In exploring the landscape of contemporary poetry, one might notice the unusual frequency of women poets choosing to engage with female characters and themes from Greek mythology. Why do so many of these writers choose to rewrite characters like Persephone, Penelope, and Circe into their poems? In comparing the original myths these characters appear in to close readings of the poetry of Rita Dove, Louise Glück, and Margaret Atwood, there emerges a clear revision not only of characters but of character archetypes. The archetypes of maiden, mother, and monster become well-rounded, complex women in modern poetry, usually through the use of persona, in which the poet takes on the voice of the character and speaks for her. This work illustrates a need to move beyond literary archetypes into a realm grounded not in misogynistic distinctions but in true feminist and human identity.
Natalie Eleanor Patterson is half-Cuban femme lesbian poet and editor from suburban Georgia and a senior at Salem College studying English and creative writing. Her poems have appeared in Sinister Wisdom, Hunger Mountain, and more, and she has received Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations. Her debut chapbook, Plainhollow, is forthcoming from dancing girl press in 2021. She is an editor with Jacar Press and Sable Books.