Demeter Does Not Remember
Page Count: 70
Publication Date: Friday, December 05, 2014
Cover Artwork: The Silent Hunger by Charlotte Kelly. Oil on canvas. Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist. www.charlottekelly.com
About this Book
Mary Madec’s second collection is held by a narrative, like the one which each of us makes to hold our lives together. It takes as its inspiration the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone to explore the human journey of mother, daughter, lover. The duality of light and darkness in the cycle of the seasons provides a backdrop for an awareness of personal transformation which seeks a truce with age. Many poems trace how insights come, and how memory functions in shaping our lives. Though not autobiographical, this book is deeply personal.
Mary Madec is Director of Villanova University’s Study Abroad Program in Ireland. She has a Ph.D in Linguistics from The University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A. She has published in Ireland, Britain and the USA, and in 2008 won The Hennessy XO Award for Emerging Poetry. Her first collection, In Other Words, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2010 and in 2012 she edited a book of poems Jessica Casey & Other Works (also from Salmon Poetry) from the award-winning community writing project Away With Words collective which she co-founded in 2008.
Read a sample from this book
Persephone: Coming of Age
At the end of Spring, she plays in the ragged grasses
clumpy, uneven, wet like the hairs on the mount of Venus,
the sentinel peaks rising in the distance
by the tender early light, now her breasts.
In the waters of the inlets her arms and legs
stretch like promontories.
She is aware of the suck and tug of the earth
taking her into itself, into its dark folds.
When she thinks of her hips, they are a boat
carved out of an old apple tree she remembers.
She longs for a river; she would give herself to its bed,
its mud and stones like flesh and bones.
And she knows, as a salmon knows, that she would go with it
into the dark places water flows, on its way to the sea.
I land in you unexpectedly,
down and something silky like new grass
and it is soft and I fit perfectly
like in memory foam
and maybe it is a memory
and it is silky like a caress, your fingers
and new, I have never come here before
and green somehow like soft summer
down deeper than I have ever known
and maybe you heard the whimper
as I gave myself to
the comfort of you concave
as a moon but not cold or blue
and I gave myself as a child
extends her little arms wide
and trusting on the world
the edge between inside and outside
blurred like tears blur
eyes that still see
and your arms wrap around me
and I am satisfied.
Soon it will be Winter
and Demeter does not know what she hates most
about the change – her straw hair, her broken nails,
a shrivelling up inside, no blood rain,
insomnia as she tosses her tired head this way and that.
She thinks of Persephone, the daughter she fed
and is jealous of those pert little breasts,
those eyes, reminding her of another bed
where she was desirable as a wife.
She can feel her hardening arteries, her sagging eyes
stretched to crows’ feet as she smiles.
There is no sap inside her anymore, a greyness
rising up through her thighs.
Persephone is wet with smiles
her soft legs parting for Hades.
All poems copyright © Mary Madec 2014
Review: Demeter Does Not Remember reviewed by Kevin Higgins for the Galway Advertiser (January 2015)
Demeter Does Not Remember is Mary Madec’s second collection from Salmon Poetry. It is an ambitious work in that the entire collection is based, loosely, on the myth of Demeter, her daughter Persephone, and Persephone’s moody sometime boyfriend, Hades.
This is a book about the clash of generations. Though based on a myth that is a few thousand years old, it describes the eternal mother/daughter clash that is no doubt going on in Renmore and Knocknaccarra as I type.
Demeter “is jealous of those pert little breasts,/those eyes, reminding her of another bed/where she was desirable as a wife”. Many wrongly think of the Greek myths as being dry and austere; but in Madec’s hands this story gets erotic indeed: “Persephone is wet with smiles/her soft legs parting for Hades.”
Those suffering from heart conditions should make sure they have their medication taken before reading some of these poems. As we grow old we both envy and fear the young because of the reminder they are of our own all too soon demise, on days when we can barely “struggle across the river/to the other side of the kitchen.”
These are well put together poems that ask the reader some hard questions.