Astropoetica: Mapping the Stars through Poetry

The Golden Fleece II   after Susan Mitchell

Aries, from Celestial Atlas by Alexander Jamieson

Credit: Alexander Jamieson, courtesy of
the United States Naval Observatory Library

“A language grows tired of its riders,”
writes Susan Mitchell in “The Golden Fleece”
And I am reminded why people translate poetry.

In the trade-off of animal for culture,
the poem has the most to lose and gain
I think; it needs quite a bit of animal
reserve to work;
in this case, Susan says,
‘snorts, growls, leaps, and bounds.’

To have a poet with a different language,
or, in Susan’s case, a language at all,
set the terms of the trade,

is a wild idea, like the loan of
an unconscious,
with its drafts calling forth particular
snorts and boundlessness you could not
have imagined.  Interestingly,

the ram with the golden fleece
lost the girl, Helle, who fell from this
winged animal, naming
the Hellespont

Which did her poem find
or lose?  Helle’s brother, Phrixus, did hold on,
as Susan, the translating poet,
exhorted. 

Phrixus lived to be quite old and sacrificed
the ram to Poseidon, (who, interestingly,
had sired it), and it became
the constellation

Aries, which interests me
especially, as Aries is my sign,
and I was once a girl who fell deep
into cold water. 

I like to think the projection into stars
was consolation, perhaps
inspiration for my
poetry.  Conclusions about such
matters are difficult, though,
so maybe I should stop here
with that lovely metaphor about consolation
and stars. 

But I can’t help thinking it’s
relevant that to read Susan’s poem,
I got missing background
on the Golden Fleece from
Wikipedia,

which, with its links to and discards of
others’ interests,
is the most democratic translator,
one could argue. 

Still, Susan and I, the two
living girls in this poem,
privilege our translations over ‘others’.

Could the poetry be the
‘holding on’ still possible?  Could it
keep language inspired by its riders: leaping
over cold water, rescuing some,
discarding others?

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Barbara Regenspan is an educational studies professor at Colgate University who teaches cultural, psychological and political foundations of education and also works with student teachers in social justice-focused teacher education, specializing in multiple perspective secondary social studies and English education. Her research focuses on the parallel nature of arts-based multiple perspective social education for prospective teachers of history and English and for the children and adolescents they will teach in their own public school classrooms. Her first academic book is Parallel Practices: Social justice-focused teacher education and the elementary school classroom (Peter Lang Publishing, 2002). She has a great family that includes her life partner David and their twenty-something children, Ben and Sarah. Their dog Gaelen is a rescue dog, and, although very loveable, does not always behave well.