Poems to Complement a Unit of Work on Antigone?
January 22, 2016 4:31 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for suggestions for poems that would be appropriate to teach to 14 yo students that have some relationship to either Antigone or the world of Greek mythology.

I already have
- Antigone, WB Yeats
- Ithaka, CP Cavafy
- Ozymandias, Shelley

I will take poems that allude to the ancient world, generally, at a push. They will have finished quite a detailed unit on Sophocles Antigone when they approach this task.

The students will largely be working independently on these poems so I would prefer works that are not too cryptic or long-- they will go straight to google in that situation and/or tune out in the presentation! I would also like works, if possible, that are considered 'important' in the literary world as part of the task will be a discussion of the impact of the work. If you have a really good suggestion that doesn't fit that description I am happy to hear it. Thanks!
posted by jojobobo to Education (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Anne Carson's Antigonick may be too long and cryptic for your purposes, but it does have pictures!
posted by thetortoise at 4:41 PM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about Auden's Musée des Beaux Arts? Not directly related, but it does capture the dryness, the shrugging acceptance, the objectivity, of much Greek tragedy. And it's definitely an important literary work.
posted by mono blanco at 4:49 PM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

From the "some relationship to Greek mythology" column...another brilliant WB Yeats poem, Leda and the Swan (Wikipedia article for context), raises some common themes in Greek mythology, including anthropomorphism, Greek god and human interactions, and rape and sexual activity between gods and humans as explanations for human behavior, against a backdrop of unwanted sexual actions. The Swan in this case is the manifestation of Zeus, and Leda is his victim.
posted by mosk at 4:57 PM on January 22, 2016

A.E. Stallings, "Actaeon"? "Arachne Gives Thanks to Athena"? “Song for the Women Poets”? I believe that much of her work references Greek mythology; I'm sorry I don't know her as well as I should, but perhaps another poetry-loving Mefite can recommend something of hers.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:32 PM on January 22, 2016

You're already doing the Seven Against Thebes, possibly? Lines 957-1010 is the song sung by the sisters over the brothers' bodies. Lines 1032-end are the set up: "Sophocles, take it away!"
posted by mahorn at 5:52 PM on January 22, 2016

These might be too cryptic/long, but they tick the mythology/important boxes:
Ulysses - Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Prometheus - Lord Byron
Ode on a Grecian Urn - John Keats

Edgar Allen Poe might be more accessible to 14 year olds:
To Helen - Edgar Allan Poe

Maaaaybe I Knew A Woman by Theodore Roethke
posted by triggerfinger at 5:54 PM on January 22, 2016

I teach the same age group and also do a big unit on Greek mythology and Sophocles. I use many of the suggestions you've already gotten here. My students also respond well to this Atwood poem about the Sirens (it's quite clever!)and this poem on Medusa. Here's another poem on Medusa and another Atwood on Eurydice. Lastly, here's Simic on Charon.
posted by katie at 6:15 PM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you branch into poetic/ ballad song lyrics you can make so many amazing intertextual links.

Arcade Fire's 'Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)' and 'It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)'
Iron Maiden's 'Flight of Icarus' (with thematic twist)
Martha Wainwright's singing of her mother Kate McGarrigle's 'Proserpina'
The various and many versions of Dido and Aeneas
Tim Buckley's Song to the Siren

Etc etc sooooo many

When I teach ancient Greek texts I also surround students in a lot of the visual and linguistic imagery that surrounds us in daily life. I usually make a timeline traversing my classroom to which we add postcards of classical paintings, photocopied poems, branding symbols, songs, DVD film covers etc attached at the appropriate dates. I include the versions of modern textual responses in film and literature. We still have the powerful cultural undertow of Renaissance re-telling of these stories.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:28 PM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tennyson's "Ulysses" is actually itself adapted from Dante's Inferno, where Ulysses can be found roasting in the eighth circle (Canto 26). This raises...interesting questions.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:48 PM on January 22, 2016


Apollo through the heavens rode
In glinting gold attire;
His car was bright with chrysolite,
His horses snorted fire.
His darling son was Phaethon,
Who begged to have a try.

"The chargers are ambrosia-fed
They barely brook control;
On high beware the Crab, the Bear,
The Serpent 'round the Pole;
Against the Archer and the Bull
Thy form is all unsteeled!"
But Phaethon could lay it on;
Apollo had to yield.

Out of the purple doors of dawn
Phaethon drove the horses;
They felt his hand could not command.
They left their wonted courses.
And from the chariot Phaethon
Plunged like a falling star--
And so, my boy, no, no, my boy
You cannot take the car.
--Morris Bishop
posted by Sassyfras at 10:42 PM on January 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Love Letters from Helen of Troy
by Elizabeth Hewer

you always feared god-born achilles
the most of all your fellows.
his divinity wove him taller,
better, quicker, stronger.

well here's a secret for you:
my father was a swan,
and the monthly blood on my thighs
is two-parts ichor.

you think achilles was of impressive descent?
touch me one more time.
maybe it's time we found out
what the daughter of the mightiest god
can do.

look to your kingdoms.
i am coming for them all.
posted by yasaman at 11:05 PM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife includes a number of women's-point-of-view takes on Greek and Roman mythology. The collection includes poems from the perspective of Thetis, Eurydice, Mrs Midas, Mrs Icarus, Pygmalion's bride, Medusa, Circe, Penelope and Demeter.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:24 AM on January 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

In freshman English, I remember playing Suzanne Vega's Calypso on a tape deck and handing out the lyrics, for a similar assignment.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:57 AM on January 23, 2016

Seconding Elizabeth Hewer; her recent book Wishing For Birds has many Greek mythological poems. The "look inside" section on that Amazon page leads to a good one called "Finding Ariadne".

It's her first book, so she is not yet an important figure in the literary world, but she is a young poet and I think your students will easily "get" her.
posted by Pallas Athena at 10:32 AM on January 23, 2016

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