The Houstiliad: An Iliad for Houston

The Houstiliad: An Iliad for Houston

The Houstiliad: An Iliad for Houston

The Houstiliad: An Iliad for Houston


In this savage yet beautiful book length poem Michael Lieberman captures the rage of men in modern society. He reimagines the characters of Homer's Iliad, recasts them, and sets them in conflict in today's Houston. Unflinching is its descriptions of violence, The Houstiliad implicitly contrasts the rage of Homer's Achilles which was specific and focused with the free-floating rage of contemporary men. Though unsparing in its descriptions, Lieberman's portrait is leavened by lovely lyric passages, reflection, and humor. For those who care about the complicated role of men in modern society this book is revelatory without promising an easy path to redemption or honor.

Achilles' wrath is where our tale begins
then spools out venom and men's mortal sins.
It's tempered true yet riffs on Homer's style,
suffused with guile, grit, and mordant wile.

• • •
Men savage men in violent travails
though in the end it's humor that prevails.


To attempt a book-length poem is surely a fool’s errand in an age addicted to tweets and Instagram, onll the more foolish if the poem is set in Houston, widely regarded as one of our country’s less interesting or appealing cities. Can any poem that portrays the rage of men in modern society go head to head with the fastpaced thrillers of Jo Nesbo or Olen Steinhauer, the churning treachery of Scandal or House of Cards, the stark, lurid realism of The Wire? Even Superman seems lame: Today everything is faster than a speeding bullet. the world is too much with us.

Yet it always has been. Nineteen-hundred years before Wordsworth, Virgil’s Aeneid had to compete with the racy lyrics of Catullus, not to mention the gladiators.

What has become The Houstiliad, An Iliad for Houston started as a short prose sketch, about 450 words, an intrusion that showed up uninvited one morning. It got its teeth into me and wouldn’t let go. It took over my imagination, morphed, and accreted material from my reading, my thoughts, my experiences, and my day-to-day life in a neighborhood at the edge of the Montrose section of Houston. It then surprised me by becoming a long poem.

To tell this story I have appropriated characters from Homer’s Iliad, reimagined and repurposed them, and set them in conflict in twenty-first century Houston. in The Houstiliad, Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War, appears as an MIT-trained . . .

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