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Poematia Moderna: Modern Latin Poetry.

Poematia Moderna: Modern Latin Poetry. Edited and translated by William Cooper. Wilmington, NC: Scaeva Press, 2014. xi + 298 pages. While the Golden Age of Neo-Latin poetry is undoubtedly long in the past, everyone knows that even today, some poets are still composing in Latin. The problem is that it is not easy to find this material. Other efforts to collect contemporary Latin poetry have been made--one thinks of the volumes edited by Dirk Sacre and Anna Radke--but these anthologies are often difficult to find, and none offers any pretense of completeness. So the volume under review is welcome indeed.

Poematia Moderna presents over 300 Latin poems by 69 poets from 17 nations, most from the preceding century but some from this one as well. Many of these writers, as we might expect, are not household names, but some, like Giovani Pascoli, are well-known poets in their own right and a couple, like Wolfgang Schadewaldt and Michael von Albrecht, are renowned classicists whose verse compositions will come as a surprise to those who know only their traditional scholarship. The most common meters are elegiac couplets, Sapphic and Alcaic stanzas, and dactylic hexameters. Poets like Fidel Radle use rhyme successfully, Ton Smerdl writes in a kind of free verse, and on p. 94 we even find Latin haiku. The themes, in the end, are not much different from poems written in any language, at any time--love, friendship, nature, mortality, God, and family--but there are peculiarly modern takes, including the Big Bang, bikinis, cell phones, heart transplants, and skateboards, things that initially, at least, sound odd in Latin.

The best way to sing the merits of this collection, I believe, is to let it speak for itself, through a range of examples. Some of the poems, like "In patris obitum" of Orazio Bologna, could have been written two thousand years ago:
   Te Deus, alme pater, iustis soletur in aevum
   Muneribus. Lumen luceat ipse tibi.
   Terra levis solamen adhuc tibi praebeat almum,
   Collacrimante, pater, coniuge, prole tua.

Others, like "Quaeris cur" by Eric Johnson, are just as serious, but are clearly the products of our time:
   Puer vidi fratres slavos
   Et Judaeos condemnatos
   Capitis Germanice;

   Deinde Mortem exaudivi
   Voce saeva et servili
   Eloqui Slavonice;

   Posthoc ipse cum Vandalis
   Militans Americanis
   Deliravi Anglice.

   Quaeris cur Latina canam,
   Cur hac lingua versus pangam.
   Quod non olet sanguine.

Not everything has to be serious, although for soccer fans like Pietro Bruno, the tirade against the hated Roman squad Lazio mixes humor with venom in "In quondam arbitrum certaminis harpasti dirae":
   O barbe arbiter ac inique iudex
   Tu quid saepe aciei nihil merenti
   Mendosae Latiae favere es ausus,
   Quae in rete ingerere impotens habetur
   Follem (nam manibus vetatur uti):
   Quaenam convicia probrosiora
   Pro tuo crimine, ultor haud benignus,
   In tuum facinus vomam pudendum?
   Rebus qui Latiis studet misellis
   Profari nequit intumente bile,
   Quod indigna satis putatur certe
   Quam Victoria das ei repente,
   O trifucifer arbiter spuende!

Others, like the two little poems entitled "Telephonum mobile," incline still further toward the dulce, although there is just enough utile to make them worth a moment's thought:
   Machina parva tibi, quamvis sit noxia, prodest:
   Dum delet cerebrum, nuntia multa tenet.

   Effigies passim rapide transmittere possum:
   Ne tunicam ponas, casta puella, cave!

Enough said, I think. Just order the book, and enjoy! (Craig Kallenrf, Texas A&M University)
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Title Annotation:NEO-LATIN NEWS
Author:Kallendorf, Craig
Publication:Seventeenth-Century News
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2016
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