Archives for posts with tag: Greek mythology

by Jimmy Pappas

Obols placed in the mouths of the dead.
Silver coins with eyes too big for the head.

The souls line up, unnecessary robes discarded.
No one notices the nakedness of those departed.

the water glistens

They bow their heads and spit their money
into the outstretched palm of Charon.

Unable to pay their fares, the poor
wander the banks in search of loot.

the coins shine

The boatman uses his long pole
to push away those with no toll.

On his way back, he removes his goatskin pouch.
To make room for new plunder, he dumps it all out.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A coin was placed in the mouth of a dead person to pay the boatman Charon for passage across the River Styx into Hades. I’ve always wondered what possible use the coin would have in the underworld. It seemed to me to be one more insult for the poor who could not afford to cross and a worthless gesture for everyone else.

IMAGE: Medusa coin from the Black Sea region, of a type sometimes used as Charon’s obol, with anchor and crustacean on reverse.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jimmy Pappas earned his M.A. in literature from Rivier University in New Hampshire after serving in Vietnam for the Air Force. He taught high school English, philosophy, and poetry for thirty years until he retired to focus on his own writing. He is an active member of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. His poems have appeared in such journals as Kentucky Review, Atticus Review, Red River Review, and War, Literature and the Arts.

Channeling Charon
by Anggo Genorga

The ferryman was adamant;
he knew I was confused about whether to stay or leave.
He downplayed the monkey bleeding me to death
as unimpressive and pretentious. With sarcasm, he pointed out
that the hurting brought about by
my romanticizing death was
of childish inclination.

So he told me of the obolos coin I would bring
when the due time comes
and if I ever chicken out, I can frequent the same empty streets
dreaming of narcotics. He said there I’ll find the same kind of haunting
in the upper world of Akheron
if I ever wander thru it
as ghost

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was into mythology at an early age, with Hercules as starting point, and I always had a picture in mind of reading poetry or stories based on myths matched by art with a touch of surrealism. Of course, the fascination of putting oneself in those stories never fails to spark the creative imagination or reimagining, as with the case of my poem, “Channeling Charon,” where me and the ferryman of death had a sort of chat about dying. My mother died of cancer a month ago, so I guess my recent writings cannot help but reek of death. Nevertheless, I’ve always perceived Charon as an underappreciated mythical figure, probably because of the symbolism it represents.

IMAGE: “Charon’s Boat” by José Benlliure Y Gil (1858-1937)

pix for mythic poetry series

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anggo Genorga was born and raised in the Philippines, and is currently juggling numbers and sales figures on a telemarketing gig in Dubai. After 20 years of scribbling poetry and keeping it to himself, his work has been published during the past two years.  Some of his poems are featured in Boston Poetry Magazine, Empty Mirror, Hash & Pumpkins, Mad Swirl, Ppigpenn, Screech Owl, and the book for benefit Verses Typhoon Yolanda : A Storm Of Filipino Poets by Meritage Press.

by Donna Hilbert

He shattered her glass
climbing over the table
to kiss her, that hot afternoon,
when she quoted his poem over wine.
It was free verse, abstract in part,
and difficult, he knew,
committing it to heart.
They kissed the afternoon away,
and on the drive back, kissed
through every stop sign and red light.
Between the kisses
he smoked a cigarette.
And, what she failed to reconcile
about that day, was the casual way
he tossed the ember from the window,
considering how hot and dry the summer,
how much fuel there was to burn.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Neophyte and the Swan” is from my collection The Congress of Luminous Bodies. It is a tip of the hat, of course, to “Leda and the Swan” by William Butler Yeats and the myth from which that poem comes.

IMAGE: “Study for the Head of Leda” by Leonardo da Vinci (1506).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Hilbert’s latest book is The Congress of Luminous Bodies, from Aortic Books. The Green Season, World Parade Books, a collection of poems, stories and essays, is now available in an expanded second edition. Hilbert appears in and her poetry is the text of the documentary Grief Becomes Me: A Love Story, a Christine Fugate film. Earlier books include Mansions and Deep Red, from Event Horizon, Transforming Matter and Traveler in Paradise from PEARL Editions and the short story collection Women Who Make Money and the Men Who Love Them from Staple First Editions and published in England. Poems in Italian can be found in Bloc notes 59 and in French in La page blanche, in both cases, translated by Mariacristina Natalia Bertoli. New work is in recent or forthcoming issues of 5AM, Nerve Cowboy, PEARL, RC Muse, Serving House Journal, Poets & Artists and California Quarterly. She is a frequent contributor to the online journal Your Daily Poem. Her work is widely anthologized, most recently in The Widows’ Handbook, Kent State University Press. Learn more at

theft of the pomegranate
by J.I. Kleinberg

as the full moon slips between the ocean’s knees

Persephone spills garnets
into a lapis bowl

crunches a single red jewel
between her teeth

crimson light flooding her mouth

moistens a silken sable brush
on her reddened tongue

and inscribes
her calculus of betrayal
on crinkled parchment

cochineal corrugations

cyclamen overtures

pomegranate lust

the ruddy arabesques of Hades’ desire

IMAGE: “Persephone with pomegranate” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1882).

ji_kleinberg1 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.I. Kleinberg is an artist, poet, and freelance writer. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals and her poem “Better Homes & Gardens” was recently nominated for a Pushcart prize. Her work on a series of found poems, now numbering over 700, is featured in the current issue of Whatcom Magazine and samples of her found poems can be seen in the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Truck, Silver Birch Press May Poetry Anthology, and Star 82 Review. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, blogs at and doesn’t own a television.

by Sonja Johanson

Listen to mother.
Leave those apples lie.
You cannot eat them,
they will only take up space
on your mantle, too dusty
to glitter anymore.
Or else you can eat them,
but what is that to you?
Three apples are a mean meal.
Then too, you may think them
too precious for the table
and wake one day to find them
withered to nothing,
or slumped with rot.

Never throw the race.
Better yet, win them all.
Who ever said you had to lose?
Keep the kingdom for yourself.
Never marry, be your own sovereign.
Take a consort, no – take a dozen.
Raise up a generation
of fleet-footed queens
who tend to their own
glimmering orchards.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a reflection of the difficulty I have always had accepting the misogyny inherent in patriarchal myths. I remember, as a girl, feeling betrayed that the wonderful heroine Atalanta had allowed Hippomenes to outrun her, and that everyone looked at this as a good thing. Every girl should win her own race. This poem is a message to my younger self, my own daughter, and all the other young huntresses out there.

IMAGE: “Atalanta” by John William Godward (1908).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sonja Johanson attended College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor, Maine. She has recent work appearing in The Albatross, Off the Coast, and Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed, and was a participating writer in Found Poetry Review‘s 2014 Oulipost Project. Sonja divides her time between work in Massachusetts and her home in the mountains of western Maine.

by Stephanie Barbé Hammer

Our viewers are curious — Are you actually dead?
Yes, I’m the dead one.
But not always. It’s complicated. See — he abducted me, which is —
     I know —
Frowned upon but it’s like 50 Shades:
He’s important, rich and yes, he’s unbearably handsome.
So I had to stay.

And not only that…
True, I made it legal.

How did you feel when it didn’t stick?
I mean it’s one thing to
visit the underworld, all those chic svelte souls but it’s quite another to
live there. Maintain that vast residence. All those ghostly
servants. And he’s a tiring person.

So it got to you.
Well it got to my mother, who as you know is a real force in
the nature industry. She just…

Missed you?
That s putting it mildly


So now you have this arrangement?
Yes — it’s a win-win for everyone I think. I’m with him — you know — some of the
time and I’m back here managing the
crops and the seasons with mom the rest of the

What about making time for you? What would you tell the women
at home torn between
family obligations, giving so much to
everyone: job, cooking, hubby, kids, and
Well I wouldn’t say it’s not
a struggle. It helps that my husband’s
parents — well let’s just say they aren’t in
the picture. And we don’t
have kids —
Still it’s hard to find a moment for a facial or
for and kind of personal

Any final advice for our viewers?
Snacking really does
have repercussions. Don’t eat unless you have to.
Perhaps not even then.
And remember
not to love those who violate you. It sounds like a no brainer, but actually
It’s quite

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  When I was a child, I saw a cartoon version of the “Abduction of Persephone.” I was home alone. I shuddered but never forgot it. It both scared and fascinated me. I keep on encountering this Greek myth in film, in tv, and even in discussions of femininity, feminism, and the unconscious. These days I wonder about the following: must mothers always be hell-bent on staying connected to their daughters in the most visceral possible way – at the cost of killing the outside world to get it? Must daughters always remain torn between their spouse/lover and their parental obligations? I think, many women are struggling to tell a different story there…As a daughter and as a mother of an adult daughter I know I am. But I don’t think we’ll be able to tell that new story, til we’ve fully understood this old one. I’m not sure this poetic thought experiment gave me an answer, but it opened the story up for me in a way that feels exciting.

IMAGE: “Persephone” by Patricia Ariel. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Descended from Norwegian plumbers on one side, and bohemian Russian aristocrats on the other, Stephanie Barbé Hammer has published short fiction in The Bellevue Literary Review, Pearl, NYCBigCityLit, and the Hayden’s Ferry Review among other places. A four-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Stephanie is also a nonfiction writer and poet; her prose poem chapbook Sex with Buildings, appeared with Dancing Girl Press in 2012 and a full-length collection How Formal? was published in Spring 2014 with Spout Hill Press. Her novel The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior is forthcoming with Urban Farmhouse Press. Stephanie divides her time between Los Angeles and Coupeville Washington.

by Diane Gage

Every day on my walk I would touch
a pomegranate tree, think of Persephone
and Demeter and my own mother,
her mournful fondness for my girlhood.
Was my sunny husband, like Persephone’s,
a dark Lord? Not in manner, perhaps, but

in secrets held and guarded. And in my choice,
however natural, Demeter’s betrayal.
How I love the smooth burgundy leather
of a pomegranate! And the long slow work
of consuming its bright blood-red seeds.
How refuse such an offer, whatever the cost?

It’s been a long time since my life
was close to my mother’s. She died,
my husband and I divorced, someone
chopped down the pomegranate tree.
For years I have walked past the bare spot,
but this soft spring morning I saw shoots

with small leaves, new signs of life.
We’ve had a winter of remarkable rains.
I thought I had moved beyond that old story
but my daily rounds brought me back
to the place where its mystery emerges
trembling, again, on the brink of breath.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have found myself drawn back to the archetype of Demeter and Persephone more often than any other in that body of iconic tales, probably because of my fascination with and reverence for nature’s cyclical patterns. Especially as they run counter to human linearities. As an example of this preoccupation: some years ago I embarked on a project inspired by Basho’s Narrow Road to the Far North, in which I walk round and round my Birdland neighborhood composing American-style 5/7/5 haiku. And of course I have pondered in poetry the viewpoints of Demeter, Persephone, and Hades.

IMAGE: “Persephone” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1874).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Diane Gage is a poet and artist in the Birdland area of San Diego, California, where she was cofounder & co-editor of Antenna Poetry & Graphics back in the day. Her poems have appeared in a various publications from New York’s Rattapallax to the Seattle and Hawai’i Reviews, most recently in a book about global warming called Facing the Change. Chapbooks include THAT Poem, Etc. (Laterthanever Press) and Mother Dreaming (Queen’s X Press). She regularly posts haiku from her Walking In Birdland series on Facebook and Twitter. Her artwork has been shown at galleries and museums in the US, Canada and Europe. Some of her projects are multimedia pieces that combine poetry and visual art, as well as interactive and performance elements. Find out more by visiting

Author portrait by Helen Redman (

by Mary Kendall

September was ready to slip into October
and autumn skies were filled with color

Clusters of clouds
               suddenly dissolved
and let the sun peer through

I imagined you as Icarus taking a risk
and trying to fly high above your depression,

gliding for a while like a broad-winged hawk,
the cool air making you unaware

of just how close
to the sun
you flew

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The story of Icarus has always fascinated me. I think as long as people have lived, some have always wished they could fly like the birds. There are so many beautiful paintings and drawings of this classic myth, but in my mind’s eye I see only the simple picture of water with a feather floating on it—a reminder of how easily a dream and a life can come to an end. My Icarus poems were written when someone very dear to me was dealing with depression. I saw in him that same youthful sense of invincibility and risk taking. Depression takes on so many forms, but the Icarus legend provides a wonderful vehicle to address the helplessness others feel when trying to help someone caught up in its throes.

IMAGE: “Lament for Icarus” by Herbert Draper (1898).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Kendall lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband and her yellow Labrador retriever. She is a retired teacher/reading specialist. Her poetry has been described as lyrical and meditative, but she loves writing tanka and haiku as well. Some of her work has been published both in print and online journals, but publication has never been a focus for her. Blogging, on the other hand, is offering a wonderful chance to showcase poems written each week. Her blog is called A Poet in Time. She is the author of a book, A Giving Garden (2009) along with photographer and friend, Debbie Suggs. Mary is looking forward to the February 2015 publication of her chapbook, Erasing the Doubt, by Finishing Line Press.

Frederic Leighton - Orfeo ed Euridice 1864
by Christina Woś Donnelly

She can no longer make him out
through the stinging mist,
as he hands over her valise. She ventures,
“Will I never see you again?”
His laugh barks, bites.
The days of reassurance are passed.
He mumbles something about hunger,
averts his face, as if, suddenly,
for just a moment, he’d rendered her visible.
Turns from her, swallows hard, rushes away.

She does not permit herself to watch
or weep, does not dare to know
if he looked back, was even tempted.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Recurring themes in my poetry are women vis-à-vis power and the politics of personal relationships. Whether “Orpheus and Eurydice at the Airport,” “Hera in the Kitchen,” or “Cassandra in Captivity,” the women of my poems inspired by mythology confront the confounding dilemma of power imbalance in the most intimate of relationships. Some of these poems follow the original closely, some hinge on only one or two points of contact. Each myth I found deeply resonant, sometimes disturbingly so, with its counterparts today.

IMAGE: “Orpheus and Eurydice” by Frederic Leighton (1864).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christina Woś Donnelly co-founded and co-edited the ejournal, Not Just Air (Sundress Publications). She is also the author of two chapbooks, Venus Afflicted and The Largely Unexpurgated History of Scheherazade (Moon in Blue Water Productions).  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Persimmon Tree, Pearl, Nimrod International Journal, Earth’s Daughters, Lilliput Review, Moondance, Stirring, and other journals, as well as ten anthologies to date ranging from Susan B. & Me (Big Kids Publishing) to Off the Cuffs: poetry by and about the police (Soft Skull Press). She has been featured widely at Western New York, Baltimore, and Washington-metro venues including the Library of Congress. The Niagara River flows past her windows. Learn more at Poets & Writers Directory.

by Perry S. Nicholas

when I cross the river,
wide ocean in this instance,
make sure I have signed off
on all the necessary paperwork.
All monetary promises and death benefits.

When I reach the wall of Cerberus,
three-headed dog barking and biting my ankles,
I’ll leave all my belongings behind,
rush forward to a place of black poplars.
For you, I worked hard to reach ordinary life.

Just leave one coin under my tongue
to pay a fare for the ferry across
the river Styx, since love no longer counts—
my years of turmoil are nearly over.
I am no miser; I only want to sail along.

No, these are special cases we’re discussing.
Me, I need to escape your slow, charcoal rage,
be granted an allowance to return
to those fields of music, unbeaten wings,
peacefully waiting for a penniless nothing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Perry S. Nicholas is an Associate English professor at Erie Community College North in Buffalo, New York. His books of poetry are: The River of You, What the World Sees, Small Crafts, Beginnings, and The Company We Keep with poet Maria Sebastian-Nicholas. Perry has recorded one CD of poetry called I’ve Written Too Many Poems.

IMAGE: “Psyche Pays Charon to Cross the River Styx” by John Stanhope (1883).