I read Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey in the fall of 2019, just before—like Penelope—the whole world had to shelter-in-place. I hoped to hear a different Penelope than the familiar devoted wife and mother. Wilson’s translation is much more nuanced than Fagel’s where Homer’s women are concerned, but Penelope is still, of course, Homer’s. These erasures were an attempt to uncover another possible voice, what Penelope might have sung had the song been hers. The choice of thread as my medium calls back to her weaving, the blues in the thread to the Aegean, as I also associate this voice with the sea—la mer, the mother. The process of erasure, for me, is always the process of excavation. As Adrienne Rich put it “I’m not trying to iconize but lay an ear to what’s under the surface.”
Rich, Adrienne. Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, New York, 2002)
Wilson, Emily. The Odyssey (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, New York, 2017)
Twila Newey received her MFA in writing and poetics from Naropa. She was a finalist for the 2019 Coniston Prize at Radar Poetry and won honorable mention in the 2019 JuxtaProse Poetry Contest. Her poems also appear in various journals including Green Mountains Review, Summerset Review, and Ruminate. Twila is a poetry editor for Psaltry & Lyre. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.