Finding the Ferry-way

by Matthew Koslowski on January 13, 2010
in Anecdotes

In This Essay

The Art of Sinking in Poetry by Alexander Pope
The Epistles of Horace: Bilingual Edition (David Ferry, trans.)
The Odes of Horace: Bilingual Edition (David Ferry, trans.)
“For poet, classics translate into success” by David Mehegan, The Boston Globe, July 7, 2005

The other day I found a copy of Alexander Pope’s The Art of Sinking in Poetry in Barnes&Noble. As I began to read it, I began to think of Horace’s “Ars Poetica”, how long it had been since I had read it, and thought about when it began to take on a special meaning for me.

I felt myself floating after finishing my undergraduate degree.

I found myself fighting against ideas that I did not want to accept. But I did not then have the strength to put them down.

I still don’t.

Then one day I was reading The Boston Globe — only good things come from reading The Boston Globe — when I came across a story about a translator trying to revive the classics of ancient Roman poet Horace.

Since I first read Aristotle as a freshman in high school, I have had a respect for the classics. Seneca is one of my favorite philosophers, which is odd when I consider my love for Romantic poet John Keats and lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke. I had read Horace’s Ars Poetica in college and remembered liking it.

So, I read through the article. I was struck by this statement:

Some literary lights grumble darkly about the low profile of poetry in our time, but Ferry said its status is no better nor worse than it ever was.

What could he possibly mean? Was poetry always so marginal as it is today? Or is our — my — definition of poetry too narrow? Horace himself writes of the importance of poetry in his own age. I wrote “poetry” in high school, but had not then bothered to study it. And my verses, if I am allowed to call them that, were at their best only hints of something possible with more study. Did he know studies of the prominence of poetry that I did not know?

A few quick searches and I found Dr. Ferry’s email address. And with not a little trepidation, I set out to ask him myself.

The article about him, the few emails I exchanged with him, and his translation of the “Ars Poetica” in The Epistles of Horace, though I could not see it then, helped send me down the course towards my own serious love of poetry.

So, who do you want to contact? Why haven’t you?

Form your own opinion. Buy these books from

May I also suggest…?

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