Poetry lavinia greenlaw

Published on March 31st, 2014


Troilus and Criseyde by Lavinia Greenlaw

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Blurb: Set against the Siege of Troy, A Double Sorrow is the story of Trojan hero Troilus and his beloved Criseyde, whose traitorous father has defected to the Greeks and has persuaded them to ask for his daughter in an exchange of prisoners. In an attempt to save her, Troilus suggests that Criseyde flees the besieged city with him, but she knows that she will be universally condemned and looks instead to a temporary measure: pretending to submit to the exchange, while promising Troilus that she will return to him within ten days. But once in the company of the Greeks she soon realises the impossibility of her promise to Troilus, and in despair succumbs to another. (Faber & Faber, March 2014)

Fiona Sampson, The Guardian

A Double Sorrow is not a simple translation. Instead, in an act of imaginative reconstruction, Greenlaw has filleted the original, lifting telling phrases and key narrative moments and making them her own. It’s a project of both condensation and translation. Chaucer’s bounding pentameter stanzas, and the momentum the accumulating rhyme-pattern creates in each, seem to be “answered” by Greenlaw, for whom seven lines make not merely a stanza, but an entire, free-standing poem. These delicate structures often stand in for lengthy passages of the original. The result evokes the slippery, slipping-away character of love – and also of oral transmission.”

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Jeremy Noel-Tod, The Sunday Times

“[The] tendency to pure image places Greenlaw’s poem in the modern tradition of free, streamlined translation, initiated a century ago by Ezra Pound’s Imagism and continued more recently in fast-moving versions of Homer’s Iliad by Christopher Logue and Alice Oswald. As in those poets’ evocations of Troy, Greenlaw’s descriptions cultivate the double-take simile (a distressed Criseyde “pulls her loosened hair across her eyes / As if trying to find a door to close”) and are knowingly anachronistic at times (the “candy colours” of spring). It is all finely done, with Chaucer’s gregarious medieval humour efficiently boiled off. It is even (whisper it) an easy read.”

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