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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Throne of Labdacus

The Throne of Labdacus

A Poem

Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Farrar, Straus and Giroux


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

The first warning passing through Thebes--
As small a sound

As a housefly alighting from Persia
And stamping its foot on a mound

Where the palace once was;
As small a moth chewing thread

In the tyrant's robe;
As small as the cresting of red

In the rim of an injured eye; as small
As the sound of a human conceived

A compelling, lyric telling 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.

L.A. Times Book Prize - Winner

Praise for The Throne of Labdacus

“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

“A profound meditation on the mysteries of feeling and language from a passionate, brilliant poet.” —Phoebe Pettingell, The New Leader

Reviews from Goodreads

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.

image of Gjertrud Schnackenbergo
Mike Minehan

Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Read an interview with Schnackenberg

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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