The premise is slightly reminiscent of the plot of an upcoming superhero adaptation to the big screen. Instead of Thor landing in the modern day, British Columbia writer, poet and teacher Susan McCaslin decided instead that Demeter needed a time transplant.
Demeter, for the uninitiated, is the goddess of the harvest in ancient Greek mythology. She tried to get Hades to return her daughter, Persephone, from the underworld. Hades agreed, only if Persephone didn’t eat anything while she was down there. For some reason, she nibbled on a few pomegranate seeds, forcing her to return to the underworld for a period every year.
Who hasn’t had that happen to them, right?
In McCaslin’s book, Demeter avoids that tragedy but finds altogether new ones and some adventures among the 60 or so poems. Here, Hades has stolen the young maiden into what can only be described as a cult and culture of perverted body image, drug addiction, psychological disorders and materialistic consumerism.
Throughout this landscape, Demeter lives her life with its quandaries and confusions.
Yes, she goes skydiving in one of the first poems but soon finds herself having lunch at the Savoy with Hekate. Later on, she pauses at the foot of the Kokanee Glacier before she wanders the globe, finding herself at one point in Iraq. Eventually she tries to adopt Britney Spears in a poem entitled Demeter Tries to Adopt Britney Spears. She yearns to impart wisdom on the erstwhile pop star whose time as a zeitgeist has long come and long gone.
Too soon modified, mortified,
Commoditized, too soon married,
Lean, a fatty chomped by the machine,
You, no heavier than Venus in her prime,
You, of the infatuating perfumes
No one will buy.
McCaslin sure knows how to string a phrase and so she should. She has authored nearly a dozen volumes of poetry and eight chapbooks. It makes sense then that this new one comes out in time for National Poetry Month.
Even if you are the kind of person who is averse to verse, it’s not a bad idea to try it once in a while. It’s interesting stuff, well written and will even satisfy that lingering desire to learn more about Greek gods and goddesses. At the very least, you will delight in the titles that she gives to her poems like Hades Traffics in Corn and Demeter Flicks the Remote to Extreme Makeover and Writes About it Later.
Demeter Goes Skydiving
by Susan McCaslin
University of Alberta Press