October 1, 2022

On reading Star Wars poetry, fans bond over a new take on the saga – Reuters

As Star Wars fans of all ages made their way to Ondaatje Hall on the Dal campus last Monday evening, they did so under the watchful eyes of Stormtroopers, bounty hunters and members of the 501st Legion Atlantic Garrison. (a local group of superfans).

There, at the front of the chatter-filled auditorium with an X Wing fighter helmet resting on the table in front of them, sat Jack Mitchell and Luke Togni, ready to take attendees to a “galaxy far, far away” to through an introduction to Dr. Mitchell’s new book, Star Wars Odyssey: An Epic Poem.

“So there’s a slice,” Dr. Mitchell said, opening the evening with a recitation from his book, almost entirely from memory. That must amount to a “mic drop” for the classics, as the crowd clamored for enthusiastic applause.

Drs. Mitchell and Togni are both classics specialists; Dr. Togni earned a master’s degree from Dalhousie Classics in 2011, but it was a Star Wars Facebook group that brought the two together shortly after Dr. Togni returned to Halifax in 2020. Between talking about Star Wars and ancient philosophy , the two clicked instantly and now regularly play Star Wars tabletop games together. Their chemistry was evident as the two chatted, drawing fans into the classic Dr. Mitchell take on Star Wars history.

Jack Mitchell recites a passage from his poem.

You call yourself a superfan?

During the evening, Dr. Mitchell answered questions from Dr. Togni and the audience. Topics included potential parallels between Star Wars characters and classic characters, whether the Ewoks were difficult to adapt to epic poetry, and how the Muse as the guiding spirit of ancient poetry made its way into the book of the Dr Mitchell.

One of the highlights of the evening was the Star Wars quiz. To qualify for the match, entrants had to be the first to answer questions such as “Which character says the iconic line, ‘Aren’t these the droids you’re looking for?'” (Answer: It’s Obi-Wan Kenobi) and “In The Empire Strikes Back, what planet does Cloud City orbit on?” (Answer: it’s Bespin).

The questions got harder as the rounds progressed, with Dr. Togni going so far as to exclaim, “Hold on tight for question seven!” The question followed through on his warning, blocking a few by asking, “What type of crystal powers the Jedi lightsaber?” (Answer: it’s kyber crystal).

A costumed participant reads a passage from Dr. Mitchell’s book.

Making Star Wars Accessible

Star Wars Odyssey: An Epic Poem is written for everyone and transports readers to futuristic Tatooine and surrounding planets with a strong connection to ancient Greece.

“I wanted to make it readable for someone who hadn’t even seen Star Wars before – like my mother-in-law,” Dr. Mitchell said.

The evening ended with a door prize and a costume contest. The Best Costume award went to 10-year-old Eli Arsenault for his witty portrayal of a Star Wars sleepover. With a backpack full of Star Wars stuff and a satisfied smile, Eli won his prize (a signed copy of the poem) at the comments of “Aw, cute!” and “What a great idea!”

Eli Arsenault’s winning Star Wars sleepover costume.

Dr. Mitchell closed the evening with a final reading, again reciting his verses with little help from the book. His book is available for sale at King’s Co-op Bookstore, Indigoand Amazing Story Comics.