Of bodies changed to other forms I tell
In AD 17, Publius Ovidius Naso, the Roman poet Ovid, died in exile in the Black Sea port of Tomis (now Constanta in Romania). His offence had been to offend the emperor, Augustus, for verses that may have touched on scandals in the imperial court, from which he was dismissed in AD 8. Famously griefstricken, he burnt his manuscript of what would become one of the world’s most celebrated anthologies of verse tales.
That work was Metamorphoses, which survived because friends he had made copies for circulated it. Written in 15 books and with a cast of characters of more than 200 gods, goddessess, nymphs, fauns, men and women, it was a complete history of the world, from creation up the present day. It was also study of flux and shifting identity, of power applied and misapplied, as resonant now as it was in Ovid’s day.
To celebrate Ovid’s 2,000th anniversary, editors and poets Nessa O’Mahony and Paul Munden invited 100 poets to respond to Metamorphoses with new poems that explore the many contemporary resonances in that seminal work.
Patience Agbabi, Amina Alyal, Steve Armstrong, Cassandra Atherton, Tony Barnstone, Jean Bleakney, Merlinda Bobis, Christian Bök, Robyn Bolam, Kevin Brophy, David Butler, Maggie Butt, Anne Caldwell, Kimberley Campanello, Siobhán Campbell, Vahni Capildeo, Monica Carroll, Eileen Chong, Jane Clarke, Katharine Coles, Oliver Comins, Stephanie Conn, Enda Coyle Greene, Catherine Ann Cullen, Colin Dardis, Kate Dempsey, Moyra Donaldson, Katie Donovan, Moira Egan, Luke Fischer, Anne Fitzgerald, Rose Flint, Anne-Marie Fyfe, Tess Gallagher, Peggie Gallagher, Mark Granier, Philip Gross, Phillip Hall, Oz Hardwick, Susan Hawthorne, Dominique Hecq, Paul Hetherington, Eleanor Hooker, Subhash Jaireth, Judy Johnson, Fred Johnston, Matt Kirkham, Kent MacCarter, Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Paul Maddern, Steven Matthews, Kevin McCann, Iggy McGovern, Maria McManus, Paul Mills, Geraldine Mitchell, David Morley, Graham Mort, Paul Munden, Kate Newmann, Doireann Ní Ghriofa, Jean O’Brien, Clairr O’Connor, Mary O’Donnell, John O’Donnell, John O’Donoghue, Nessa O’Mahony, Maeve O’Sullivan, Alvin Pang, Pauline Plummer, Florin Dan Prodan, Craig Raine, Nell Regan, Paisley Rekdal, Mark Roper, Miles Salter, John W. Sexton, Ravi Shankar, Peter Sirr, Melinda Smith, Elizabeth Smither, Damian Smyth, Shane Strange, Keijiro Suga, George Szirtes, David Tait, Gráinne Tobin, Csilla Toldy, Jessica Traynor, Mark Tredinnick, Mark Vessey, Breda Wall Ryan, Jen Webb, Grace Wells, Nerys Williams, Anthony Wilson, Joseph Woods, Mairíde Woods, Enda Wyley, Jane Yeh
From the Introduction to Metamorphic by Nessa O’Mahony and Paul Munden:
When we put out the initial call for contemporary responses to this ancient text, many of the poets approached expressed their fondness for Metamorphoses and the influence that versions of it had had on their work—Ted Hughes’s Tales of Ovid was mentioned several times, as was Michael Hoffman and James Lasdun’s anthology After Ovid. In the end, 100 poets from around the world answered our call for new poems that responded to, or revisioned, Metamorphoses.
The brief was flexible. They could write new versions of Ovid’s original, or they could write poems that simply took the original text as a starting point. Many re-imagined Ovid’s stories; others found analogues in other cultures, ancient and contemporary, including accounts of death squads in the Philippines, mothers-and-baby homes in Ireland, social media morality tales, or Chinese legend. The result is a fascinating mix of voices, styles and forms, from the UK, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, India, Singapore, the Philippines, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada.