Joe Safdie, from 'SCHOLARSHIP': 'Ovid in Exile' & 'Coda: On a British Literary Debate'

Ovid in Exile

after some years at the height of fame in the center of the world,
he was abruptly exiled to the far reaches of the empire on the
weather-beaten shore of the Black Sea, where, he complained
bitterly, the barbarous inhabitants couldn’t even understand Latin.
                ---David L. Pike, “Ovid,” The Longman Anthology of World Literature

when leaving St. Elizabeths
Pound said that Ovid
had had it worse

his last nine years
on the Black Sea coast
modern Romania     not too bad
except for the Romanian part
he wrote his last poems there
Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto
letters to the emperor
and his third wife
to whom he longed to return
belying his reputation
as a womanizer.
But Augustus Caesar –
Virgil’s patron
and a priggish moralist
in Antony and Cleopatra,
HBO’s Rome, and all other
known histories –
exiled him, blaming
his scandalous poetry
(a joke even then) –
he had just worked six years
on the Metamorphoses,
more tenuous
than the endlessly repeated
thesis statement
of The Aeneid:
“This is you, Romans!”

This study considers exile as a place of genuine suffering and a metaphor for   poetry's marginalization from the imperial city . . .  [u]nderstanding Ovid’s   exile as a poetic place, a literary construct deeply informed by an actual reality.
                      ---Matthew M. McGowan, Ovid in Exile

 I killed a woman
I lied to her
abandoned her
and as a result
have been exiled
\to southern California
I’m guilty and my punishment
shows it      myths arise
from ordinary events
careless remarks
offhand slights
the everyday being
taken for granted
all in the name of poetry
Omnia vincet Amor: et nos cedamus Amori.
Love conquers all; we too must yield to Love” -- Virgil
Et mihi cedet Amor
“Love too shall yield to me” – Ovid


Virgil seems to have been homosexual, Horace liked Greek flute-girls and mirror-lined bedrooms, Tibullus and Propertius suffered, with articulate masochism, under demanding or indifferent mistresses.  Ovid may not have been the ideal husband, but at least he tried.                                                                               
                          ---David Green, Introduction to The Erotic Poems

his greatest transformation
was himself,
Roman sophisticate hurtled back
to primitive times,
Geats and Greeks
and Sarmatians,
riding down the streets
on horseback or tall bicycles
with their ever-present quivers
of poisoned arrows and surfboards
which they are not reluctant to use.
They dressed in skins,
wore their hair and beards long,
went about armed . . .
wine froze in the jar
and was served in pieces . . .
fawning notes to the emperor
composed in the same meter
as the erotic poems
that had gotten him exiled.
No longer seeking out scandal
but mocking the official line,
the author of The Art of Love
never wrote about it again . . .
Coda: On a British Literary Debate

What is “fantasy”?
To what extent is Grendel
an analogue to marauding tribes
and the poem an Anglo-Saxon dream
of liberation? The Arthurian legend
started with Virgil’s Aeneid,
even more fictitious
than Romulus and Remus,
but it did give Rome some
cosmopolitan flair, somewhat removed
from their jackass rustic morality –
the Republic, still invoked
by followers of Ayn Rand,
lasted 500 years, until Augustus,
27 BC, Virgil changes poetry
into minor court entertainment,
Ovid discovers sex, realism
follows romance, Philip Larkin wakes

from Uncle William’s
enchantment – “all that crap
about masks and Crazy Jane . . .
It all rang so completely unreal” –
the princess awakes, Orpheus
returns from the underworld

[Author’s Note On “Scholarship”: There are some lines in Pound’s early version of The Cantos that have always stuck with me: 

             say I take your whole bag of tricks, 
Let in your quirks and tweeks, and say the thing's an art-form, 
Your Sordello, and that the modern world 
Needs such a rag-bag to stuff all its thought in

 They’re highly conditional propositions, of course, but this manuscript is indeed a kind of rag-bag in which I’ve tried to stuff a lot of things – history, myth, contemporary politics, speculations about poetry and the poetry world, autobiographical narrative, criticism, prose – while still writing “poetry.” Hope it works, for at least a few people . . .]