Here is an ugly place.
If song is praise
this place refuses poetry.
No center, no common notion.
No factory, no lumberyard or even mine.
Garages and their houses,
storerooms of possessions:
The vessel is broken.
Those who before would live and make
in the structure provided
are gone—dead, and bred out
by children who sucked silver for pap.
Yet I condemn the pessimist.
I smile knowingly with the silent optimist—
joy is poison to the fearful man and to the greedy.
The vessel breaks, but hope stays in.
How does my soul revel
in what it cannot know?
“Does anywhere truly refuse poetry? Ben Jasnow tells us that there is such a place, yet his luminous poems also tell us that poetry may be found anywhere, in places made ugly by modernity, in ordinary rural events that are all too easily overlooked, and in those larger stories that landscape tells and that continue when our limited tenure of life is over.” —Kevin Hart, theologian, philosopher and poet, Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Christian Studies, University of Virginia
Georgic Fantasy reveals a timeless, yet ravaged landscape and the ravaged humans who toil in it, culminating in a mysterious, legendary act of violence, and falling away into a moral tale which echoes faintly the Appalachian folktale that helped inspire the poem. Ben Jasnow, a Classical scholar, has written a narrative sequence of lyrics into which is woven a visual response, a series of thirteen paintings by the artist John Woodman, whose brilliant colors and gestural marks made upon photographic imagery illuminate — even seem to express — the desperate emotions which erupt underneath the poem’s Classical restraint.
Ben Jasnow is an American poet and Classicist currently based in Saratoga Springs, N. Y. His poems and translations have appeared in venues such as Poet Lore, Arena Magazine, and PVCRS. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Virginia and teaches courses about the language, literature, and civilization of classical antiquity.
John Woodman is an English painter. He has exhibited across the United Kingdom and internationally, and his work has been chosen for the Discerning Eye Prize. His most recent exhibition took place in Westminster Abbey in 2015 which involved an artistic event revolving around the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. In 2010 he was an artist in residence in the McGuffey Art Centre in Virgina, USA, and in 2006 he graduated from the Glasgow School of Art. He lives and works in London.
Ben Jasnow and John Woodman are translating and illustrating the Idylls of the ancient Greek poet Theocritus. An interview about their collaboration, which includes several images and translations, is here.