5 April 2006

Song for the Women Poets

I read and read Milton in college and graduate school, until I finally realized that somehow, I wasn't there, in Milton. I told this to my professor at Columbia, as we walked across the campus in the dusky evening. He stopped and faced me and waved his hands around my body (like a woman's shape) and said, "But your theory is so tentative, so weak."

As a young woman poet, I had been to a place that I couldn't find in the literary canon. A.E. Stallings shows me in her Song for Women Poets that she understands. She goes very far in this poem, and she comes back whole, with her hands full of goodness. Thank you, Alicia.

~ Mary


Song for the Women Poets appears in A.E. Stalling's new book, Hapax (Triquarterly, 2006), and is reproduced here with the poet's permission.

Song for the Women Poets

Sing, sing, because you can.
Descend in murk and pitch.
Double-talk the ferryman
And three-throated bitch.

Sing before the king and queen,
Make the grave to grieve,
Till Persephone weeps kerosene
And wipes it on her sleeve.

And she will grant you your one wish:
To fetch across a river
Black and sticky as licorice
The one you lost forever.

"Don't look back." But no one heeds.
You glance down in the water.
The image drowning in the weeds
Could be your phantom daughter.

And part of you leaves Tartarus,
But part stays there to dwell--
You who are both Orpheus
And She he left in Hell.

© A.E. Stallings


A.E. StallingsA. (Alicia) E. Stallings was born in 1968. She grew up in Decatur, GA, and studied classics at the University of Georgia and Oxford University. Her poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry series (1994 & 2000) and has received numerous awards. Her first poetry collection, Archaic Smile, was awarded the 1999 Richard Wilbur Award. She composed the Latin lyrics for the opening music of the Paramount film, Sum of All Fears, and is completing work on a verse translation of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura for Penguin Classics.

A.E. Stallings resides in Athens, Greece with her husband, John Psaropoulos, editor of the Athens News, and their toddler Jason.