Richard P. Martin

Homeric poetry is rooted in song and song-culture. Joe Goodkin's powerful renditions of episodes from the Odyssey, shaped in his highly personal, riveting musical idiom, recover an essential feature of archaic Greek epic: its lyric-like emotional grip and feel, the immediacy of a live narrative voice. Joe's Odyssey—and his rhapsodic travels to perform it—make for the closest thing we might now have to Homer.


Thomas G. Palaima

Joe Goodkin's Odyssey, as Bob Dylan would say, brings it all back home to the students we teach today.  The graduate students and faculty in the seminar performance were all deeply moved and inspired to new thoughts about the Odyssey and ancient and modern oral performance. The 220 students in my undergraduate Greek mythology course literally couldn't stop asking questions. We heard the performance ahead of our covering the Odyssey in class so they understood the emotional essence and the core social values and life lessons that Joe Goodkin's songs and his informed discussion as a classics-trained songster brought home to them. We have riffed off of Joe's Odyssey for the next four classes. The sound of Joe's and Homer's song lingers on.

Kathleen M. Coleman

Joe Goodkin’s performance was very thought-provoking and sparked a long discussion with our undergraduates about the nature of Homeric composition and the decisions that a modern performer has to face in bringing the concept to a contemporary audience. It brought a new dimension to our appreciation of the Odyssey and proved extremely worthwhile.

Joel Christensen

When we think of the act of Homeric reception and interpretation, we often contemplate Sappho's "Wedding of Andromache and Hektor", Pindar's dismissal of Homer's Odysseus, or, more recently, Derek Walcott's Omeros or Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad. We too often forget that reception and interpretation happened first in performance, as an artist and audience reflect on a tradition together. Joe Goodkin's Songs from the Odyssey provide modern audiences with the opportunity to think about how a song and its themes are made real in the world and how each of us is constantly engaged in the creation of the "newest song". No less important is how Goodkin's performance creates a different kind of space for the contemplation of Homer's Odyssey and the impact of song. Even those of us who have read Homer for years have much to gain from hearing these songs anew. And these experience comes with an important plus: Goodkin's songs are crafted from challenging and fascinating lyrics and articulated with haunting melodies by a talented musician

Michael Fontaine

Amid the hubbub of daily campus life, Joe Goodkin transported our audience. He created an oasis of meditation through nothing more than sound and song. It was a moving and memorable experience, surely similar to what the bards of classical Athens used to accomplish. We’re already looking forward to having him back.

Patricia Rosenmeyer

Joe sang his version of Homer's Odyssey beautifully, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, for my UW- Madison Integrated Liberal Studies class of 140 undergraduates who had just finished reading Lombardo's translation of the Odyssey. His musicianship was awesome, his creativity unparalleled, and his sincerity obvious. The students really appreciated the way he engaged directly with them on various levels, addressing topics of initial inspiration, selection, composition, and performance. The Q & A session could have gone on much longer than it did. The whole event was even more exciting for us because Joe is a UW-Madison alumnus, and the students could identify with his own journey of self-discovery as both a classics major and a professional musician. But all audiences will benefit from his enthusiasm and talent. Highly recommended!

Timothy Joseph

Joe's performance was spellbinding, and his re-imagination of Odysseus' story got all of us thinking about the Homeric material in new and productive ways. A lively discussion about music, the performative setting, the bardic tradition, and a whole lot more followed naturally after the performance. ​It was a great, one-of-a-kind event, and several of us on the faculty will be using Joe's songs in our courses ​for years to come.

Roger Travis

I can't think of a better way to get people thinking about where the utterly unique works of the Homeric oral tradition came from than a performance by Joe of his marvelous Odyssey. Not only has Joe composed a wonderful work that he performs with élan, but his friendly and welcoming demeanor make the experience both delightful and very memorable.

Geoff Bakewell

Joe Goodkin brings Homer to vibrant life in his bluesy, operatic version of the Odyssey. His guitar riffs and haunting lyrics will stick with you and your students long after the bard himself has moved on. Indeed, few things I have read or heard capture the epic's insistence on journeying so well as Goodkin's "The stars are on my left/ And I'm on my way."

Alexandra Pappas

I have hosted Joe at Universities in the South and the West. Despite differences in audience and background knowledge, Joe reaches everyone with his sensitive and lively performance. He is himself kind, warm, funny, and open to all questions, and as a professional musician and trained Classicist he is ideally suited to generate a lively and productive conversation about Homer no matter who is in his audience. Experiencing Joe's Odyssey performance has been enriching for every group of my students, as well as members of the community at large whom he also welcomes. In short, his music is great, he excites the audience into actively thinking about Homer and epic performance, and he's entirely professional.

Mark Usher

This performance pleasantly surprised me. At first, part of me feared it would be perceived by students as gimmick that I would later have to apologize for and explain away. Not so! Joe is an incredibly talented singer-songwriter and gifted performer--the kind of music you would listen to at home. His song cycle on the Odyssey psychologizes and personalizes, in the vein of, say, a Tennyson, the progress of Odysseus home to Ithaca. Yet, improving on Tennyson in Ulysses, Joe sings from the perspectives of several characters, including Penelope's. And the music responds, the mood now melancholy, now triumphant. Joe's open tuning of his guitar and the fact that his performance is continuous from song to song without pause has a most bardic effect. My students (in a large lecture class) responded with unprecedented enthusiasm, no doubt because Joe's style and truly poetic lyrics spoke to them. His performance literally enriched my students' reading of the Odyssey. That Joe is a trained Classicist, able to expound on what students are learning about the oral origin and later reception of Homeric poetry, is also a great boon. I know in my class Joe's performance and lecture reinforced student interest to study more Classics.

Eleni Manolaraki

Joe's Odyssey was a wonderful experience for my Classical Mythology class. Joe recasts the old story in modern terms while retaining its imaginative range and emotive power. Many of my students told my that their favorite session was that on the Odyssey, because it came alive for them.

Kirsten Day

Joe Goodkin's Odyssey offers a rare opportunity to experience Homer's tale in something approximating the original performance context, acting as a powerful reminder that when we read the epic in written form, we are not in fact studying the "original." Goodkin's lone voice and acoustic guitar offer the listening audience an emotional immediacy that can be easily lost when studying the written text or watching a cinematic version. His performance was a useful and welcome supplement to several courses in both the Classics and English departments, but also a moving and enjoyable experience in its own right.

Andrew Nichols

My Classical Mythology students absolutely loved the performance. I had several students come up to me both the day after and even at the end of the semester and tell me how much they enjoyed it. I think you did a great job of bringing to life the content we had been discussing in class and offering it up in another medium, one more closely to how the Greeks themselves would have enjoyed it

Jonathan Mannering

Whether to an audience of expert Homerists or fans of excellent musicianship, Joe Goodkin's interpretation of the Odyssey provides fresh insight into the poem's meaning and mode. Joe offers unique access to the experience of the bardic tradition as he conjures an atmosphere of the epic distance between our technologized times and the furthest recesses of collective memory.

Lynne Kvapil

Joe Goodkin enraptured a crowd of students and community members at Butler University with his songs and an engaging Q & A session after the performance. Students were raving about the experience for the rest of the semester, and we can’t wait to have him back!

Michael Nerdahl

Joe's performance of the Odyssey is enjoyably moving and offers many pleasant and thoughtful aspects for audience interpretation. And Joe himself is a gregarious, easygoing performer and conversationalist, enthusiastic in his discussion of Muses both modern and ancient.

Katie Schuhl

Even though Joe was used to interacting with and performaing for college students, he did a wonderful job with our high-school and middle-school students. He was friendly, engaging, and clearly loved what he was doing. I was impressed by his ability to get the students on his side during a long and challenging performance.  It does not include any of the standard sword-and-sandal portions of the Odyssey students that age are used to (Scylla and Charybdis, the Cyclops, Aeolus and the winds); he had pared the story down to its family-oriented core, and that can be a difficult sell for younger students who don't have the life experience to appreciate Odysseus' struggles in this area. He was very good, however, at preparing the students to go with him by telling them what they would hear, explaining that it might not be what they were used to, and appealing to their kindness in helping him give them the best show he could.

Before and after the performance, Joe visited Latin and English classes to discuss the process by which he developed his show. These sessions were some of the most useful and interesting I have ever seen led by an outside speaker. The students responded well to his unconventional choice of a career, due in large part to Joe's candidness about his path to professional bard and his description of its ups and downs. It was very helpful for my students to see someone who had followed a very different path from those they hear about regularly. My Latin students in particular talked with him in-depth about the value of a classical education regardless of one's ultimate career. The English teachers commented on how helpful he was in reinforcing what they were teaching: narrative arc, emotional appeal, choosing details carefully to create a strong impact.

Joe was also very easy to work with on the teacher side. He communicated frequently and on time, he arrived when he said he would, and he was flexible about food and other details that a host worries about.

Because of our experience with Joe, I highly recommend him as a performer and a person from whom young people can benefit.


Matthew Wellenbach

Joe Goodkin performed his Odyssey for the honors program at Catholic Memorial, and all who attended agreed that it was a highlight of the year. On a evening when a snow storm threatened outside, Joe offered a welcome respite from the harsh elements with his captivating performance. Armed with only his guitar and voice, he enthralled the audience of some 50 high school students. Equally as impressive as his performance was the illuminating and engaging discussion he led after he had finished singing. It was a rare treat for the students to be able to ask an artist about his art. Joe Goodkin’s Odyssey brought Homer’s Odyssey to life in a way that will remain with our students forever.