Modern Metamorphoses


012021020720210213 (R4)Michael Symmons Roberts begins a bold new three-part series examining the fascination poets have forever held with notions around metamorphosis and the body.

From Homer’s account of Circe’s transformation of men into swine and Ovid’s great classic Metamorphosis, the conceit has been picked up through the centuries by many of our greatest writers including Shakespeare, Kafka and Stevenson.

Over the course of the series, Michael examines how poets today are engaging with the theme of transformation, whether that is through re-imagining classical works from a feminist perspective or using it as a means to explore identity in the 21st Century. Some of the biggest and most interesting names in contemporary poetry shaer their thoughts - Jorie Graham, Michael Longley, Alice Oswald, Patience Agbabi, Fiona Benson, Will Harris, Andrew McMillan and more.

In this first episode, Michael talks with Professor Edith Hall about the reasons metamorphosis was such source of fascination for writers in Ancient Greece and Rome. He also speaks with writers including Cheri Magid and Fiona Benson who are re-writing Ovid’s tales with renewed emphasis upon the sexual assaults that so often feature in these foundational stories and which have frequently been air-brushed out of historical translations.

Part Two will deal with the possibilities that technology and science offer in terms of future transformations, while Part Three will consider the changes that take place in our bodies over the course of a lifetime.

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4

Michael Symmons Roberts begins a new series on poetry, the body and metamorphosis.

Michael Symmons Roberts hears how poets today are offering new perspectives on Ovid.

022021021420210220 (R4)In the second episode of this three part series, Michael Symmons Roberts considers how poets and artists are reacting to the various ways science and technology are already transforming our bodies and will continue to do so in future - in sometimes extraordinary ways.

Keisha Thompson discusses her new work about gene-hacking, while Jill Magid describes the reactions of her parents to her decision to transform her ashes into a diamond in the name of art.

Michael also considers how other bodily transformations have become so much a part of our modern lives - in the form of Marvel movies and body-building, for example, or tattooing, as discussed by Andrew McMillan and Helen Mort respectively.

Rachel Mann describes the difficulties of articulating the physical elements of her transition as a trans woman in her poems, while Jorie Graham urges caution in accepting the metamorphic possibilities offered by technology simply because they are available.

A TBI production for BBC Radio 4

How poets are dealing with the bodily transformations made possible by modern science.

Michael Symmons Roberts hears how poets today are offering new perspectives on Ovid.

032021022120210227 (R4)In the final episode of the series, Michael Symmons Roberts confronts some of the most important metamorphoses that occur to our bodies over the course of our lives, taking Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man speech as his starting point.

He asks how poets react to the changes brought about by adolescence, by pregnancy or by serious illness? How much of our spirit and our voice remains constant as our physical being encounters such dramatic transformations? And are the ravages brought about by old age necessarily a thing to fear, or - as Jorie Graham and Michael Longley suggest - an opportunity to find poetic inspiration in the face of the dying of the light?

A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4

The series ends by looking at how poets deal with bodily changes wrought over a lifetime.

Michael Symmons Roberts hears how poets today are offering new perspectives on Ovid.