The Modern Day Bard and The Odyssey

Elijah Keefer-McGee, Features Editor

Odysseus shoots the suitors of Penilope
Mythological story of Homer. Odyssey kills the suitors of Penilope. An archer with weapons in his hands and men on their knees. Figure on a beige background with the aging effect.

Before the creation of books and movies, the transfer of stories and histories was conducted by word of mouth. This came in many different ways, be it through a parent telling a bedtime story or a wise man spinning tales of heroism and sacrifice, the word of mouth was the primary route through which these stories would travel.

While in the modern era the ways of transmitting information has changed and developed through the widespread usage of books and films, there is also a burgeoning movement to re introduce the old ways. One of these modern day bards is Joe Goodkin, a Chicago based musician who travels to campuses around the united states to sing the songs of the Odyssey. Joe Goodkin has sang the songs of the Odyssey nearly 300 times, with the most recent of his performances in the Austin College Wright campus center being his 299th performance of the 24 different songs and poems with lyrics drawing from Odysseus’s exploits.

Elijah Keefer-McGee
Joe Goodkin explains the history of poetry tied to the odyssey.

The performance of the songs and poems of the Odyssey make me wonder about the possibilities of other myths getting their own bards. Especially those that are as important to literary history, The stories of Grendel and Beowulf, Tales of the Argonauts and their ill fated captain Jason. These stories still have morals that modern day people could relate too, bravery, camaraderie, and never trusting fish-people are still morals that anybody can respect. The heroes of these stories are never perfect and that is another one of their strengths, as while anyone can read a book and see the heroes follies, actually hearing it through song is entirely different and not only because you do not have to deal with century defunct grammatical and spelling systems.

He doesn’t sing the stories in Greek, instead choosing to use the styles of an American folk singer. This too could be seen as a connection to the ancient as bards in the days of old sang tales of ancient heroes and mythical adventures, much the same way that folk singers will sing about a fantastical adventure or magnificent person. The two are a match made in heaven or, well, Mount Olympus.