Poetic Asides: For today's prompt, write a poem about somebody and be sure to include the person's name in the title of your poem (no reason to hide the person's identity here). Write a poem about Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, your next door neighbor, your child, or the person standing behind you. I guess you could even technically write a poem about yourself (just make sure you include your name in the title).
Now this was a different prompt, and a fun one. I had a harder time narrowing things down than I thought. Who to choose? So many people. I finally settled on doing two poems. The first was on Amelia Earhart (remember the flight fascination thing?), her thoughts (through my interpretation) about flying across the Atlantic Ocean in the night, alone.
The second poem is about my friend, Linda, and the curious circumstances around our initial meeting at the formation of an artist's group. Her first words to me were the opening line to my poem. "You aren't from around here, are you?" If we lived in the Old Wild West, those might have been an invitation to trouble, but since it was the New Modern Mild West, they were an invitation to a long friendship.
I've had a series of poems planned for a while, all of them about people of the past who were influential to me growing up. Not family, but the mythical and larger-than-life people I read about – of who Amelia Earhart was one.
Diane Arbus, Louise Nevelson, Hildegard of Bingen, Margaret Mead, Rachel Carson, Joan of Arc, Deborah Sampson, Mary Casatt, Beatrix Potter, Indira Ghandi, Jane Goodall, Margaret Bourke-White, Grace Hopper. . . to name a few. Hmm, I better get writing. Haven't even touched on ancient women or the men.
In the meantime, keeping with the prompt, here are two different takes on Persephone, by two different poets.
by Rita Dove
One narcissus among the ordinary beautiful
flowers, one unlike all the others! She pulled,
stooped to pull harder—
when, sprung out of the earth
on his glittering terrible
carriage, he claimed his due.
It is finished. No one heard her.
No one! She had strayed from the herd.
(Remember: go straight to school.
This is important, stop fooling around!
Don't answer to strangers. Stick
with your playmates. Keep your eyes down.)
This is how easily the pit
opens. This is how one foot sinks into the ground.
"Persephone, Falling", from Mother Love by Rita Dove. Copyright © 1995 by Rita Dove.
Persephone the Wanderer
by Louise Glück
In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,
that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
we may call this
sojourn in hell continues to be
pawed over by scholars who dispute
the sensations of the virgin:
did she cooperate in her rape,
or was she drugged, violated against her will,
as happens so often now to modern girls.
As is well known, the return of the beloved
does not correct
the loss of the beloved: Persephone
stained with red juice like
a character in Hawthorne—
I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
"home" to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?
You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.
Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise
the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.
You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?
White of forgetfulness,
It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says
Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn't know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.
She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes
she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.
The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.
You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us
that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.
White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth
asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read
as an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.
When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother's
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.
Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life—
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—
What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?
"Persephone the Wanderer" from Averno by Louise Glück. Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück.