I treated myself to an exciting new collection of poetry yesterday. The work in question is Swithering by Scottish poet Robin Robertson. I generally stick to Canadian poets when I read contemporary poetry, however, I wanted to discover a new voice from "across the pond". So far I'm really enjoying the collection. The preciseness and musicality of his language reminds me of Seamus Heaney's early work in Death of a Naturalist and I'm a big fan of the vivid imagery in these last few lines from the poem "Entry" where a buzzard hunts down a rabbit:

The wounds feather through him
throwing a fine mist of incarnation,
annunciation in the fletched field,
and she breaks in,
flips the latches
of the back, opens the red drawer
in his chest, ransacking the heart. ("Entry 26")

What also stands out are Robertson's strong translations: Neruda, Montale, but most impressive, in my view, is the way Robertson tackles the story of Actaeon from Ovid's Metamorphoses. After Ted Hughes' masterful translation,Tales of Ovid, it seems unthinkable that any other contemporary writer would attempt to tackle Hughes' territory but Robertson is up to the challenge.

"The Death of Actaeon" follows the story of the great hunter Actaeon who mistakenly sees the goddess Artemis naked. In a fury, Artemis turns Actaeon into a stag, who is then mauled to death by his own hunting dogs. I'd like to end this post with a small excerpt from the piece. Enjoy:

He fled.
Sharp hooves bit into the ground,
horns clattering the branches -
plunging out across the grove in springs and bounds
he was amazed by his own lightness.
But when he saw his antlered head
looking back at him from a mountain pool, he knew
only his mind remained - and it was scattered -
torn between running home to the palace,
or hiding out here in the woods; torn betweem shame and fear. ("The Death of Actaeon" 14)

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