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This was the first collection I put together in the Autumn of 1998, drawing on things I’d written since about 1985. It’s in two sections Muthos and Logos – muthos is ‘anything delivered by word of mouth’, hence it refers to narratives: ‘myths’ are narrative accounts that form the basic belief systems of cultures. They are ‘what we believe’ in story form. Logos is the expression of thought, design or purpose. From it we derive ‘logic’, logo’, ‘logistics’, etc. In a manner of speaking, logos prescribes while muthos describes.
Right. That’s clear then.
Muthos: Spring Light, Past Midnight, Sisters of Mercy, Antigone, Involute, Monster Poem and Mary Magdalene.
Logos: Alchemy, Loss, Light, Voyager, Moses and Carpenter.
I think you can work the rest out.
… oh, go on then. The highlights:
Past Midnight: The quotation is Sappho’s best (only) known surviving poem. It’s in a rare dialect of Greek called Aolian and was written in about 640BC. The italicised bit translates the Greek. The rest of the poem is basically a vamp on the theme.
Antigone at Colonus refers to Sophokles’ last play Oidipous epi Kolonoi , produced posthumously in 401BC at Athens. The play is about redemption and ties up some of the loose ends left by Oidipous Tyrannos twenty years previously. The poem roughly comments on an incident in the play in the voice of Antigone.
Monster Poem: first of two poems that refer to the Anglo Saxon poem Beowulf. The hero, Beowulf kills a monster, Grendel, with his bare hands (or ‘bear’ hands). The language used to describe Beowulf and Grendel is rather similar, leading to their co-identification in the poem.
Mary Magdalene on Friday Night is based on a translation of part of Euripides’ play Alkestis.
Light – Beowulf again. ‘Light gleamed, brightness shone within, just as the world’s candle shines out of heaven.’ Beowulf is a Christian poem: here, as the hero slays the monster in a deep underground cavern, bright light shines in and dispels the darkness.
Voyager – about the Voyager II spacecraft compared with the ‘yuppie’ culture on the late ‘80s and the lack of real relationship this fostered.
Carpenter – based on a window in Kings College, Cambridge, which is also the picture on the cover.