  12. lynndiane Says:

    I think this fits the “blind poet” prompt perfectly…thanks for sharing those “epic” details too!!

  13. This is a lovely poem, you have captured the blind poet so well. Using such an old story is very clever indeed. Well done.

  14. shanyns Says:

    Totally cool. So well done! Love how you wove in heroes of old into your piece.

  15. lucychili Says:

    really evocative, you bring him to life, conversations with gnarly minds you would like to meet

  16. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    This is a wonderful poem!

    Alas, when I finally came to read Homer (the Pope translation) I didn’t like him enough to finish. Just another boys’ yarn about battles and things, I thought. And it was my men friends who lit up to see me reading it, exclaiming, ‘Oh, isn’t it wonderful stuff!’ and taking it out of my hands to re-read a few passages. (Even the pacifists.)

    Well, he didn’t grab me, but your poem makes him sound worth bothering about … and yes, I guess he did know a thing or two about anger.

  17. I especially like the measured beauty of the first two stanzas – puts me in mind of the great tribute to Homer by Steely Dan, “Home at Last”.

  18. Evocative and rhythmical. Beautiful.

    Greetings from London.

  19. Abhra Pal Says:

    Very well done Karin – sorry that I am reading your poem so late. Even I thought about a similar idea when I first came to know about Brian’s theme.

    I haven’t ready Odyssey – but Iliad has been a favorite. How could a blind poet write so much – I have always wondered. Your poem takes me back to those feelings perfectly.

  20. Akila Says:

    i think without the sight the senses act much better in terms of assimilating our surroundings. but then, if only it could be so easy esp pretending to be one!

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