Metamorphoses

Along with a group of others, I’m about to embark on studying Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Compared to Virgil’s Aeneid¬† and Homer’s Iliad, Metamorphoses seems to be an easier read. It differs from the familiar epic in that there isn’t one narrator and one main protagonist, there are many stories told by many characters, They are all linked however by the theme of metamorphosis.

In a way this is a good time to be reading this book. We are living through a very strange time – unprecedented is a word I have heard so often in the last four months. We have all been forced to change our lives in a number of ways. Many feel that they have been changed into hermits. Our towns and villages have taken on quite different appearances – once bustling streets are now eerily quiet. We have changed character in the way we relate to others – staying two metres apart, not touching. Yes, our world has indeed been transformed and we can only wonder how it will look in the future.

Even our country’s climate has morphed into a different guise. We have had the wettest February followed by the driest spring and now some of the trees have leaves that are beginning to take on the colours of autumn. Our seasons seem to have lost their distinctive characteristics – another change we are experiencing. At least we haven’t woken to find ourselves as cockroaches like Gregor in Kafka’s novel!

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Over-egging

Over-egging is perhaps not the best choice of expression for a vegan to use, but it does come to mind when I’m writing rather than baking. I suppose the phrase ‘less is more’ is also appropriate when writing a poem or story – it can be spoilt by saying too much, using too many adjectives, being too wordy generally. A story can ramble around with sentences that don’t really move things on – don’t give us more insight into the characters.

How do we know when to stop? One thing I discovered many years ago was that when drafting and redrafting poetry, it’s important to keep all the different versions as sometimes the first is the best.¬† However, very often we look at poems that have been published and see things that we would like to cut or change in some way. Yes, we can say that a poem is never finished¬† – it can be work in progress indefinitely and appear and re-appear in a number of versions. But – we do have to stop at some point and there is always that danger of making things worse.

Life sometimes teaches us that less can be better than more. We can try too hard and achieve less. We can worry too much about the things we can’t change.