I first recall “hearing voices” in 1992, during one of my frequent visits to the original J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, now known as the Getty Villa. Inspired by the magnificent marble statues of the Getty’s world-renowned Greco-Roman antiquities collection, I began writing poems in the voices of the gods, goddesses and heroic characters of ancient Greece. Ancient Voices, the poetry collection inspired by those visits, was published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in March, 2004. Arachne Speaks, a long poem from that collection, was published as a picture book by the same press in 2001.
Okay… so maybe I started hearing voices much earlier and simply don’t remember? What I do know is this: from the moment I learned to read, the characters from ancient myths and fairy tales became my constant, beloved companions. Chronic illness left me isolated for long periods, and I filled those solitary hours poring over beautifully illustrated stories from My Book House, an encyclopedic series edited by anthologist Olive Beaupre Miller.
I lived in those books. They nurtured not only my love of myths and fairy tales, but of ancient history, art and poetry—in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve been writing poems almost as long as I’ve been reading Greek mythology. My childhood love of the Greeks led me to study classical literature in college, but I eventually settled on pursuing poetry and writing at Northwestern University and later at UCLA, where I was privileged to study with noted poet and anthologist Myra Cohn Livingston. The plays of Euripides and Aeschylus continue to inspire me, as do the epics of Homer and Virgil. My third book, Voices of the Trojan War, revisits The Iliad of Homer, retelling the tragic story of Troy through the voices of the gods and heroes who fought there.
My all-time favorite book is still one from the required reading list of my college days, The Metamorphoses of Ovid. I keep it bedside, always; I refer to it constantly and enjoy rereading it in new translations. Open The Metamorphoses to any page and you will find a story of wonder, of profound emotional power and transformation. These ancient stories continue to inform and fuel my writing, both for children and adults.
Silversmithing is another lifelong interest of mine—I really love hammering the dickens out of all kinds of metal! Over the years I have crafted everything from ear cuffs, broaches, pendants and rings to larger than life-sized copper masks for university theater productions and even chrome and aluminum clothing for rock and roll performers. Mask-making remains an important focus in my metalwork; not only it is part and parcel of the ancient Greek experience, it is the oldest artform on the planet—over 20,000 years old. I feature many of the large copper masks I’ve made in my dramatic presentations to students, my small attempt to bring the gods, goddesses and heroic characters of ancient Greece to life for a new generation.