CATHERINE THEIS



"Acting needs witnesses, a whole theater of citizens. Women are the primordial song of the imagination."

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ABOUT

Catherine Theis‘ latest book, MEDEA (Plays Inverse, 2017) is an adaptation of the Euripides story. Her first book of poems is The Fraud of Good Sleep (Salt Modern Poets, 2011), followed by her chapbook, The June Cuckold, a tragedy in verse (Convulsive, 2012). Theis has received various fellowships and awards, most notably from the Illinois Arts Council, Del Amo Foundation, Gold Family Foundation, and the Phi Kappa Phi Society. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is currently a Russell Endowed Fellow and PhD Candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, where she also translates contemporary Italian poetry into English. Theis’ scholarly interests primarily focus on the intersection between translation, poetics, and performance studies.

 

BOOKS

 

MEDEA

Through a mix of sound-poems, dance, and traditional scenes, Catherine Theis attempts to jostle Medea from her traditional, male-defined narrative in this modern retelling set in the mountains of Montana.


A 2015 Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers finalist, MEDEA features a Chorus of Flames, choreography for The Milky Way, and a collection of palate-cleansing satyr plays to be performed after. Grappling with both love and language, Theis' Medea "wants to join with the world, to meld with it. Let's let her do that—see what falls away."

Read the reviews:

in The Literary Review

in Full Stop

in Beatrix Turán

Read an interview:

with James Pate in Entropy

Performance at Comfort Station

THE FRAUD OF GOOD SLEEP

The Fraud of Good Sleep is a book of “serious humanist” poems. Theis’s poems combine a stunning, classical rigor with a passionate madness that is utterly contemporary and surprising. From prose poems and extended lyric sequences to translations and fragments, this book attempts to enfold the living past into the insane present. 

"Paradise Sauna" from TYPO

selections from The Fraud of Good Sleep

‘Catherine Theis’s The Fraud of Good Sleep is a riotous and refined celebration of language. It is elegant and erudite without ever being stuffy, and surprising at every turn. A truly dashing collection, full of glitter, and everywhere intimating the “joy in the mountains very near.”’

—Maggie Nelson

‘With The Fraud of Good Sleep, Catherine Theis gives us poetry as sensuous, glinting energy. Swerving between the intimate and the adamant, these poems feel like letters written to you by someone who’s in love with the world—someone whose eyes and heart are wide open, who’s learned (and keeps learning) from the ancients, who can mingle her voice with Sappho’s and smile wickedly at Dante. There are musings on cities and foods (“Who will bring the chocolates weather permitting?”), mock lectures, disarming wisdom (“Fidelity, the sea we share in peaceful times”), and exhortations to live—to live well. “My concern,” writes Theis, “is with circumference, many-faceted / crystal wine glasses, Roman aqueducts, all sorts / of highway thinking.” These are poems flashing with wonder and humor, but “roughed in sorrow,” hard-won in their realizations. They are full of the bright ache of being alive.’

—Joanna Klink

THE JUNE CUCKOLD AND OTHER TRAGEDIES

The June Cuckold floods us in the erotic vegetable splendor of an English garden. Amid “the underneath whispering of peonies,” a chorus of insects bears witness to the exploits of Emily and Ray, a photographer rake. From the same bower, Emily’s daughter Peyton lives as a botanical aesthete, snapping photos and making sketches in charcoal, “mindful of my mother’s garden map.” And Samuel, Emily’s husband, reflects with detachment on the tragedy, ecstasy and doom stitched together by “the liberal thread” of life.  What ensues is a simultaneously epicurean and meditative ensemble of voices that confirms Walter Pater’s suspicion that “the way to perfection is through a series of disgusts.”

PROJECTS

 

NEW POEMS

selections from "Buen Clima" from Dream Pop Journal

"A Work of Art" from Yalobusha Review

"Aphorisms" from Diagram

"On Not Understanding Greek" from Tarpaulin Sky

                       

NON-FICTION

TRANSLATIONS

ARTICLES & ESSAYS

A chapter of my dissertation has been published in a collection of essays titled Classics in Modernist Translation (Bloomsbury, 2019), a volume that addresses modernist engagements with the literature of Greco-Roman antiquity. My contribution, “Braving the elements: H.D.’s and Jeffers’ ‘transduction’ of Euripides,” explores the similarities between poets H.D. and Robinson Jeffers and their interest in the choral odes of Euripides’ The Bacchae.

Read a review of the book here.

GET IN TOUCH

 

©2018 by Catherine Theis.