For Anacreon by Terence Kuch (30 poems, Silkworms Ink)
Resuscitating the Greeks and/or Romans is a proven method for poets wanting to give their Muse a workout (or some time off). The exercise works best when the poet tries to popularize a translation or reworking – that is, when the poet mines the inherently poetic rather than the stodgily academic. Ted Hughes’ work on Tales From Ovid is a good example of how to bring the classics, if not exactly into the street, at least into the living room.
Such is it with Terence Kuch and his take on Anacreon, the Greek poet famous for a Muse more interested in celebrating lust and drink than soldierly heroics and empire-expansion. Kuch doesn’t translate the work of the Greek so much as reimagine the ancient oeuvre in a modern context. For Anacreon, he indicates, is to be part of the “long tradition, known as the ‘Anacreontea,’ of poem-making in imitation of Anacreon, or expanding on some fragments of his life and work”. And since Anacreon’s work focused on baser things, Kuch doesn’t have much inherent classical pretension to shave off.
The 30 brief poems that make up this chapbook (or, more accurately, a dedicated online page from the Silkworms Ink site rather than a chapbook proper) are mostly concerned with sex, love, drink and song. While his own ‘versions’ are not particularly musical, Kuch achieves a (mostly) celebratory emphasis by presenting very loose verse – almost haiku or tanka-like lines that give the work a very spontaneous feel.
Kuch’s subject matter spans the ages. He writes deft classical allusions (“No one has sung/to Eros/(Plato said so himself)/till I did”), employs decidedly modern scenarios (“Your wife thinks/you’re at the office”) and a few timeless reflections on art itself, such as his study of a painter whose work concentrates on
“…one moment only,
a time so
it never was.”
For Anacreon may be a brief “essay”, but it is one that successfully translates the poetic spirit of its inspiration into something much more than simple literary exhumation.
Have a read at: http://www.silkwormsink.com