POETRY

After Callimachus: Poems

Princeton Univ. Apr. 2020. 160p. ISBN 9780691180199. $24.95.
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Although little is known today except through fragments of his work, the Greek writer Callimachus (about 300 BCE) was considered a master poet and innovator who often reinvented the past by putting himself and his contemporary circumstances into poems (something frowned on at the time). Burt (Close Calls with Nonsense) reinvents Callimachus’s poems through cuts, expanded metaphors, new metaphors, and the addition of her personal and contemporary circumstances. A poet, critic, Harvard professor, and trans activist, Burt is something of a shape-shifter, as are the poems in this collection. In an “Imitator’s Note,” she says she wants to create a new Callimachus, “one who feels close to the Greek original and like a fresh, coherent, wise, entertaining, and…humorous poet.” These poems are mostly short epigrams with a few hymns to the gods—the longest (and weakest) poem being a hymn to Artemis, the girl god. Another poem comments on losing a friend’s laptop and turns into a hymn thanking Hermes for finding it although it took a long time.
VERDICT According to this collection’s foreword, Callimachus never found his ideal translator

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