I’ll preface my review with the admission that I have known Blake for several years (online, anyway) and that I have featured a number of her pieces both on Eternal Haunted Summer and in the devotional anthologies that I have overseen at Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
Having said that, I was quite pleased with Songs of Praise, overall. This collection includes poems in honor of a wide range of Deities, heroes, and historical persons. The majority of the poems focus on the Greek pantheon: Apollon, Hekate, Hermes, Aphrodite, Zeus and so forth, with a notable number in honor of Blake’s matron Goddess, Athena. There are also poems to lesser-known and obscure (to modern devotees) Deities such as The Furies, The Moirae, Nyx, and Hygeia, among others.
But, as Blake notes in her Introduction, for the past year or so “I have found myself in the midst of a spiritual struggle.” The Goddess Isis (Aset) had come calling and She refused to go away. As such, though the book is subtitled Hymns to the Gods of Greece, it includes quite a few hymns in honor of Isis, Anubis, Ma’at, and even Roman Deities such as Flora, Bona Dea and Faunus.
Blake’s poems run the gamut from free-form to rhyming, from short and to the point (“Silent Death”) to lengthy and mythic (“A Song for the Gamelia”). Many of them are also deeply personal, as Blake’s dealings with Isis force her to confront her own attitudes towards motherhood, procreation and children. A number of the poems in honor of Aphrodite and Eros (such as “To the Kypressian”) also draw on her polyamorous experiences.
Over all, this is a terrific collection of poetry. I can easily imagine devotees using some of the poems in a large ritual (“A Song for Heliogenna”) or as part of their private devotions (“Guardian of the Door”). Here and there are poems that needed a bit more work before they were published: the rhyme come across as forced or the meter is a bit off or the poem feels truncated, as it if were part of a longer, incomplete piece.
Despite those minor complaints, Songs of Praise will make a great addition to the library of any Hellenistai, as well as any devotees of Isis, Ma’at or Anubis. Recommended to fans of The Phillupic Hymns by P Sufenas Virius Lupus, Hymns from the Temple: A Hellenic Book of Prayer by Lykeia, and Shadow Gods and Black Fire by Andrew Gyll.