Beowulf: Translation by Meghan Purvis, A Graph Review

 A Graph Review   60 to (mostly) highpoints of 70

Published by      Penned in the Margins       2013

Paper. £9.99.           978 190805814 0           110pp

Winner of The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2011
A PoetryBook Society Recommended Translation

Meghan Purvis is an American poet with an MA from UEA and (as of 2013) working on her PhD.   She notes in the Preface that she is the first American and the first woman to produce a translation of Beowulf.   I believe she is currently based in New York, USA.

beowulf coverBeowulf, an epic, first in the English language.  In its earliest versions, even those relatively more recent, it is as though it is sitting atop a hill and ramparted by design and language.
An oral narrative constructed from the tradition of an heroic figure amidst the memories of blood-lines, blood-feuds and dark monsters.  It uses language, even in translation, that echoes and rings through reddened halls and snatches at lives and kin.

Of Beowulf: a foundling, a man of strength and bravery, a friend in a time of dire need. From Grendel and his revengeful mother.  Gift-swords and honour.  Fast in friendship, a king and finally a slayer of a mighty dragon in mortal combat.  A long life and a long and bloody story.

Always read the Acknowledgements and especially the Preface here as they are often so informative.  Like Meghan Purvis I have not seen the film.  Unlike Meghan Purvis I have not read Seamus Heaney or several of the other translators she lists, no doubt I will.  If I should need to, though this version may trump them.

This highly successful translation brings variation of voice and form to the Epic which makes it a fascinating and forceful read.  By creating a sequence of poems of differing tone and format we are able to see/hear subtleties that might otherwise be missed.  The views of women, watchers and servers, are suddenly visible.  The honour, the feuding, the narratives of the past versus the clashing of swords or the filling of cups midst celebration.
The beat throughout is always strong, the words fitting and the images cast brightly.  I even felt a sadness for the dragon that kept a pointless enduring watch, later beautifully balanced by Beowulf’s expectation of death and its event.  Also learnt of the frailty and strength of men and the dignity of a promise kept.  A final scene, a classic description.

It is the same, endless story, beautifully told.  This time with a variety of voices, like ghosts insisting to be heard.
As the reader you will find what you know, yet hear and see so much more in this translation, revitalisation, by Meghan Purvis.

Advertisements

About poetryparc2

Here goes: I write a bit of poetry, sometimes about poetry I find and ditto any sort of books I take a fancy to. I seem to have a preference for seeing the changes from the late Victorian period through to the 1930's, maybe 50's. But, and a big but, could carry that right up to current poetry/performance poetry. Though sometimes my grounding for 'imagist and Nature' might unnerve me for too much too modern. However, I do like to range widely over all 'historical' poetry, and fiction, any and all periods. I also like finding (if only for me) regional or partly forgotten poems and poets. Maybe all this is too eclectic to have a themed 'Blog' but so be it....... I also enjoy writing bits of fiction that might add up to a small mole-hill one day. Plus reviewing of new or old books that are relevant to my enthusiasms of Crime fiction, the Arts, Natural History and Special Education. This is on 'wordparc'. I try to record honestly what I think but if something is too bad (to my mind, others may love it!!) then I will not 'blog' it There, what's that if not seemingly random!
This entry was posted in Book reviews, Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s