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The Story of Niobe

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This episode from Roman poet Ovid presents a boastful and narcissistic ruler, fourteen murders, a royal suicide, and a petrifcation, a tale that might be ripped from newspaper headlines except that the players are a Titan, a Queen of Thebes, Apollo and Artemis armed with fatal arrows, and a field littered with corpses as a grieving mother turns to stone.

Brett Rutherford’s new adaptation of Ovid’s gruesome mythological tale is followed by two famous earlier versions: one by the 20-year-old Boston slave poet Phillis Wheatley in 1773, and other by British poet Samuel Croxall from the famous multi-translator English edition of Metamorphoses from 1717.

Two important essays by Brett Rutherford round out this volume: “Niobe’s Tears: The Classical Poetry of Phillis Wheatley” studies how Wheatley constructed her mini-epic from Ovid, using both the Latin poet’s work, but also taking cues from the famous 1760 painting by Richard Wilson, The Destruction of the Children of Niobe. It is a rounding defense of Wheatley’s place as a poet in the classical tradition. Wheatley’s book found a British patron and was published in London in 1773, making it the first poetry book by an African-American woman.

A second essay, “The Myth of Niobe and the Boston Massacre” presents startling evidence that Paul Revere’s famous 1770 engraving of The Boston Massacre incorporates references to the Niobe myth and even copies visual elements from the Wilson painting. The illustrated text presents the three different known Niobe paintings by Wilson, and engravings made from them (the principal means of copying paintings in the era before photography.)

This is the 291st publication of The Poet's Press.
You will get a PDF (5MB) file

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