Classics Teacher Chris Childers Constructing New Anthology of Greek and Latin Lyric Poetry

Posted January 10, 2012

Classics teacher Chris Childers is hard at work constructing a new anthology of Greek and Latin lyric poetry, Greek and Latin Lyric from Archilochus to Martial: An Anthology of New Verse Translations. Under contract with Penguin Classics UK, the anthology will contain translations from a wide variety of poets in both the Latin and Greek traditions, an unusual combination. According to Childers, the project offers a unique perspective into the importance of the lyric genre. Greek lyric poems were originally dictated by context (e.g., religious and theatrical), and the Romans continued the genre while altering it to fit their own themes and contexts. Including Greek and Latin pieces allows readers to trace the lyric poem’s evolution as it becomes more literary through time. Readers are also able to cross reference poets who influenced each other. For example, Horace, one of the most well-known Latin lyric poets, modeled his verse on that written by the Greek poet Alcaeus hundreds of years earlier, and readers can flip back and forth to compare the two.

For Childers, who will produce 600+ pages of translations in the initial drafts, the project offers an opportunity to “exercise his skills at verse” and learn the poems in greater depth. He enjoys the challenge of translating an ancient verse form, such as the elegiac couplet, into a structure familiar to contemporary readers, such as the heroic couplet. Above all, Childers says, he strives to “translate the experience of the original more than just the prose meaning—the ‘poem-ness’ of it” must be preserved. In addition to the translations, Childers will also write explanatory notes to accompany the text: a biography of each poet; the provenance of the manuscripts; obscure references; issues of scholarly debate; and mythological or historical figures who figure prominently in the poems.

You may wonder when Childers finds time to tackle the translations, given his class schedule, life on Schmolze dorm, and the boys’ tennis and squash programs. Like his students, Childers uses free periods to accomplish much of his work, chipping away at it throughout the year. He also dedicates time in the summer to the project, and he spent two weeks in the graduate libraries at his alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, in 2011. Childers is working toward a delivery deadline somewhere in 2015 with Penguin, and we eagerly anticipate the anthology’s publication shortly thereafter.

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