Stephanie BurtMay 17, 2021
Princeton University Press 2020
Callimachus may be the best-kept secret in all of ancient poetry. Loved and admired by later Romans and Greeks, his funny, sexy, generous, thoughtful, learned, sometimes elaborate, and always articulate lyric poems, hymns, epigrams, and short stories in verse have gone without a contemporary poetic champion, until now. In After Callimachus (Princeton UP, 2020), esteemed poet and critic Stephanie Burt’s attentive translations and inspired adaptations introduce the work, spirit, and letter of Callimachus to today’s poetry readers.
Skillfully combining intricate patterns of sound and classical precedent with the very modern concerns of sex, gender, love, death, and technology, these poems speak with a twenty-first century voice, while also opening multiple gateways to ancient worlds. This Callimachus travels the Mediterranean, pays homage to Athena and Zeus, develops erotic fixations, practices funerary commemoration, and brings fresh gifts for the cult of Artemis. This reimagined poet also visits airports, uses Tumblr and Twitter, listens to pop music, and fights contemporary patriarchy. Burt bears careful fealty to Callimachus’s whole poems, even as she builds freely from some of the hundreds of surviving fragments. Here is an ancient Greek poet made fresh for our current times. An informative foreword by classicist Mark Payne places Burt’s renderings of Callimachus in literary and historical context.
After Callimachus is at once a contribution to contemporary poetry and a new endeavor in the art of classical adaptation and translation.
Marshall Poe is the founder and editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.