Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Exclusive extract from the introduction to 'Homesickness and Exile'

Homesickness and Exile
This week we're tremendously excited to be launching our new anthology, Homesickness and ExileThe book is the second in our 'Emma Press Ovid' series, which began with A Poetic Primer for Love and Seduction, and it's a fantastic collection of poems about home and belonging with contributions from poets from across the world. There are poems about leaving home and missing it, returning home and feeling like a stranger, and about not knowing where 'home' should really be.

When Rachel (Piercey, my co-editor) and I began planning Homesickness and Exile, we hoped it would be the kind of book people would give to imminent travellers, to keep them company on the road. I think we've achieved that, and I couldn't be happier with the sensitive and varied ways in which all the poets approach the subject. It's a thoughtful, moving set of poems and I hope that it will strike a chord with everyone who reads it, whether they're at home or abroad. To give you a sense of the book, I've posted an extract from my introduction below. Enjoy!

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Inside the book
When the Roman poet Ovid was ejected from Rome by the emperor Augustus and sent to Tomis, a remote town on the Black Sea, he wrote five books of poetry in an attempt to bring about his pardon. These books, the Tristia, describe his last night in Rome, his terrifying journey across stormy seas, his misery in Tomis, his abandoned wife and friends, his early life and poetic works, and – above all – his hope that Augustus will relent and let him come back to Rome.

Ovid’s heartbroken descriptions of his wife and friends will resonate with anyone who has ever had to leave behind a loved one, but for me the fascination lies in Ovid’s unwavering belief in where his home is. He’s been banished from it by Augustus and he’ll live the rest of his days in Tomis, but his home will always be in Rome – not where he was born, but where he chose to live, surrounded by his wife, friends, library, reputation and personal history. In a very callous way, I feel envious of Ovid in his absolute conviction in where he calls home, because it strikes me as quite rare and wonderful to be able to identify somewhere as your home with full satisfaction and accuracy. Ovid may have lost it, but he had it to begin with: somewhere he was happy to belong.

When we launched the call for poems for this book, I wondered what we would learn about modern attitudes to home and whether Ovid’s feeling of bereavement would be echoed in any of the poems. In the privileged world of cheap flights and Skype, people can, in theory, go wherever they like, come back and visit often, and stay in touch via the Internet. Do people even feel homesick like Ovid anymore?

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Four poets from the anthology, Holly Hopkins, Anja Konig, Selina Nwulu and Stephen Sexton, will be reading at the Story Museum in Oxford on 2nd October. This special event will be part of the National Poetry Day celebrations, and the poets will be reading from the anthology as well as other poems on the theme of 'remembering'. You can book tickets here.

You can read more about the book and the poets involved over on our website and buy the printed book and ebook over on our website.

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