The Throne of Labdacus A Poem

Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

0374527962

9780374527969

Trade Paperback

112 Pages

$12.00

CAD14.00

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Winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry.
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2000.

This book-length poem is a compelling and lyric version of the story of Oedipus, and of "what happens outside the play," in the experience of the god who is its presiding oracle: Apollo, the god of poetry, music, and healing. Given the task of setting the Sophocles text to music, the god is woven reluctantly into its world of riddles, unanswered questions, partially disclosed objects, and ambiguous second-hand reports—a world where the gods, as much as humans, are subject to the binding claims of fate and necessity.

Gjertrud Schnackenberg draws upon ancient fragments and allusions to Oedipus and upon folk-tales about the origin of the Greek alphabet to present a vision of the tragedy's essential unknowableness, where the destinies of gods and humans secretly mingle in the unfolding of time, and where Zeus's laws, which suffuse the great tragedy's world, are as invisible and as inviolable as physical laws.

REVIEWS

Praise for The Throne of Labdacus

"Everything about the new poem feels inevitable, and everything in it conspires to project a sense of the inevitability of art, of poetry . . . The strange and thrilling arc of Schnackenberg's career has taken her backward through time . . . to a place where, as in Eliot, past and present, classical and contemporary, the august and the mundane, come together in astringent—and deeply modernist—harmony."—Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Review of Books

"Rich, even ornate at times, Schnackenberg's poetry carries its weight as if it were no weight at all, partly by its thematic intensity and partly by the sheer beauty of its imagery."—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Schnackenberg stands out among younger American poets for her ambition, in the best sense of the word. Her verse is strong, dense, and musical . . . Behind it are formidable masters, Robert Lowell most notably, but also Yeats and Auden . . . [Hers] is a very rare achievement in contemporary poetry."—Adam Kirsch, The New York Times Book Review

"Ultimately, The Throne of Labdacus is about the source of poetry . . . [The story of Oedipus] proves no less mysterious in its greatest literary manifestations than in its ancient, preliterate origins, except that out of suffering, injustice, sin, and unanswerable riddles the music of literature emerges."—Phoebe Pettingell, The New Leader

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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Gertrud Schnackenberg was born in Tacoma, Washington. She graduated from Mount Holyoke, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from that college in 1985. She has also received the Lavan Younger Poets Award (judged by Robert Fitzgerald) from the Academy of American Poets, and the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Gjertrud Schnackenberg

  • Gertrud Schnackenberg was born in Tacoma, Washington. She graduated from Mount Holyoke, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from that college in 1985. She has also received the Lavan Younger Poets Award (judged by Robert Fitzgerald) from the Academy of American Poets, and the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
  • Gjertrud Schnackenberg Mike Minehan
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