“Ovid’s Old Age”: Jacek Kaczmarski and the Sung Poetry of Exile

Authors

  • Paweł Borowski University of St Andrews, United Kingdom
  • Henry Stead University of St Andrews, United Kingdom

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.4312/clotho.2.2.5-38

Keywords:

Jacek Kaczmarski, classical reception, Poland, Ovid, sung poetry, communism, exile

Abstract

“Ovid’s Old Age” is a sung poem written by the Polish poet and musician Jacek Kaczmarski (1957–2004) which engages with the myth of Ovid’s exile. Kaczmarski’s works were heavily influenced both by classical culture and his experience of political emigration during the communist era. He was famed as an unofficial bard of the opposition movement, but is as yet little known to classical reception scholars. This paper presents Kaczmarski’s creative engagement with Ovid as both a deeply personal reflection on the nature of exile and at the same time a universal commentary on poetry under authoritarian regimes. Our interpretation is based on a thematic analysis of the poem, including landscape, imperialism, displacement, “national” poets in exile, nostalgia, and the force of poetry. We set the reception in its social, political, and biographical context, with reference to several mediating receptions of the Ovidian exile. In Kaczmarski’s poem, the Ovidian voice helps the poet to express the trials of emigration and reveals their effect on his art. It shows how engagements with classical culture may flourish, even while the formal discipline of Classics has been undernourished. We provide a bilingual translation of “Ovid’s Old Age” to foster the understanding of migratory experiences in contemporary poetry and enrich international scholarship on the reception of Ovid with a response from communist Poland.

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Published

18.12.2020

How to Cite

Borowski, Paweł, and Henry Stead. 2020. “‘Ovid’s Old Age’: Jacek Kaczmarski and the Sung Poetry of Exile”. Clotho 2 (2):5-38. https://doi.org/10.4312/clotho.2.2.5-38.

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