I'm very pleased to announce that Through Immortal Shadows Singing, my epic novella in poetry, is now available for preorder from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other retailers!

And by epic, I do mean epic - the 170 pages do include a table of contents and things like that, but this is about 167 pages of poetry.

Here's the blurb:

Maligned for her beauty, cursed for her role in causing a war, she has rarely been given her chance to tell her tale. Now Helen of Troy's voice breaks free, offering a new vision in this epic lyrical sequence that follows her journey from Sparta to Troy, from earth to hell, and back. A stunning debut novella from Mari Ness, THROUGH IMMORTAL SHADOWS SINGING will transform your view of Helen and the Trojan War, in a soaring poem of love and war, healing and pain, hatred and triumph.

I had huge problems trying to pick a quote from the book, but here's two small tastes of the poetry inside:

I walk, knowing that the queen of death
may name me sister, that the
cry of the hunt
shares my blood, that I share a father
with the Fates.


Bone on silver,
silver on bone,
the sound of a harp
the memory of dream.

Available April 25.
Full disclosure: it's been years since I saw the first Clash of the Titans film, which I don't recall enjoying that much, and I missed the remake entirely, so I came in with pretty much no knowledge of what had happened before. Which turned out not to mean much, but I anticipate. Second, I must admit to a slight bias when it comes to the classical gods, and by bias, I mean that Athena was, hands down, the most awesome of any of the Greek deities, bar none. She fights, she weaves, she turns people invisible, she inspires them to say the right things, she wears beautiful sandals on her beautiful feet which are apparently so awesome Homer can't stop talking about them, she's not in this movie, although she's listed in the credits.

I'm just saying. Which means it's time for snark.

Because oh, does this film need snark. )


Oct. 17th, 2011 01:04 pm
The 40th issue of Abyss and Apex is out, and in it, my poem Frenzy.

"Frenzy" actually grew out of another poem entirely, a few lines that didn't quite work in the first poem, quite probably because they demanded a poem of their own. And, as poems do, they grew into a series; this is the first of the group to appear.

The Iliad

Nov. 4th, 2009 09:55 am
So having finished my rereads of three different translations of Homer's Iliad, I can now say this without hesitation or question:

God, I hate this poem.

Or, as I suppose I should say, Gods and goddesses, I hate this poem.

(Not the Odyssey. I love the Odyssey as it ducks into dark places and corners and cries out for justice in a confused and uncaring and chaotic world full of monsters. That is a different conversation.)

It's not just the endless and endless descriptions of death and dying and blood and organs flying every which way and so on. I'm not fond of gore, but I can deal with it. It's not just the blatant disregard for the local environment (they battle a river when the river rather piteously says, hey, could you stem the blood flow for awhile, or, you know, failing that, stop throwing bodies into me, not to mention the wanton tree and fresh water spring destruction.) It's not the reduction of powerful divinities into a group of constant whiners – literally only three of them come out sounding at all likeable: the welcoming Themis, the cheerful and welcoming Charis and Iris the messenger who is just doing her job. You'll note that none of these (with the possible exception of Themis) can exactly be called major gods. I guess Poseidon and Thetis don't come off too badly, but every other divinity…auugh.

And it's not just the bit where the river says, dudes, er, seriously, can you let me just, you know, FLOW for awhile without constantly dumping bodies into me, and then everybody gets mad when the river finally has enough of this sort of thing? Or the bit where everybody gets the chance to shoot at a poor, tied up bird for fun.

It is, partly, the worldview that women are around to be given as prizes in chariot races. Sure, sure, the entire thing starts off because one guy is sulking because his slave – a woman – got taken away, feeding right into the worldview that women are around to be traded. Helen, one of the few women apparently not in this position, comes off as a total shrew (and on an annoying point, Helen of the Iliad, if you're really so convinced that Paris is worthless, how about sneaking out of Troy, jumping Menelaus's bones, and letting all of these Greeks go home, which admittedly would have meant not getting to have all of those chariot races, but think of how many people would have lived a little longer. And it is definitely partly the way that virtually any time something goes wrong with these heroes, they blame some divinity.

But mostly, every time I have dragged myself through this (literally) bloody poem, I am almost stuck dead by its tediousness, no matter what translation I happen to be reading. It has its moments – my favorite bit, where two warriors stop dead in the middle of battle to exchange family histories and then decide that they really shouldn't hurt each other since their fathers are old friends; the farewell between Hector and Andromache; the way the Greeks blow off some steam after a horrific day of slaughter with some nice blood sports and the lovely descriptions of all of the prizes; the way dead people get to come back and yell about their funeral arrangements (and the response of, "I'm DOING IT, I'M DOING IT! Quit haunting me!); the final scene of Priam and Achilles; and some lovely glimpses of the otherworld, with the water spirits and the golden palaces of the Olympians. Reading that, I had a not entirely new thought, that perhaps the Olympian gods were really more particularly powerful and capricious fairies – which then leads to the question, what is the line between fairy and god in the other realms?

And I sorta admire the characterization of Achilles in the sense that it's a completely believable depiction of the sports glamour guy who can do no wrong and sulks a lot when this isn't recognized, but I don't like Achilles, and his killing of Hector (who also becomes a lot less likeable on subsequent rereading) still sucks.

But small good bits do not an enjoyable reading experience make.

And while I've never really focused on the influence of literature on civilization – my academic approach was always to study influences in the opposite direction – I do think that the towering respect constantly given to the Iliad as the ultimate epic, the ultimate poem, the start of civilization*and so on significantly helps explain some of the attitudes towards women in western civilization.

*Not even remotely true, but a good example of how selective and fragmented documentation can distort history.

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