Finding Ithaca by Phyllis Beck Katz


Just as Odysseus loses his way on the long journey home, so the poet journeys to her Ithaca through the many years of her husband’s illness and death. With ferocity of will, and with the wit and power of her song, she overcomes the forces opposing her from within and from without, and leaves the “frozen circle of grief” well behind. And the poems, ripe and green, that in her travels she long kept tight in a bag? Loss has “let them fly,” giving us the fine lyrical poems and many magical moments of Finding Ithaca. —Zara Raab


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 82
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: April 2018
  • ISBN: 978-1-948017-07-7


Losing a beloved mate of many years to cancer is a transformative grief for the soul left behind, a painful odyssey of discovery that rearranges every former certainty as we mourn. Grounded in the poet’s study of Greek and Latin literature, Phyllis Beck Katz’s Finding Ithaca moves from the depths of irretrievable loss into empathic compassion for the difficult lives of others, and further, to arrive at the restorative grace of claiming a new poetic voice. “It begins in silence, in secret, something growing inside us/ we do not know is ours.” —Pamela Harrison


On the Way to Ithaca

We travel roads
worn by the weight of centuries,
our feet, wheels, carriages, bicycles, tanks
digging cracks in highway bones.
Lugging it all, unfeeling,
the roads roll on, determined,
over rivers, under tunnels,
highways disfigured, ripped-up,
replaced, carrying
our joys, angers, sufferings,
the journey we all take.

Listen to the jagged breath of the runner
lapping up the frosty edge,

her dark footprints in the slush,
the only sign that she has passed.

Her footprints do not tell us
from where she comes or wants to go
on such a bitter day,
yet she runs and runs,
striving to find a dark somewhere
she did not know she sought,
her breath hanging frozen behind her


Phyllis Beck KatzPhyllis Beck Katz’s poems have been published in The Salon, 2010, Connecticut River Review, The Mountain Troubadour, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, 2010, 2011, 2012, and Birchsong, 2012, and Oberon, 2014. She was awarded the Oberon Poetry Prize in 2014 for her poem “Emily Dickinson’s Gorgeous Nothings”, and second prize in the Poets and Music contest the Sunapee Center for the Arts in 2015 for “Reflections on Fauré’s Requiem.” Her first book, All Roads Go Where They Will, was published by Antrim House Books in December 2010. Her second book, Migrations, also by Antrim House, appeared in November 2013.

She has a PhD in Classics from Columbia University, 1969, and has recently taught Classics, Women’s and Gender Studies, and ancient and modern poetry in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Dartmouth College. She is now retired.

In December 2016, almost a year after her husband died, she moved from Norwich, Vermont to Northampton, Massachusetts.

Additional information

Weight 8 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in