Nomadic Modernism: J.H. Prynne’s ‘Aristeas, in Seven Years’ and The White Stones

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 9 March

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

We are very pleased to announce that Max Maher will continue our discussion of mythical journeys with a session on the Greek poet-shaman Aristeas and modernist retelling of his post-mortem journey


Detail of attic red figure vase showing ‘Arimaspian warriors battle half-eagle, half-lion Griffins’, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in Theoi image gallery

J.H. Prynne’s 1969 collection The White Stones is a broad and enigmatic book of some of the earliest work of this poet’s long career. Influenced by the poetry of Charles Olson and Ed Dorn and the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, these poems offer glimpses of political possibility, never firmly pinned down, and gesture to new capacities of knowledge formed from a poetic reimagining of history. In this way they develop the Modernist tradition of Eliot and Pound. Prynne’s poem ‘Aristeas: in Seven Years’ (re/un)tells the story of the poet Aristeas’ post-mortem journey, documented by Herodotus. The poem’s mutant collision of orphic insight and archival scholarship places into question the relationship between myth, history and knowledge, and the poet’s potential  role in their exchanges.

See Prynne’s ‘Aristeas, in Seven Years‘, the extract from Herodotus on Aristeas, and Prynne’s ‘Note on Metal‘ as preparatory reading.

For further reading, see Prynne’s ‘Aiport Poem – Ethics of Survival‘ and ‘The Glacial Question, Unsolved‘ from The White Stones, and Prynne’s lectures on the Maximus poems of Charles Olson, available online (Part 1 & Part 2)



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