Dancing with Dragons by Ila Selwyn (Westridge Publishing, 2018), 112 pp., $20; Tongue Burglar by Jane Blaikie (Steele Roberts, 2018), 69 pp., $24.99; Poeta: Selected and new poems by Cilla McQueen (Otago University Press, 2018), 296 pp., $39.95
Once women were the subjects, not originators, of myths. Aphrodite, Pandora, Medusa, Baba Yaga, the Ice Maiden: the litany of women portrayed in fables as deceitful, shameful, manipulative and destructive is unfortunately extensive. Women, such depictions told us, must either conform or risk censure, perhaps even death.
It took a long time before women could control the creation of narrative. Since doing so, we’ve reshaped not just the voice and the subject of storytelling, but also its style and significance. In this, the ancient art of mythmaking isn’t dead, but rather is prevalent and, with each new set of storytellers, refreshed. In three recent poetry collections – Ila Selwyn’s Dancing with Dragons, Jane Blaikie’s Tongue Burglary and Cilla McQueen’s Poeta: Selected and new poems – there is evidence of contemporary women authors who both take back the practice of mythmaking and – as instigators and controllers of narrative – bring fresh meaning to the traditional use of story as a medium of social and personal message. [Read more…]