Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review of Artemis, the People's Priestess by Dilys Wood

I felt very honoured by this thoughtful and appreciative review - and it's great to know it makes readers laugh out loud!

Review of Artemis, the People's Priestess by Dilys Wood, ARTEMISpoetry, Iss 19, Nov 2017

Myth now spells freedom. Were there times when writers dare not meddle? Now myth is freely re-shaped to focus on key contemporary issues, while serving as a means of escape from directly confessional poetry. Cora Greenhill’s Artemis, The People’s Priestess evokes a modern ‘goddess’ – Diana, ‘The People’s Princess’. This may be adventitious, but this lively book-length verse drama pivots on the role of woman, explored in a way that’s both many-layered and ‘no holds barred’, with particular attention to women who refuse to conform, who have ambiguous (not always hostile) attitudes to sex and tradition, who are perhaps, ultimately, tradition-makers. The emphasis is on flesh and blood employing modern vernacular. Characters include Artemis, tom-boy and rebel, her more conformist twin, Apollo, Kallisto, a tragic female figure, and Maya (Earth), who keeps the substructure firmly in view while others lose themselves in aspects of the superstructure – rituals, art, meddling in politics. There’s nothing diagrammatic about either plot, characters, or the rich Cretan setting (well-known to Greenhill). The debate around woman’s role could have been thin and schematic with the thrust towards easy victory for Artemis the rebel – it isn’t. The background of ancient mores (clothes, make-up, rituals, based, it seems, on wide research) gives colour. The power and beauty of nature is a sub-theme: “massive / olive trunks threw purple lines / across the dappled tracks. // ‘Look at that mountain!’ I whispered, / pointing at a profile chalked onto blue” (Arrival). The plot is deliberately labyrinthine and this matches the handling of ideas. These are juggled, kept in the air: no preaching here. Ultimately, the protagonists vanish into the future with their questions. A fine achievement and enjoyable read with ample laugh-out-loud, edgy humour.

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