Imbolc 2003, Vol 2-2
MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly Web Zine for Goddess Women Near & Far
Bard at Work: Patricia Monaghan
Ten years after the first edition, Llewellyn has released a greatly expanded second edition of Seasons of the Witch: Poetry and Songs to the Goddess, by Chicago writer and teacher Patricia Monaghan. Where once there were 13 poems per season, echoing the 13 moons of the year, now each season is represented by 28 poems, one for each day of the lunar month. The book's structure is as detailed, layered, and full of meaning as an astrology chart.
the first edition, Monaghan focused on the Greek goddesses. Hera,
in particular, moved through the seasons. She remains a powerful presence
in the new edition. At the end of Hera Renews Her Youth, she
In the second edition, Monaghan added goddesses from her own Celtic tradition -- Finola, Nimue, Fand, Dierdre, Sheila-na-Gig, and Maeve. In Maeve Prepares for Beltane, the Celtic goddess speaks:
Each element has
a wild and moving chant. Litany for Fire begins:
Each season has a
procedure from The Goddess Instruction Manual. Part 1: How to Think
like Athena, begins,
You may read this book from beginning to end, open it at random (as random as the I Ching), or spiral through it following a Goddess, a story, a form. Or you may ignore its structure entirely, and still you'll take satisfaction from it.
What's true for the book holds true for each poem. Monaghan knows the technical craft of poetry and enjoys obeying the rules for sonnet (Strength), aubade (Aubade for Aurora: Her Lover Sings to the Dawn Goddess), villanelle (A Vision of Hunger in Flesh). If verse forms interest you, you'll recognize them. If not, you wont be troubled by lines that bump and strain to follow poetic rules. You'll ignore the structure and enjoy the poet's wit, sense, and sensuality.
In fact, this book makes poetic craft look easy, though like many crafts, it's easy to do badly and very difficult to do very well.
The first-edition poems have been showing up in pagan rituals for the past decade, and the many new pieces in the second edition will be equally welcome. They work well on the page, but they sound even better, spoken or sung. (A CD enclosed with the book has musical versions -- some of them beautiful -- of 24 of the poems.)
span communities. Her poetry deals more with goddess than god, yet "the
goddess is not always alone or with other women," she says in the
preface. In December she came to Madison for a reading, and to an audience
made up largely of lesbians and Dianics she read a poem about ecstacy,
The Maenad Remembers Dionysus:
The piece evoked the beauty of that male god, and the women applauded. After the poetry reading, it occurred to me that Patricia Monaghan is one of our true bards. As poet, teacher, and witch, she travels among the pagan communities of North America and Ireland and beyond those communities. She belongs to all of us and to none of us -- not bound by the narrower definitions of this group or that.
The old Celtic root of the word bard was to speak; and its newer, English-influenced meaning, an enclosed pasture land. Perfect word for Monaghan the poet: she speaks freely, both acknowledging the enclosure of verse form and treating it as a gate to realms that cannot be fenced.