Two Modern Poems To Help Us Understand Orpheus

As I prepare for my Underworld performance with Chris Wheeling and Janet Hamill at the Spoken Aggregate wordfest on Sunday, August 26th at the Widow Jane Cave in Rosendale, I’ve been reading contemporary poems about Orpheus and Eurydice, the mythic lovers separated by death and then again his backward glance a moment too soon. Here are two short poems that have grabbed my attention.

The Entrance to the Underworld

By Gregory Orr

A common enough mistake:
looking in the wrong place.
It’s not a fissure
in the earth, or crack
in a cliff face
that leads sharply down.

You were looking in the wrong
world. It was inside
to that cavern
deeper than hell,
more dark and lonely.
Didn’t you feel it open
at her first touch?

Reprinted from Orpheus & Eurydice: A Lyric Sequence by Gregory Orr.

Necessary Shadows

“Because it carries
the past within it,
unlike mathematics,
draws backward.

This is the meaning of Eurydice.

Because the realness
of his inward being
lies at his back,
the man of words,
the singer,
will turn to the place of
necessary shadows.”

From the CD, Orpheus: The Lowdown, by Peter Blegvard and Andy Partridge, though this is, in fact, a found poem, a comment taken from George Steiner’s essay “A Future Literacy” published in the Atlantic Monthly in August 1971.

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The Mother Grouse Blog is produced by Will Nixon, author of My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse and Love in the City of Grudges available on-line.

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