Celebrate National Poetry Month with an Epic, Stunning New Translation of The Odyssey

Some of the most important works of world literature are epic poems from antiquity, so what would National Poetry Month be without a little Homer? Just published, this swift and vivid new translation from Peter Green—one of the most prolific scholars of the ancient world—captures The Odyssey in all of its epic glory. With its lyrical mastery and superb command of Greek, Green’s translation is the ideal way to experience and enjoy Homer’s classic tale with all of the verve and pathos of the original oral tradition. Together with Green’s acclaimed translation of The Iliad, this is a landmark, stunning edition for a new generation of readers.

Celebrated for centuries, Homer’s long, heroic verse has endured over time, but why do his works continue to captivate modern audiences? From the introduction to The Odyssey, Peter Green explains:

Filial and marital devotion, status-conscious pride and arrogance, ancient long-windedness, obstinacy and recklessness, passion and despair. It is the universalism captured by this extraordinary epic poem, in a very different way from that achieved by the Iliad, that gives it its remarkable staying-power; but the enjoyment it generates comes in great measure from the unexpectedly modern impression it so often achieves. At a distance of nearly three millennia, and despite its preternatural trimmings, this world, and its occupants, present, much of the time, what seems a recognizable familiarity. The problems, mutatis mutandis, are often ours. The reactions are recognizable. The unbridgeable otherness of the ancient world is somehow less of a stumbling-block here than in many later and more sophisticated works that should, on the face of it, be less alien and thus more easily appreciable. And in following the twists of the story we skim blithely over most of those errors and inconsistencies—some of them described above— that so bedevil the translator and commentator. Any person in search of a compelling and enjoyable narrative is amply rewarded by the Odyssey: like Homer’s ancient audience, and the jury of the legal joke, he or she will probably only hear or read it once; and those who return to it, often again and again, will have had their impression of it formed, indelibly—experto credite—by that first unforgettable exposure.

One last word. It will be noticed that I have made virtually no attempt to dictate the literary terms in which anyone new to the Odyssey should seek to appreciate it as a poem. This is partly because, just as no two historians can fully agree on the poem’s genesis, so no two critics are in complete concordance when delineating its literary qualities. But first and foremost it is because a lifetime devoted to teaching of one sort or another has shown me that initial impressions are crucial, and that if these are imposed externally, they can never be shaken off. First-time readers of the Odyssey should be allowed to establish their own personal impression of it before listening to the competing chorus of professionals, who are all too ready to shape their opinions for them. My bibliography offers a way in to this noisy marketplace. Take my advice and don’t consult it until you’ve familiarized yourself with the great poem itself, preferably on more than one reading, and have established your own personal attitude to it. You won’t be sorry. If the experience leads you to learn Greek and tackle the original, so much the better. Good luck, and enjoy.

There you have it. Survival, heroism, temptation, betrayal, and vengeance. The ingredients for an epic that stands the test of time. Get a true feel for the Homeric language and read Book One for free today.

Save 30% on The Odyssey,The Iliad, or both all month long when you enter code 17W1863 at checkout. 

Happy National Poetry Month!


The Language of the Snakes: Discovering a Language for Poetry in Ancient India

This guest post is published around the Association for Asian Studies conference in Washington D.C., occurring March 22-25, 2018. #AAS2018

In the eighteenth-century, the scholar Mirza Khan observed that India had many languages, but as far as languages in which literature was composed, there were only three: Sanskrit, the “language of the gods”; the vernacular, the “language of men”; and Prakrit, the “language of the snakes” (nāgabānī) who lived below the earth. Sanskrit was, still in the eighteenth century, the one of the main languages of literary expression and intellectual pursuits. The vernacular languages—closely related to the modern languages of India, such as Hindi—were quickly gaining ground. But what was Prakrit, this third thing? Where do we place it in relation to Sanskrit and the vernacular?

Sanskrit and Prakrit, like other languages, are both natural phenomena and cultural practices, and Language of the Snakes offers a history of Prakrit as a cultural practice. And precisely because of its status as a “third thing,” Prakrit’s history offers a unique perspective onto the dramatic changes in the ways that language in general was thought about, represented, and used—what I call the “language order” of a culture.

That history begins about seventeen centuries before Mirza Khan. At the turn of the common era, a new kind of literature was appearing all over India. This “art-literature,” called kāvyam in Sanskrit and kavvaṁ in Prakrit, was composed in both languages. They were in competition with each other, but the competition was never very serious. Sanskrit was already well-established as a language of ritual and its associated systems of thought, whereas Prakrit was new, and cultivated mainly in the Deccan plateau, in what is now the state of Maharashtra. What’s more, Sanskrit and Prakrit were closely related, like Italian and French. Composing in one rather than another was more of a matter of aesthetic choice than anything else. Within the rapidly-spreading discourse of “art-literature,” Prakrit authors staked out the genre of lyric poetry, and especially the short, suggestive, and erotic verse that is collected in an early anthology called Seven Centuries. One of its verses reads:

tassa a sōhaggaguṇaṁ amahilasarisaṁ ca sāhasaṁ majjha

jāṇaï gōlāūrō vāsārattaddharattō a

What he was lucky enough to enjoy,

and what daring risks I took,

which no woman should take—

the floodwaters of the Gōdāvarī river know,

and the small hours of monsoon nights.

In such verses, a new aesthetic sensibility found expression in a new literary language. Both were destined to become enormously popular, and form part of a cultural package that spread throughout much of Southern Asia. After roughly a millennium, Prakrit literature was not only studied from Kashmir to Kerala; it was a central component of “the literary” itself. During this period it was considered identical to Sanskrit on some level, and at the same time, completely opposed to it. The complementarity of Sanskrit and Prakrit was deeply embedded in representations of language in India, the most enduring among them being the threefold schema to which Mirza Khan referred. This meant that to think about language meant to think about the sets of oppositions that Sanskrit and Prakrit offered, and to use language, in a literary text at least, meant to choose either Sanskrit or Prakrit.


Andrew Ollett works on the literary and intellectual traditions of premodern India.

Language of the Snakes is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy.

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Journals for 19th-Century Americanists

In honor of this week’s C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists conference, we are making a selection of content from Representations and Nineteenth-Century Literature available for free for a limited time. We hope that this content will generate thought-provoking discussions and encourage you to tag comments on social media with the C19 conference hashtag  and with C19’s recommendation hashtag  


Representations invites you read its special issue on Fallacies for free online. If you are in Albuquerque at the conference, please swing by the Scholar’s Choice booth to take a look at the issue in person.

It is hard not to see that we are living in in an especially fallacious age. Fallacies appeal to our emotions, to our respect for authority, and to our faith in numbers. A president will be blamed for an economic downturn that precedes him or credited for job growth that is inconsequent to his acts. As mistakes of logic, fallacies are not lies and not exactly nonsense either, but things that, not being valid, “are susceptible of being mistaken” for valid.

In Representations’s special issue on Fallacies, eleven scholars take up a variety of ways in which, in our disciplines and critical practices, truth appears. In explaining a few of the well-known fallacies and naming others, the essays are all concerned with ways of reading that bring ideas and experiences to a subject that are not germane to the subject. They ask us to look, as I. A. Richards does, at “instances of irrelevance” in thinking, at what fits and doesn’t fit or is there by accident. They raise our awareness of those “inadequate” revelations that W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, in their famous essay on the intentional fallacy, tried to arm us against and exclude from critical judgment “like lumps from pudding and ‘bugs’ from machinery.”

To return to the question of fallacies in the twenty-first century is to ask what is most material to our arguments if we want them to be practical and satisfying and if, in Beardsley’s words, “we wish to get out of them what is most worth getting.”

These essays offer just such a reward.

If you are not doing so already, we encourage you to subscribe to Representations and/or recommend the journal to your institution’s librarian, and please follow the journal on Twitter at @rep_journal.


Nineteenth-Century Literature is pleased to offer you a selection of recently published articles on nineteenth-century American literature for you to read for free for a limited time.


Herstory: Women’s Histories, Memoirs, and Biographies

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the largest single day protest in US history—the Women’s March—when on January 21, 2017, 4.2 million people marched across the US in more than 600 US cities, and from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, at least 261 more sister marches cropped up worldwide. To celebrate this pivotal protest, UC Press is highlighting titles across subjects as part of our Herstory series, with today’s focus on Women’s Histories, Memoirs, and Biographies recognizing the lives of incredible visionaries and rabble-rousers who shaped history. While just a preview of our publishing “herstory,” these titles will engage your intellect and inspire your activism today, tomorrow, and for future tomorrows.


Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles (Forthcoming June 2018; preorder today)
By Imaobong D. Umoren

Race Women Internationalists explores how a group of Caribbean and African American women in the early and mid-twentieth century traveled the world to fight colonialism, fascism, sexism, and racism. Bringing together the entangled lives of three notable but overlooked women: Eslanda Robeson, Paulette Nardal, and Una Marson, it explores how, between the 1920s and the 1960s, the trio participated in global freedom struggles by traveling; building networks in feminist, student, black-led, anticolonial, and antifascist organizations; and forging alliances with key leaders to challenge various forms of inequality facing people of African descent across the diaspora and the continent.

Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song
By Ronnie Gilbert

Ronnie Gilbert was an American folk singer, songwriter, actress and political activist whose lifelong work for political and social change was central to her role as a performer. Best known as a member of the Weavers, the quartet of the 1950s and ’60s that survived the Cold War blacklist and helped popularize folk music in America, Gilbert continued to tour, play music, and protest well into her 70s and 80s. Covering sixty years of her remarkable life, her memoir is an engaging historical document for readers interested in music, theater, American politics, the women’s movement, and left-wing activism.

 

Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left
By Emily K. Hobson

A primer for social justice activists today, Lavender and Red tells the political and intellectual history of the lesbian feminist and gay liberation movements that linked sexual liberation to radical solidarity against imperialism, war, and racism. With archival research, oral histories, and vibrant images, Emily K. Hobson intertwines the history of political struggles of the 1970s through the 1990s.

 

 

My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize
By Jody Williams  

Jody Williams is an American political activist known for her work toward the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines—for which she became the tenth woman and third American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She’s also well-known for her defense of human rights, especially women’s rights, and in 2006, she helped to launch the Nobel Women’s Initiative to spotlight and promote efforts of women’s rights activists, researchers and organizations working to advance peace, justice and equality for women. Her memoir offers a candid look at her lifelong dedication to global activism.

 

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
By Grace Lee Boggs & Scott Kurashige 

“Activism can be the journey rather than the arrival.”—Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs was a lifelong revolutionary, a legendary figure in the struggle for justice in America. The Next American Revolution is a powerful retrospective to Boggs’s participation in some of the greatest struggles of the last century, from anti-capitalist labor movements of the 1940s and 1950s to the Black Power Movement to contemporary urban environmental activism. It is a manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction that will collectively constitute the next American Revolution.

 

Finding Women in the State: A Socialist Feminist Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1964
By Zheng Wang

These socialist state feminists—who maneuvered behind the scenes of the Chinese Communist Party—worked to advance gender and class equality in the early People’s Republic of China and fought to transform sexist norms and practices, all while facing fierce opposition from a male-dominated CCP leadership. Illuminating not only the different visions of revolutionary transformation but also the causes for failure of China’s socialist revolution, Finding Women in the State raises fundamental questions about male dominance in social movements that aim to pursue social justice and equality.

 

A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov
By Donna Hollenberg

Denise Levertov was a poet, essayist, and political activist whose work focused on social and political issues. She was outspoken in her opposition to the Vietnam War, and helped form the Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam. Additionally, she worked as a poetry editor for The Nation in the ’60s and for Mother Jones in the ’70s, and in 1963, she received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. This authoritative biography captures the complexity of Levertov as both woman an artist, and the dynamic world she inhabited.

 

 


Best of the Blog 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we’ve compiled ten blog posts that resonated most with our readers over the past year. Popular blog themes closely mirrored current events, and the state of global political realities — immigration, inequality, fascism, and environmental issues; additionally, readers were taken by posts on critical thinking, “slow” cinema, indigenous and world poetry, and the secrets unearthed from an ancient metropolis.

Have a happy new year, and see you in 2018, the 125th year of UC Press’s founding!

Immigration historians from across the United States launched the website #ImmigrationSyllabus to help the public understand the historical roots of today’s immigration debates, inspiring us to follow suit with a list of UC Press suggestions to provide further context to the ongoing conversation. View the Immigration Syllabus: UC Press Edition.

Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore’s A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things focuses on seven areas that are the foundation of modern commerce: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. In this excerpt, find out how the cheapening of care has made the world safe for capitalism: #7CheapThings: Cheap Care

In Trump’s Transgender Crisis, Jack Halberstam, author of Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability, responds to Donald Trump’s tweeted policy change banning trans soldiers from the military to ask: at a time when the visibility and acceptance of transgender people has never been higher, why this ban, why now?

In today’s fast-paced political news cycle, terms like “fascism” and “populism” are often used, but not always clearly defined. This excerpt from Federico Finchelstein’s From Fascism to Populism in History, explores the origins of these ideologies, their significance, and the important distinctions between them: Fascism or Populism? Playing the “Democratic Game”

One of the earliest, largest, and most important cities in the ancient Americas, Teotihuacan is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited archaeological site in Mexico. Take a Look at Teotihuacan to see some of the rare and awe-inspiring artifacts featured in the exhibition and accompanying catalogue Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire.

 

Fifty years since its original publication, Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred continues to inspire and educate readers with its ability to expand the possibilities of poetry throughout the world. Rothenberg recently visited the UC Press offices to discuss the book’s enduring power and read from the 50th anniversary edition.

 

 

Peter M. Nardi, sociologist and author of Critical Thinking: Tools for Evaluating Research, addressed the importance of looking beyond the “two-sides-of-the-coin” perspective when responding to complex issues in his post False Balance, Binary Discourse, and Critical Thinking.

Releasing in May 2018, Paul Schrader’s seminal text Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer will be reissued with a substantial new introduction representing his experiences and ideas as a filmmaker that have evolved over time, giving the original work both new clarity and a contemporary lens. Hear Schrader discuss some of the techniques and attitudes of slow films in Transcendental Style in Film Revisited.

During the 2017 International Open Access Week, we interviewed Interim Director Erich van Rijn to survey the landscape of OA publishing at UC Press, discussing the progress and future of Luminos (our OA monograph program), and Collabra: Psychology and Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene (our two OA journals).

What is a case study, and how can case studies positively impact critical thinking and knowledge acquisition, as well as inform research in academia and training in professional practice? In the post The Case for Case StudiesCase Studies in the Environment Editor-in-Chief Wil Burns explains what case studies are, and how they can provide an important bridge to understanding important environmental issues.


The Enduring Power of Technicians of the Sacred, Fifty Years Later

Jerome Rothenberg at UC Press, seated beside his collections: “Technicians of the Sacred” and “Symposium of the Whole.”

Jerome Rothenberg changed the course of poetics with the opening statement to his landmark anthology, Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries From Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania: “Primitive means complex.”

Fifty years later, Technicians of the Sacred endures, inspiring and educating readers with its ability to expand the possibilities of poetry throughout the world. In the preface to the new 50th Anniversary Edition, Rothenberg situates the book in the present and affirms poetry’s power in making sense of our shared humanity in especially fraught times:

We have witnessed an upsurge of new nationalisms & racisms, directed most often against the diversity of mind & spirit of which the earlier Technicians was so clearly a part. To confront this implicit, sometimes rampant ethnic cleansing, even genocide, there is the need for a kind of omnipoetics that tests the range of our threatened humanities wherever found & looks toward an ever greater assemblage of words & thoughts as a singular buttress against those forces that would divide & diminish us.

Jerome Rothenberg with Nick Cave.

Many readers—among them, notable poets, musicians, and artists—have been profoundly influenced by Technicians of the Sacred, including the musician Nick Cave, who says, “No one taught me more about poetry than Jerome Rothenberg. Technicians of the Sacred is the greatest anthology of poetry ever created, ‘primitive’ or otherwise.” While the poet Anne Waldman says: “Technicians of the Sacred is a seminal world wisdom text, a vibrating compendium of poetry and exegesis that reanimates poetry’s efficacy in the world. More radically timely than ever in a tormented era of xenophobia, racism, post-truth, and psychic crisis when words are abased. This is a spiritual book; a book to survive with.” Poet and environmentalist Homero Aridjis says it is “a unique, groundbreaking and essential guide to humankind’s spiritual relationship with Earth and the divine,” while Michael McClure says it as only Michael McClure can: “Jerome Rothenberg is a DNA spaceman exploring the mammal caves of Now.”

Eddie Vedder with the 50th anniversary edition of “Technicians of the Sacred.”

Other artists who have found inspiration in the book include Eddie Vedder (pictured here with a zydeco washboard vest that Rothenberg gave him) and the late singer and bibliophile Warren Zevon. Zevon’s extensive library rests in the care of his ex-wife, Crystal Zevon, who says: “When Warren moved in with me in 1971, Technicians of the Sacred was the only book he brought with him. Our early relationship is indelibly marked by Warren reading to me from that book, and it continued as a favorite pastime in years that followed.”

UC Press staff were lucky to have Rothenberg (along with wife and co-editor of the 2016 collection Symposium of the Whole, Diane) visit our offices recently for a fascinating presentation on his background, his coining of “ethnopoetics,” and the publishing history of Technicians of the Sacred. He followed with a wonderful reading of a few selections from the 50th anniversary edition, including “Essie Parrish in New York.” The poem appears in a new section called “Survivals and Revivals” in which Rothenberg explores the resurgence of indigenous poetry. Rothenberg explained that Essie Parrish was a healer from the Kashaya Pomo tribe, and as she spoke in 1972 at the New School in New York, poet George Quasha transcribed her narrative of a dream-vision. Watch the video below:

Celebrate the 50th anniversary edition with 30% off. Enter promo code 17M6662 at checkout.

 


Representational Power of International Criminal Courts

This post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

Joachim Savelsberg recently spoke at a symposium on power in international criminal justice. The event, held in Florence, Italy, and organized by the Centre for International Law Research and Policy and the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, included judges from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as well as representatives from the United Nations and NGO experts.

Savelsberg argued that international human rights courts hold substantial representational power, defined as the probability to impress on a global public, even against resistance and competing narratives, an understanding of mass violence as a form of criminal violence. The argument is urgent as international criminal justice institutions are under fire from many sides. Most recently, Burundi was the first country to withdraw from the Rome Statute on which the ICC is based. Savelsberg presented empirical evidence from Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur to support his argument.

His analyses of the Darfur case show that international criminal justice institutions and their supporters in civil society are engaged in struggles with competing forces. The latter include diplomats who privilege representations that open up spaces for mediation and negotiation, and humanitarian aid organizations advancing narratives that allow for collaboration with the perpetrator state in the interest of the delivery of humanitarian aid. Yet, international criminal justice representations dominate in media reporting in all eight countries under investigation. They prevail over frames of the violence as armed conflict or as a humanitarian emergency, especially after the onset of institutional intervention. Sources of this dominance likely include control over rituals, access to channels of communication, and legitimacy based on procedure.

The representative power of human rights courts faces constraints, however, that color their message. They include the court’s focus on the role of individual actors (at the neglect of structural forces); limiting evidentiary rules; neglect of historical context; and a simplifying binary logic of guilty versus not guilty. They further include the need to satisfy institutions and states that exert power by controlling funding and the statutory basis of the court. The ICC also needs to be on good terms with permanent members of the UN Security Council on which it partially depends for the referral of cases and for enforcement action. The result of such tension is a treacherous journey between Scylla of formal-rational justice and Charybdis of practical concerns in the highly politicized environment of international relations. Finally, international criminal justice depends on the diffusion of its representations through mass media that follow their own rules of the game. Some of these rules induce selectivity.

Despite such constraints, theoretical arguments suggest, and Savelsberg’s analysis documents, substantial representational power of international criminal courts. Will this power advance a reduction of international human rights crimes, long-term pacification in the realm of international relations? When powerful leaders with responsibility for mass violence are repeatedly represented as criminal perpetrators, international criminal justice may then become imbued with symbolic power. A resulting broad-based understanding of such leaders as criminal perpetrators could quite possibly contribute toward a diminished role of naked violence in the international realm. Yet, the jury is still out, as they say—and that jury includes those engaged in continued scholarship.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

During the ASC conference on Thursday, November 16, see Joachim discuss the Punitive Term and the Justice Cascade. And see Joachim’s previous work on genocide from Armenia to Darfur, the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and the cultural consequences of international criminal justice intervention.


Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur by Joachim J. Savelsberg is available as a free Luminos Open Access e-book as a free download.


A History of Cookbooks: Recipes in Verse

excerpted from A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries by Henry Notaker

This October we are celebrating National Cookbook Month by exploring the history of the cookbook genre. Check back each Wednesday for a new excerpt from Henry Notaker’s work.

A History of Cookbooks coverDidactic works in verse go back to Hesiod’s Works and Days, written around 700 BCE, and are found in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Several versions of Regimen sanitatis were circulated in verse starting in the thirteenth century, many of them written in a Latin close to the vernacular Italian. In England, there were John Russel’s treatise on household duties, The Boke of Nurture (ca. 1460), and Thomas Tusser’s A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry (1557). According to the German scholar Bernhard Dietrich Haage, the bound form is used in practical literature as a mnemonic aid, but it might also have been used to give material an aesthetic value.

Several early cookbooks open with a verse, either written by the author to serve as a preface or written by someone else as a recommendation for the book, but there are also examples of rhymed recipes from the fifteenth century in German and English manuscripts. According to the historian Hans Wiswe, however, one of the German recipes is “a humorous Intermezzo in a book that is otherwise so matter-of-fact.” This can be explained by what Haage said about versification of practical literature for the upper levels of society: “It is mainly for fun” (Aus reinen Spieltrieb).

There is a long tradition in European literature of verses about food, often with a comic or playful element, and the humor is quite obvious in the collections of rhymed recipes (“poetic cookbooks”) from the eighteenth century onward. The first of these books was the French Festin joyeux, printed in 1738. One of the recipes is for perdreaux aux écrévisses (partridges with crawfish) and it starts like this:

First you cook everything well,

And mix with a light ragoût,

Add sweetbreads and truffles too,

And let cockscombs and champignons swell.

Typical for the recipes in this book is that they can be sung, as they were written to well-known tunes from light and popular music genres. Referring to himself as a cook, the alleged author made excuses for the bad rhymes in his verses, which he said were certainly not as Scarron would have written them. By referring to the seventeenth-century burlesque poet Paul Scarron, the suspicion is strengthened that the verses belong to the century before the book was printed, and it has been suggested that the real author was the aristocrat Louis de Béchameil, although this has not been confirmed.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, French, German, Spanish, American, Danish, and Norwegian books of recipes in verse were published. A Norwegian book from 1833 versified the recipes of the first printed cookbook in Norway, published only two years earlier, and the verses were written to melodies used for national anthems, drinking songs, and hymns. By using tunes for hymns in these merry songs, the author, a church warden and rebellious publicist, did the opposite of men such as Martin Luther and William Booth, who wrote religious hymns to popular, secular melodies.

Were these recipes intended to be used to help in the kitchen? Some of them did in fact emphasize that that was the basic idea. The Danish Kogebog for musikalske husmødre (Cookbook for musical housewives) professed in verse in the preface:

The housewife now can cook her meat

While singing from a music sheet.

But in spite of the declared intentions, these books were probably made more to amuse readers than to instruct them. Most of the verses were rather amateurish, with clumsy rhymes and hobbling rhythms, and could not hope for a glorious afterlife in the history of literature. There are, however, recipe poems that were written by authors with acknowledged literary qualities. They followed the same chronological progression as the ordinary recipes, giving step-by-step instructions, but they added aspects and elements that were generally absent in cookbooks. Here follow five examples in five languages and from different literary contexts.

The first was by a representative of Polish romanticism, Adam Mickiewicz, who in his epic poem Pan Tadeusz actually used a 1682 cookbook to describe an old Polish dinner. But he also gave, as part of his description of old national traditions, the “recipe” for bigos, a dish still popular in Poland. He admitted that words and rhymes—he used thirteen syllable lines with caesura and rhymed couplets—were not sufficient to transmit a real appreciation of “the most wonderful flavor, the smell and the color.” He listed the ingredients of the dish—good vegetables, chopped sauerkraut, morsels of meat—and explained that they should all be simmered in a pot. But he did not follow the traditional recipe form; his recipe is a narrative told in the third person and without the particular verbal forms indicating a request.

Other writers, however, chose the imperative. The French dramatist Edmond Rostand included in his most famous play, Cyrano de Bergerac, a scene where the protagonist’s friend, the rôtisseur and pâtissier Ragueneau, proudly declares that he has versified a recipe: “J’ai mis une recette en vers.” The recipe is for tartelettes amandines and is written in a light, elegant poetic form that plays with the rhymes and rhythm, making it very difficult to translate.

While Rostand kept the imperatives in the second-person plural, which was typical of most French culinary recipes at that time, the Argentine-born Spaniard Ventura de la Vega—who wrote many occasional poems—chose the first-person singular when he described his method of making garlic soup, sopa de ajo. The Voltaire-admirer-turned-Catholic paid tribute to the soup as a dish for Lent, but he also declared it the basis of the Castilian diet. The personal tone in the poem creates an atmosphere similar to the one in Pablo Neruda’s Odas elementales (which is about tomatoes, potatoes, and other foodstuffs), combining the solemn and the ordinary: In a casserole, boil salt, pepper, and small bits of bread in olive oil, and in this swelling mixture, “I will hide two well-peeled cloves of Spanish garlic.” Instead of Neruda’s free verse, Vega chose the bound form, and the Spanish composer José María Cásares later composed music for it. The text and the notes were printed in Angel Muro’s original cookbook, El practicón (1894).

Another original and much praised cookbook, Modern Cookery, by Eliza Acton, included a recipe in rhymed verse in the 1855 edition. In a note, Acton wrote that this was the first time the poem was printed, after it had been circulated among the friends of the author, the poetic reverend Sidney Smith. But in contrast to the serious, almost religious tone in Vega’s verse, Smith’s poem is filled with the light-hearted humor he was famous for. The ingredients for his salad dressing are enumerated with the common imperatives, but they are not always used in the traditional manner: “Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,” he instructed readers in one line, and in another, he told them to add “a magic soupçon of anchovy sauce.” He even resorted to alliteration: “Of mordant mustard add a simple spoon.” And then he expressed his enthusiasm for the result: “Oh, green and glorious! Oh, herbacious treat!”

A final example, which also raises theoretical questions, is a poem the German romantic poet Eduard Mörike wrote about Frankfurter Brenten, a type of small cookies. The first surprise is perhaps his use of the imperative second-person singular, a dated and very uncommon form in the mid-nineteenth century:

Start with almonds, I suggest,

Take three pounds, or four at best.

This poem, which is included in Mörike’s collected works, was originally published in a German journal for ladies, Frauen-Zeitung für Hauswesen, weibliche Arbeiten und Moden, in 1852, and Horst Steinmetz used it as an example of how context may decide the reception of a text. The readers of Mörike’s complete works may have considered the recipe as a poem on a par with the other poems in the book, which describe feelings and phenomena of the human universe. The ladies who read “Frankfurter Brenten” in the journal may have looked at the text as a practical instruction—a recipe—even if they observed and appreciated the form as an amusing variation and perhaps made no practical use of the recipe in the kitchen. Yet a closer reading of Mörike’s text reveals that it has elements not expected in recipes. Consider, for example, these lines:

Now put all this while it is hot

Onto a plate (but poets need

A rhyme here now, and therefore feed

The finished stuff into a pot).

With this ironic remark, which breaks up the sequence of instructive steps, the poet seems to make fun of his own role; it is a kind of Verfremdung, or alienation, that creates a distance between Mörike as a poet and as a cooking teacher.

These rhymed recipes seem to have been written with very different intentions: to inform, to instruct, to entertain, or to create art. This is of course also true for recipe poems in unbound form by Günter Grass and others. But there is a noticeable difference in intention when recipes appear in prose works other than culinary works.


Notaker cookbook author photoHenry Notaker is a literary historian who taught courses in food culture and history for over a decade. He was a foreign correspondent for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and a TV host of arts and letters shows and documentaries. He is the author of numerous books and articles on European and Latin American contemporary history, food history, and culinary literature.


A Vibrant, New Translation of Hesiod with Stunning Images

In this new translation of Hesiod, acclaimed translator Barry B. Powell gives an accessible, modern verse rendering of these vibrant texts, essential to an understanding of early Greek myth and society. An exciting introduction to the culture of the ancient Greeks, The Poems of Hesiod is the definitive translation and guide for students and readers looking to experience the work of this influential poet, who ranks alongside Homer in Greek antiquity.

Praise for Barry B. Powell’s translation:

“Powell’s accurate but sparkling English renditions make this book the ideal place to begin reading Hesiod’s timeless classics.”—Ian Morris, Stanford University

“Powell’s translation is fresh, rich, and nuanced but never arcane or difficult to follow. Perfect for undergraduate students and anyone who loves Greek epic poetry.”—Carolina Lopez-Ruiz, The Ohio State University

“An exciting and most welcome new translation.”—Silvia Montiglio, Johns Hopkins University

 

Ideal for classroom use, this new translation includes:

Beautiful, color illustrations that bring Hesiod‘s words to life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Substantial notes that clarify complex passages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maps to orient students to the places where events happened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genealogical charts alongside the text for seamless reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a glossary/index with pronunciation of ancient names, brief annotations, and alternative spellings.

With a fresh translation and up-to-date introduction, charts and maps, substantial notes and beautiful images, Powell’s The Poems of Hesiod is the ideal book to teach with.

Read the introduction and request your exam copy today.


Jerome Rothenberg on “The Symposium of the Whole”

Fifty years ago, when I was assembling and then publishing the first edition of Technicians of the Sacred, my concentration was on the poetry foremost, the sense that came to me as a poet that the roots and resources of poetry were far more complex and widespread than how we commonly thought of them. In my search, informed by the ways in which poets of my own generation and those immediately before had expanded the idea of what we could both hear and create as poetry, I discovered by looking “everywhere” (but especially in places neglected by others) a richness of poetic means and methods that both extended and confirmed the sense of what we were doing in our own place and time. What I stressed far less, though I thought it was apparent to all, was that behind the poetry as such was a diversity of autonomous peoples and deep cultures beyond anything we had previously imagined and cherished. And with that came not only new possibilities for our work as poets and artists, but the possibility of opening up the full dimension of what it meant to be totally and meaningfully human.

Today that total humanity – that “symposium of the whole,” as our fellow poet Robert Duncan named it – has again come to be challenged. I take this as the context in which this revised and expanded edition of Technicians of the Sacred is now appearing. As Anne Waldman expresses it for me, “More radically timely than ever in a tormented era of xenophobia, racism, post-truth, and psychic crisis when words are abased, perhaps it will be transmission such as this that reinvigorates imagination and highlights our generative cultural inter-dependence.” In my own words I see the new Technicians both as a testament to the survival and revival of many indigenous and threatened poetries and languages and as an instrument against new acts of genocide and ethnic and religious cleansing abroad and an upsurge closer to home of still potent nationalisms & racisms, directed most often against the diversity of mind and spirit of which the earlier Techni­cians was so clearly a part.

That I continue to assert a central place for poetry as an instrument of change and difference is also to be noted.

Watch Jerome Rothenberg’s recent lecture on ethnopoetics and Technicians of the Sacred given at the The Faculty of Arts – The University of Melbourne.


Jerome Rothenberg is a poet and an internationally acclaimed anthologist. His more than fifty books include the anthology Poems for the Millennium, coedited with Pierre Joris. He is Professor Emeritus of Visual Arts and Literature at the University of California, San Diego.

Keep up to date with his poetry and writing on his blog Poems and Poetics.