Special Issue 2013: Contemporary Women Writers
This special issue of Practitioners’ Voices in Classical Reception Studies is a collection of conversations with women writers conducted over a period of around twelve months as part of a research project on the significance of contemporary women’s writing in the reception of classical myth and literature today. Read on
Jane Alison is a novelist and university teacher, who studied Classics at Princeton and Brown Universities, and Creative Writing at Columbia. Her first novel The Love Artist (Farrar, Straus and Giraux) is an imaginary evocation of Ovid’s exile, and has been translated into seven languages. She has subsequently written The Marriage of the Sea (Farrar, Straus and Giraux, 2004) andNatives and Exotics (Harcourt, 2005). Her most recent book is a memoir entitled The Sisters Antipodes (Houghton, Mifflin and Harcourt, 2009). She teaches creative writing at the University of Miami. This interview between Jane Alison and Fiona Cox took place via e-mail during November 2012.
Tiffany Atkinson is a poet and literary critic. She is a senior lecturer at the department of English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. Her poetry is published in journals and anthologies, including for instance Women’s Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English (ed. Amy Wack and Eva Salzman, Bloodaxe: 2010). Catulla et al (Bloodaxe 2011) was her second poetry collection, and was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year Award 2012. She is also the editor of The Body: A Reader (Palgrave: 2004). Her third collection of poems, So Many Moving Parts will be published by Bloodaxe Books in January 2014. Atkinson read from Catulla et al and spoke about her poetry at a workshop on contemporary women’s writing and classical reception held at the University of Exeter on 5 July 2012 with funds provided by the British Academy. A version of her talk is published in Essays and Studies 2011 (Essays and Studies Collected on behalf of the English Association, vol 64) as ‘Black and White and Re(a)d all over: the Poetics of Embarrassment’. This conversation between Tiffany Atkinson, Fiona Cox and Elena Theodorakopoulos, mainly about Catulla et al, took place on 6 July 2012 at the University of Exeter.
Josephine Balmer is a poet, classical translator, scholar and literary critic, whose work has appeared in numerous anthologies. She writes literary reviews for a range of newspapers and journals, and was the reviews editor for Modern Poetry in Translation from 2004-2009. Her volumes of classical translation are: Sappho: Poems and Fragments (1984), Classical Women Poets (1996), and Catullus: Poems of Love and Hate (2004), all with Bloodaxe Books. Her poetry collections are Chasing Catullus: Poems, Translations, and Transgressions (2004), and The Word for Sorrow (2009). She has also written on classical translation for academic essay collections and journals, including most recently for Classical Reception Studies Journal. Her book for the Classical Presences series (OUP), Piecing Together the Fragments: Translating Classical Verse, Creating Contemporary Poetry is published in September 2013. This interview focuses substantially on The Word for Sorrow. It is a conversation between Jo Balmer, Fiona Cox, and Elena Theodorakopoulos and took place at the University of Birmingham on 12 December 2012, when Jo Balmer was a guest speaker at the Annual Meeting of Postgraduates working in the Reception of the Ancient World.
Elizabeth Cook is a poet, fiction writer and scholar. She is the editor of John Keats: The Major Works (Oxford University Press, 1990), and has lectured in English literature. She wrote the libretto for Francis Grier’s oratorio The Passion of Jesus of Nazareth (2006). Her poetry collection Bowl was published by Worple Press (2006) and reprinted in 2013 (the title poem was a Poem on the Underground). Her poetry, reviews, and other writing have appeared in journals including Poetry London and The London Review of Books. She has translated Seneca’s Thyestes, a work whose keen urgency appeals. She is the author of Achilles (Methuen Press 2002), a fiction that also has a continuing performance life at a variety of venues (it won a Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival and was performed by Greg Hicks at the National Theatre). She is nearing completion of a novel, Lux, set in the reign of King David and in sixteenth century England. Currently she is Writer in Residence at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. This conversation between Elena Theodorakopoulos and Elizabeth Cook took place at Cook’s home in London on 6 December 2012.
Marie Cosnay is a teacher, translator, and novelist. She currently works at the Collège François-Truffaut de Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx. She is also a campaigner on behalf of immigrants under threat of deportation. Among her many titles are the novels Noces de Mantoue (Editions Laurence Teper, 2009), Des Métamporphoses (Cheyne, 2012), the translation Ovide – d’Orphée à Achille (NOUS, 2011) and non-fictional works such as Comment on expulse – responsabilités en miettes (Editions du croquant, 2011), which employ classical allusions in order to highlight the situation facing today’s immigrants within France. This interview between Fiona Cox and Marie Cosnay took place via e-mail during November 2012. Interview translated by Fiona Cox.
Marie Darrieusecq is one of France’s leading contemporary writers. She came to fame in 1996 with the publication of Truismes (P.O.L., 1996) [trans. by Linda Coverdale as Pig Tales]. She has written numerous other novels - Naissance des fantômes (1998), Le Mal de mer et Précisions sur les vagues (1999), Bref Séjour chez les vivants (2001), Le Bébé (2002), White (2003), Le Pays (2005), Zoo (Nouvelles, 2006), Tom est mort (2007) and Clèves all published by P.O.L. She has also translated Ovid’s Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, producing a version entitled Tristes Pontiques (P.O.L., 2008). This interview between Fiona Cox and Marie Darrieusecq took place on June 8th, 2012 in London. Interview translated by Fiona Cox.
Barbara Köhler is a poet, essayist, and literary translator. Her prize-winning poetry collections include Deutsches Roulette (1991) and Wittgenstein’s Nichte (1999); she has also published literary translations of Samuel Beckett and Gertrude Stein. Her book Niemands Frau, Gesänge zur Odyssee (Suhrkamp 2007) is a response to the Odyssey. Niemands Frau was the subject of a symposium at St Hilda’s College Oxford in September 2011. Since then Köhler has returned to the subject of the Odyssey in an essay published in Neufundland (Edition Korrespondenzen 2012) which also contains her new version of Sappho frg.16. During 2012-13 she taught a seminar on the Odyssey at the University of Bonn where she was the Thomas-Kling-Poetikdozent. In Spring 2013 she is Artist in Residence at the Institute for German Cultural Studies at Cornell University where she is also teaching a seminar on the Odyssey and its continued significance for modern poetry. The interview between Elena Theodorakopoulos and Barbara Köhler took place at the author’s home in Duisburg, Germany on 25 February 2013. Translated by Elena Theodorakopoulos.
Gwyneth Lewis was the first National Poet of Wales in 2005-06. The six-foot high words, in both Welsh and English on the front of the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff are written by her. She has written non-fiction works and librettos, and has held fellowships at Universities including Harvard, Stanford and Cambridge. In 2010 she was awarded the Cholmondeley Award by the Society of Authors in honour of her poetry. Chaotic Angels (Bloodaxe Books 2005) is a collection of her poems in English, but she has written and published in both English and Welsh. Her most recent poetry collection is Sparrow Tree (Bloodaxe Books, 2011) won the Roland Mathias Poetry Award. She is also the author of A Hospital Odyssey (Bloodaxe Books, 2010), an epic poem set in a modern hospital. This interview between Elena Theodorakopoulos, Polly Toney and Gwyneth Lewis took place in November 2012 at the University of Birmingham.
Alice Oswald is a poet. She read Classics at Oxford, before training as a professional gardener. Her poetry is infused with her responses to the natural world. She won a Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection for The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile in 1996, and the T.S. Eliot prize for Dart in 2002. In 2009 her volume Weeds and Wild Flowers won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. Her most recent book is the highly acclaimed Memorial (Faber, 2011), a work which she describes as an ‘excavation of the Iliad.’ Oswald recited from Memorial at a workshop on contemporary women’s writing and the classical tradition held at the University of Exeter on July 5th 2012 and funded by a British Academy small research grant. This interview between Fiona Cox and Alice Oswald took place at Oswald’s home on Remembrance Sunday, November 11th, 2012.
Jo Shapcott is a poet, editor and professor of creative writing. She has published many volumes of poetry, including Electroplating the Baby (Bloodaxe, 1988) and My Life Asleep (Oxford University Press, 1998). She is also the author of Tender Taxes – Versions of Rilke’s French Poems (Faber, 2001). Her most recent poetry collection, Of Mutability (Faber, 2010) won the Costa Book of the Year Award. She was a contributor to After Ovid – New Metamorphoses (Faber, 1994), and more recently contributed to Metamorphosis – Poems Inspired by Titian (Yale University Press, 2012). This interview between Fiona Cox and Jo Shapcott took place at the Faber Offices in London on July 23, 2012.
Picture credits for the page: photograph of Jane Alison courtesy of Steady70; photograph of Elizabeth Cook by Peter Everard Smith; photograph of Marie Darrieusecq by Hélène Bamberger; photograph of Barbara Köhler by Christiane Zintzen; photograph of Gwyneth Lewis by Keith Morris; photograph of Jo Shapcott by Johnny Ring.