I was lucky enough to get access to an advance reading copy of Shelby Eileen’s upcoming poetry chapbook ‘Goddess of the Hunt’, a poetic treatment of aromantic-asexual Artemis. (I’ve reviewed some of Eileen’s work before – read my review of Sunfish here.)
I’m somebody who loves Greek mythology, so the premise of this chapbook already appeals to me on a deeply personal level, and Artemis as aroace just makes it that much sweeter. Plenty has been written about the ‘virgin goddess’, but surprisingly little from her own perspective, and this is the niche that Eileen’s book slips into. The 100-page book flips between snapshots of moments in the life of a goddess (usually Artemis; sometimes Leto, or Persephone) and short poems, all filled with a richness of language that both lives up to and surpasses the promise of sunfish.
Particularly notable is the poem on page 73.
the tips of my arrows pin all your racing thoughts in place
the sharp edges of my disinterest halt you in your tracks
this is what it feels like to know people are afraid of you
afraid to try
afraid to get too close
This is the kind of rhythm and emotional vulnerability that Eileen brings to their work all the time, but the layers of mythology and metaphor here make it that much more visual. Artemis is certainly spoken of in somewhat hushed tones in the Classical works, and the power in the poetry in ‘Goddess of the Hunt’ is how it gives her the room to be terrifying, to be a warrior, to be the fierce virgin goddess, while also talking about her softness and her desire for closeness. Just because I don’t want what everybody else does, Artemis sings, doesn’t mean I won’t protect you with my life.
‘Goddess of the Hunt’s biggest difficulty is probably pacing and the organization of the poems. Every single one of these poems is excellent, with an individual voice and theme, but the final poem leaves off on an abrupt note, while others nearer the middle have a finality to them that perhaps would have been better suited to the end. Like many of the best books, it’s one where you can pick it up and read it a poem at a time, but it would be nice to see some of them switched for greater impact.
‘Goddess of the Hunt’ by Shelby Eileen launches on February 20th on Amazon; follow Eileen on twitter at @briseisbooks for more information, or see their Amazon store here.