Emily Wilson sensitively considers The Odyssey’s original poetic purpose and resonance

511ztJeNubL._SX324_BO1 204 203 200_Josephine Balmer at the New Statesman:

“The cities are down,” observed George Steiner of the poem, “and survivors wander the face of the earth as pirates or beggars.” But late last year, Emily Wilson’s new translation appeared, like one of Zeus’s thunderclaps, to part the clouds. Heavily promoted by her publisher as the first by a woman in English verse (Anne Dacier produced a French prose version in 1708, used as a crib by Alexander Pope, while in 1952, the children’s author Barbara Leonie Picard published a complete prose retelling), some of the subsequent critical amazement perhaps recalls Samuel Johnson’s verdict of a woman preaching, “surprised to find it done at all”. As Butler countered the argument that only a male poet could have written the battle-hardened Odyssey: “A woman can kill… on paper as well as a man can.”

So what does Wilson, a renowned classical scholar and translator, bring to the text? Rather than any feminist revisioning as in Margaret Atwood’s 2005 novella, The Penelopiad, Wilson’s fluid and immensely readable versification harks back to Lattimore’s close rendition of Homer’s original. She maintains line lengths – no easy task in a non-inflected, word-hungry language such as English – and writes in iambics, “the conventional meter for regular English narrative verse” as she explains.

more here.