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Songs and Stories of the Ghouls

Wesleyan Univ. 2011. c.210p. ISBN 9780819569561. $24.95. POETRY
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Lenore Marshall winner Notley here explores the intersection of mythology, feminism, and politics. In three sections that combine poetry and prose, she modernizes the myths of Medea and Dido, questioning whether Medea would really have killed her own children and how the celebration of ancient wars has spurned violence throughout history. At times, the writing turns didactic, as in this prose segment, "The history of Carthage has been related by numerous ancient men but the Tyrian princess Dido founder of the city cannot be mentioned except in relation to her tragic passion for Aeneas." Notley complicates the dense subject matter by employing modernist techniques, such as shifts in syntax and the use of capital letters. There are lovely passages—"As beautiful as/ a raven, a fire, a/ fawn"—but too often the poet incorporates lines that make little sense: "She wears a blue down coat/ because she is rather/ deep."
VERDICT Those interested in mythology and political poetry will find something of note here, but most will find this collection of little merit. Not Notley's best work.

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