I actually cannot remember the first poem I read by Routery. It may have been in the pages of Bearing Torches. All I remember for certain is that I snatched up the first poem he submitted to EHS, and I have been happily featuring his work ever since. So, when Routery asked me to review an advance digital version of his forthcoming poetry collection, I said “yes, please.”
From the Prow of Myth is divided into three sections. “Fire, Water, Words” which centers on Celtic mythology; “Flowers, Wine, Mirrors” which focuses on Greek mythology; and “Dancing on the Brink of the World” which draws upon the landscape of Routery’s California homeland for inspiration. As a Hellenistai, I was particularly excited to see poems for Hermes, Hekate, Apollo and many other Greek Deities (even rarely-acknowledged figures such as Ariadne, Erigone, and Hippolytus). Describing Artemis as the mystery at the heart of the wild gave me shivers. Hylas’ drowning at the hands of naiads –
spellbound by their beauty
he gazed unaware of the ache of his lungs
until they were bloated with water and
his place on the bank oozed with emptiness
– gave me an even more serious case of shivers.
I was surprised, though, at how much I enjoyed, and was affected by, the Celtic poems; with the possible exception of Brigid, I have never felt particularly drawn to the Celtic Deities or their stories. Nonetheless, I was left goggle-eyed by some of the imagery of these pieces. For instance, “On Lughnasadh”:
There, I glimpse you, your hair red gold and black spiked,
your spear molten in the lightning, and the gleam of the wings
of your companions, shining blackly, eyes afire with corvid cunning.
Or, in “Manannan’s Pool” in which Routery describes Cormac’s journey: came he to the fiery water, / Where the salmon crack the purpled nuts of wisdom’s matter.
The poems in the final section rival some of the best ecopoetry. “When Birds Are Gods” and “Spring on Mt. Tamalpais” are particular favorites. Even “Queen Califia,” which arguably draws upon Amazonian lore, is a celebration of the fecund, regal animating spirit of California.
There are not many books that I want in both print and digital edition. From the Prow of Myth is one such book.
Highly recommended to fans of Strange Spirits by H Jeremiah Lewis/Sannion, The Ruin of Beltany Ring by CS MacCath, and fireflies at absolute zero by Erynn Rowan Laurie.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of EHS.]