I thought this was terrific.
First Choral Ode from Norma Jeane Baker of Troy (a translation of Euripides’ Helen) by Anne Carson
[enter Norma Jeane as Mr Truman Capote]
I am my own chorus.
I think of my chorus as Mr Truman Capote.
He was a good friend, he told me the truth.
You’ll never admit it when you’ve made a mess,
he said to me once
and that was true.
I can still hear his funny little girl voice – Truman
had a voice like a negligee, always
slipping off one bare shoulder,
just a bit.
And he hated melodrama,
though he loved to quote poetry – highbrow stuff –
here’s one he says is about me –
by Stevie Smith (it’s called ‘Persephone’):
I am that Persephone
Who played with her darlings in Sicily
Against a background of social security.
Oh what a glorious time we had.
Or had we not? They said it was sad.
I was born good, grown bad.
And isn’t that how it always starts, this myth that ends with the girl ‘grown bad’?
She’s in a meadow gathering flowers
twirling her own small sunny hours.
When up rides a man on black horses.
Up rides a man in a black hat.
Up rides a man with a black letter to deliver.
Shall I make you my queen?
She’s maybe 12 or 13.
is the story of Helen,
War is the context
and God is a boy.
Oh my darlings,
they tell you you’re born with a precious pearl.
it’s a disaster to be a girl.
Up came the black horses and the dark King.
And the harsh sunshine was as if it had never been.
In the halls of Hades they said I was queen.
[exit Norma Jeane as Mr Truman Capote]
Anne Carson is working on sonnets to perform in Iceland later this year.
Anne Carson: First Choral Ode from ‘Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’ (a translation of Euripides’ ‘Helen’) via the London Review of Books app