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Tales of the François Vase
A Poem

Julia Older

Julia Older's obsession with the famous François Vase led to both the radio play and this book-length poem. The dramatic 25-century journey of the vase winds through a subterranean inferno of greed, passion, and terror. Twice it was smashed into 600-plus pieces, came unglued, and was puzzled together, each time with a piece missing. A third time — during the 1966 Florence Flood — a scientist intentionally broke the vase. He restored it with the missing piece, and at last it was whole. Older's book offers readers the entire fascinating story. The poem is illustrated with the vase figures from the Iliad and the book includes a "backstory" with Older's original translations of her research.

Award-winning author Julia Older has written poetry, essays, fiction, nonfiction, plays, and literary translations. She is a recipient of numerous literary honors and has lived and worked in France, Italy, Mexico, and Brazil. She now writes in her studio in the foothills of Grand Monadnock, New Hampshire.

The CD included with this book is a 33-minute radio drama introduced by a 10-minute director-author interview. The production was chosen by Radio Works' Best Independent Programs for syndication and broadcast to more than sixty public radio stations coast to coast.


"Before printed books there were talking vases...Julia Older renders the voices that attended the François Vase from its birth in the potter's hands to what the gods and the heroes said at various times in the life of the vase, and then to what its admirers and its enemies said when they held it or broke it. All these voices speak in rhythms the poet fancied or channeled, and they tell a picaresque and musical drama of that Western mind that flows from ancient Greece to X rays and infrared dating. Once a talking vase, it's now Julia's singing vase. You can sing along."

—Andrei Codrescu, Writer and NPR Commentator


"Moments of truth that only great poems and great performances seem to coax from human thought."

—Mark Dagostino, The Boston Sunday Globe


"Older uses diverse voices to tell these strange and engrossing tales. Deftly, with the lightest of touch, (she) tackles serious topics of survival and letting go, of memory lost in millennial dust, the possibility of permanence, of dismemberment and re-member-ing, of bloodshed and yearning, separation and unity. Older accomplishes this while giving us immense pleasure. Always spellbinding—a wonderful journey."

—Sylva Boyadjian-Haddad, poet and professor of English and Comparative Literature, New England College.


"This is a major work. It not only deserves a hearing, but several."

—Frank Behrens, CD Reviews, Entertainment Times

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