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Book Review: On a Grey Thread by Elsa Gidlow

Image of a digital book cover.Red and pink roses rest against a green background. A black band across the middle has the title in white on it.

Summary:
Published in 1923, this poetry collection was the first in North American history to openly express lesbian desire. Both personal and political, Gidlow’s poems express the poet’s complex feelings as a young woman whose political ideology and sexual identity ran counter to the traditional values of her time.

Review:
For Pride Month, I wanted to push myself a little by reading from a genre I read less often – poetry. I’ve also been striving to connect more with queer history, so I thought this groundbreaking collection was a great match.

The poems are collected into four sections – Youth, Grain and Grapes, Inner Chamber, and In Passing. If you are here for women loving women content…skip to the Inner Chamber section. Although, I am glad I read them all in order, because I do feel like they told a subtle overarching story.

The first poem in the collection beautifully explores the meaning of life and what makes us who we are via beads on a grey thread. Other poems consider the beauty of nature and sadness/loneliness (in a way that reminded me of 90s emo culture). In fact, I think what struck me the most when reading these was just how of the moment and today they felt, in spite of being written almost 100 years ago.

Since the entire collection is out of copyright, let me close my review by sharing my favorite in its entirety.

“Episode”

I have robbed the garrulous streets,
Thieved a fair girl from their blight,
I have stolen her for a sacrifice
That I shall make to this mysteried night.

I have brought her, laughing,
To my quietly sinister garden.
For what will be done there
I ask no man’s pardon.

I brush the rouge from her cheeks,
Clean the black kohl from the rims
Of her eyes; loose her hair;
Uncover the glimmering, shy limbs.

I break wild roses, scatter them over her.
The thorns between us sing like love’s pain.
Her flesh, bitter and salt to my tongue,
I taste with endless kisses and taste again.

At dawn I leave her
Asleep in my wakening garden
(For what was done there
I ask no man’s pardon.)

I hope this review entices you to read some (more) classic queer poetry.

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4 out of 5 stars

Length: 73 pages – novella

Source: Archive.org

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Book Review: Eros and Psyche by Robert Bridges

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Winged god holding a mortal womanSummary:
This twelve section poem re-tells the mythological love story of Eros and Psyche with each section representing one month of the year.  Psyche, a mortal, and Eros, a god, fall in love, but Eros’s goddess mother, Aphrodite, disapproves of her son loving a mortal.  They therefore must face trials and tribulations to be together.

Review:
Since this re-telling of the Eros and Psyche myth was originally written in English, it is actually quite beautiful to read and/or listen to.  The use of the twelve months to tell the story lends it a certain relaxing quality, even when the lovers are facing trials and tribulations.

The story itself is typical of a myth.  Someone wants something.  A god or goddess doesn’t want them to have it.  They face trials and tribulations before besting or being accepted by the god/dess.  Nothing new there.  What is new is how prettily the tale is told.

It’s a short read, but it features some well-loved figures from mythology including Pan and Demeter.  There’s a particularly fun gathering of the gods and goddesses toward the end that demonstrates the interaction and clash of personalities that the Greeks and Romans believed in.

Overall, this retelling is well-handled, and the poetry is beautiful.  If you enjoy poetry or mythology, you will enjoy this read.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audiobooks app for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad

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