The Bed That Is a Tree

A lovely thoughtful reading of my Penelope-inspired poem, chosen by Carol Rumens as her Poem of the Week in the Guardian.

I’ve long been inspired by the women in the Odyssey, since reading it as an undergrad. Seems to me that Penelope, Circe, Nausikaa and Calypso are beautifully drawn women – intelligent, wily, and often pivotal in all the key action of the story. They’re often shown as agents for change in a world where many of the men continue to rape and plunder, and head off to war. The poem was also inspired by a real-life Greek threnody (a ‘wailing ode’, linguistically linked to words like melody and rhapsody), a mourning song. My love, I loved you well, I kept you well. I kept you as musk in the box and wire in the reed. This folk lament (from Kynouria, an ancient district of eastern Greece) felt just right for Penelope, constantly weaving and unpicking a shroud to delay choosing a suitor in Odysseus’ absence a reed is part of a weaving loom, resembling a comb, used to separate and space the warp threads, to guide the shuttle’s motion.