September 20, 2010
Last Thursday night, Maguire Hall provided an intimate setting for Odds Bodkin’s interpretation of ,“The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast.” Just a man and his twelve string Taylor guitar brought the beginning of the epic poem to life. Bodkin’s plethora of voices, vocal sounds of nature, and varying styles of string riffs added depth to the tale, keeping the audience interested. Homer’s story provided the framework for an interactive presentation which allowed the listener to create their own colorful experience behind closed eyelids, with the assistance of Bodkin’s comedic spin.
For those who are unfamiliar with Odyssey, it is the story of a fearless King Oddysseus, who leads his men off to fight in the long lived Trojan War. The soldiers of Ithaca take down the city of Troy thanks to a surprise entrance within a wooden horse. After defeating the Trojans, the crew with little to show for it, postpones their return to find more plunder. However it was this misguided decision which brings on the ill will of the Greek gods, which blows the men to the opposite ends of the earth. Slowly, Oddysseus’ men diminish in a series of deaths, taken throughout their journey from island to island in search of home. Their journey takes them far and wide bringing on several deadly encounters, over the course of many years. Of the troops, Oddysseus is the only one who returns home alive.
In a lot of ways, I found Odds Bodkins exhilarating performance relevant to our course studies as it pertained to Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem, “Slam, Dunk, & Hook.” Komunyakaa’s poem speaks to athleticism, comparatively depicting the basketball players as gods. He begins saying, “Fast breaks. Lay ups. With Mercury’s insignia on our sneakers,” (ln.1) referring to the design of the Nike Swoosh, which was inspired by the signs of the Greek Gods. A similar parallel to the time of Greek gods lies in a follow up line, when Komunyakaa writes, “we could almost last forever, poised in midair like storybook characters.” (ln.9) This simile depicts a scene which could easily be integrated into Bokin’s performance. Another close comparison i found between the poems, was in the character’s area of safety. Komunyakaa speaks to the wood paneled floor of the court as a space free from all dangers of the tainted outside world. In the same light, Bodkin created a visual zone free from all harm aboard the wood paneled deck of the ship. Both story tellers depict life and death as intruding on the outer bounds of these virtual safe zones. Spelling this impending danger as a clear threat, Komunyakaa writes, “Trouble was there slapping a blackjack against an open palm.” (ln.29) Its almost as is when the characters are on board, time is suspended, however it still continues to tick away outside of these protective boundaries.
Personally I approached the performance of the Odyssey with a closed mind, and preconceived notions that it would be another bothersome homework assignment occupying my free time. However to my surprise, Odds Bodkin, immediately upon entering the stage, let his expressive range of voices and nimble fingers do the talking, while the audience, including myself slipped off into a world of their own imagination.