Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bruce Weigl

Bruce Weigl is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, several translations, and the best-selling memoir The Circle of Hanh.

He has been awarded many honors, including the Paterson Poetry Prize, Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Yaddo Foundation, two Pushcart Prizes, and the Poet’s Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
What I’m reading lately has to do with the work I’ve been doing in preparation for teaching Homer’s The Odyssey, a poem I’d also like to co-translate someday. Barry Strauss’ The Trojan War provides the clearest and most inclusive history of the war that Homer based at least one of his epic works on, and he does it with a wonderfully lyrical regard for his writing so that it feels like you’re reading a great adventure story rather than a work of history. What’s particularly interesting to me as a teacher are the ways in which Homer deviated from what Strauss argues was the real history of Troy, evidence that the role of the author was far more important in these early texts than I had originally believed.

I’m also reading Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming, Jonathan Shay’s amazing study that argues that Homer’s Odyssey can be seen in part as an extended metaphor for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What’s especially interesting about this book is the way that Shay, a psychiatrist for a VA outpatient clinic in Boston, combines groundbreaking psychological work about returning warriors with some astute and original literary interpretation of Homer’s great and enduring poem.
Read selected poems of Bruce Weigl.

--Marshal Zeringue