Artemis As Artemisia: Ancient Female Spirituality & Modern Medicine by Stuart Dean

Once again,
limb-loosening Love [Eros]
makes me tremble,
the bitter-sweet,
irresistible creature.

I just referred in a poem of my own to the stories held in the names of plants and then I stumble upon this fascinating article. I’m very happy to pass it on.

Detail of Artemis from a 5th century BCE Attic Vase Detail of Artemis from a 5th century BCE Attic Vase  (Museum of Fine Arts (Boston))

The 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded in part to a Chinese woman (Tu) for her identification and isolation to treat malaria of a chemical known as Artemisinin.  The name of that chemical derives from the fact that it is found in varying amounts in the ‘family’ (technically, genus) of plants known as Artemisia.  The name of that family derives from its association with the goddess Artemis.

Because Tu’s work began in China in the 1960s it is understandable that even if she knew this about Artemisia (a term I use to refer to any one plant or all of the plants of that family) it would not have been a ‘careerbuilder’ for her to point it out to those for whom she was working.  It was bad enough that…

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NaPoWriMo: A Kenning


Blue Bonnet


Spring harbinger

Paintbrush partner

Concrete’s victim

Nature’s dictum

Texas treasure

 Ladybird’s pleasure

Sky reflector

Folk connector

Bee beacon

Nature’s deacon

Cows distaste

Goats haste

A Kenning is a two word phrase describing an object often using a metaphor.  A Kennings poem is a riddle made up of several lines of kennings to describe something or someone.




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NaPoWriMo: The Fan Letter

One of the lost poems came wandering back via my husband’s computer – much rejoicing over this lost sheep, its matted fur and ticks matter not a whit. 

The story of Leda and the Swan has always fascinated me – it harks back to earliest times when all animals, including us, roamed the world as acknowledged kin.  It  defies sexual taboos, as so many myths do, which leads to questioning just why they have become so important to humans.  I’m guessing for the same reason sexual associations are so important to advertising.   Linking anything to such a powerful force lends it power and charisma of its own. Politics and religion discovered this early on.  Christianity attempted to taboo sexuality itself, hoping  to re-channel sexual energy into religious fervor and also to manipulate its congregations.  This seems far afield from Leda and her swan, but if you consider the inherent sensuality of the natural world and remember how sexual imperative can trump any rule or social more in mere seconds, it begins to make sense.

My Leda poems don’t address these issues directly, instead they plump down, as I always do, on the side of sensuality.  When prompted to write a fan letter to a star, she sprang immediately to mind…

Dear Leda


You know me

we’ve met in print before,

midst other poets you’ve inspired –

H. D., Machan, Phillips, Yeats…

Perhaps you don’t remember.


My admiration reaches

further back than words –

it takes flight as fancies

floating in air, tiny feathers

white, black, red

wafting round your lovely form,

tickling your imagination

the way they tickle mine..


Though hatchlings

change one’s life forever,

their triumphs and disasters,

prophecies and god’s blood

provide no substitute

for plumage of one’s own…


I understand your longing

to transmogrify, change shape and fly,

to willingly accept a swain

redolent with divinity

into your depths, hoping

something more than semen

equally transformative,

magical and wild

might find a home in you.


 It awes my poet heart

how well you persevere,

hold your place as muse

in history and myth

Checa, Michelangelo,

Leonardo, Correggio, Cezanne,

all roused by your audacity.


Dear MS Leda, you inspire

this ardent fan to acquiesce,

no matter how I fear, whenever

gods’ bright beating wings

draw near.

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NaPoWriMo: Almanac

Poetry Prevails


Someone scrawls “Mozart Rules!” across the toilet stall wall

but the  frog choir outside, inhabiting Rumi’s field,

give lie to the words before her ink is dry,

though who’s to say molecules of Mozart

have not imbued the leading bullfrog with unique

patterns of tone and harmony?  Poetry

prevails here, embraced by an eccentric women

prowling the leafy grounds dressed

in a velvet gown and round sombrero, accompanied

by Parsley the cat who risks freedom

for Cheetos and sleeps now in the front pew,

yellow crumbs still adorning  her whiskers,

 while live poets rise one after another

 to quote their dead commadres and padres

with tears, laughter and love.

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NaPoWriMo: Inspiration

Not To Mention The Lost Works of Shakespeare and Ovid


I lost three separate poems today.

Each disappeared from different rooms

in ordinary circumstances, leaving behind

but the haziest trace of precious

detail, beloved turn of phrase, and oh

the imagery – erotic swans, dissolute gods

and a winding? Curving? Twisting?

Possibly undulating? Worn asphalt road…


Hadley left Ernest’s stories on a train.

So did Lawrence- Seven Pillars

on the way to London. Dylan Thomas

and Robert Ludlum lost theirs in bars.

Last Day of the Dead I devoted

an altar to lost manuscripts

A dozen poets left scraps of verse

half- buried in its sand.


Usually author error

sends lost works into limbo

the way most airplane accidents

are due to pilots suffering stress,

malaise, exhaustion, stupidity, inebriation –

failings shared by poets whose flights

of imagination sometimes tumble

inadvertently into wastebaskets

or go down in flames fueled by haste,

despair, carelessness or jealousy.


I’m mad at myself this morning,

mourning my lost creations as if

words in their millions do not circle

the firmament creating endless

constellations, novel configurations.


I’d better write a poem.


I just returned from the Poetry Festival at Round Top. We heard about it last year at AIPF, Austin’s poetry festival. Someone told us it was the best kept secret on the poetry circuit.  Perhaps, I shouldn’t spill the beans, but its too good not to share. Besides, Texas Highways has written a gorgeous article about it, with which I happily concur.

The event takes place every year at Festival Hill, an amazing vision-made-manifest by James Dick  and his family, friends, volunteers and patrons. It was and still is an idea in the making.  Like all effective magical workings, it backed intention with practice.  For every idea, hands carved another piece of the ceiling, poured another slab, laid another stone or installed another window.  The pianist whose talented fingers provided the funds, himself, hewed, carved, schlepped wood, water and stone with those self-same hands to create a concert hall of unique beauty that echoes all year to music and, for one intense weekend, to the voice of poetry. Here’s the lineup of featured poets: Robert Hass, Terrance Hayes, Dorianne Laux, Dunya Mikhail, Maurice Manning, Carmen Tafolla, Rosemary Catacalos, William Wenthe and Sasha West. The grounds were beautiful, the food good and bountiful.   Every thing happened in a timely manner and good will and intense excitement prevailed.

So of course I was inspired to write! and I did.  And as you’ve guessed from my pocoyote8em, I lost the poems I wrote for NaPoWriMo, whose prompts I took along and accessed via a failing laptop, knowing the muse would be following me around.  Not so oddly for me, so was that trickster, Coyote, or maybe he and Muse are one and the same.  He’s an old pal.  This time he inspired me by disappearing my inspirations.  As always, the goal is to get me to take myself less seriously and have more fun.  As always, I swear to try, only to hear Yoda’s voice telling me to do instead.  So no prompted poem today!  Instead a lack of prompt poetry!  Cheers!!






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Flying Beneath Her Radar


Flying beneath her radar, star-struck fellow

stalks the Queen of Prom from class to class

through thronging halls, butt-littered parking lots

his star runs marathons, debates, plays cello,

flirts, mingles, taunts and puffs illicit grass

she’s star of a flying circus, apex of all desire,

while dangerous class-less he, nerd-shy with spots,

dreams of flying low with gunfire.




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NaPoWriMo: Fortune Cooky Prompts

imagesElegant surroundings will soon be yours.


My daughter and I share a fondness

for  inexpensive oriental restaurants.

The food is  good and even

the meanest hole-in-the-wall

offers a spray of delicate life-like orchids,

3-d photos of Norwegian wolves,

or golden plastic dragons with googly green eyes.

Believing that you are beautiful will make you appear beautiful to others around you.

 Happy Fortune, our favorite,

has painted bamboo screens and red lanterns

I wasn’t expecting to fight over  #7. Moo Goo Gai Pan


“You hate baby corn.”

“I’ll pick it out. I love the way it sounds!”

You can still love what you cannot have in life.

“Me too!”

A soft answer turns wrath away

“Don’t patronize!

“I’m a poet, I agree, it’s a marvelous word.”

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.

You, You , you!  Why is always about you?”


She dimples at the handsome waiter,

his inscrutable face,

his delicious cheekbones.

I’ll have # 10.  Sweet and Sour Pork.”

Back away from individuals who are impulsive.

“Are you sure?”

“What do you mean?”

If you feel you are right, stand firmly by your convictions.

“It always makes you sick.”


She orders it.

We eat.

She barfs in the bathroom …


“Sorry Mom, friends?”

“Friends.  Want a fortune cookie?”

Cellophane wrappers crinkle and pop.

paper fortunes curl around our fingertips

delivering identical directives:


Listen to your mother.

Listen to your mother.



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NaPoWriMo: Found Poem From an Index

Alchemy, In  A Cave, With Lover


Abyss and darkness

Alchemy albedo whitening

and colors of feathers

as stages of Birth

from hand,

from head

from mouth of gods

from phallus, Aphrodite

bitterness and salt,


gravestones shaped as

witch on broomstick

devouring Directions, four –


SOWING stars as sparks

of consciousness

in a cave, with lover.



I cheated a little by using the index from one of my favorite (and loveliest) reference books The Book of Symbols: Reflections On Archetypal Images edited by Ami Ronneberg and Kathleen Martin for TASCHEN.  It’s index is rife with delicious mythic and poetic phrases and holds dozens of possibilities for poems.  I stuck to the literal, progressing alphabetically, keeping the words and phrases I found intact and retaining their in situ capitalization and punctuation.  The only liberty I took was in placement and line breaks.  The hardest thing was choosing without thinking to much.  This is a great exercise for freeing oneself from self-imposed rules and habits of thought and style; I’ll use it again.





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NaPoWriMo:11th Prompt – Twisted

I’m finally caught up, but no rest for the wicked; only two more hours till the next prompt!  Still I’m stoked to be on board with all the cool cats again.  (Poets will never get over the beats-they’ll always dress in shabby chic black and read hastily scribbled poems off the backs of crumpled paper napkins.)  Another great prompt from Maureen and may I say, I’m loving these voices from overseas.  They’re so exciting, as are our own home-grown wordsmiths.  I hope you went to Shakila Azizzada’s page and read Cat Lying in Wait.

After the Tornado Sirens Stop and We Emerge From Shelter


Hailstones ping and pong

off deck, gutters, windows

icy popcorn kernels

exploding, shredding

red geraniums, pecking

at the shingles like a flock

of voracious parrots denuding

their rain forest of Brazil nuts.

Crick, slam, bam, crackle, pop

Hails stops.  Rain

sweeps through the yard

in sheets- I wish

I knew another word,

a better metaphor,

I’ve never really seen rain

sheet before- it’s all I’ve got.

Sheeeeet! I’m speechless.




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NaPoWriMo: Book Spine Poem

The Red-Haired Girl From the Bog 


    Her curly mane,

    color of sailors’ delight,

    captures attention

    from every street philosopher and holy fool

    mooching the squalid sidewalks

    of the city of the beasts

    forcing her to crouch

    beside a dumpster,

    consult her women’s

    dictionary of sacred symbols

    to interpret graffiti

    found inside a fortune cookie

    dropped in the aromatic alleyJustitia

    behind Dragon Empress

    Best Chinese Restaurant

    on Third Avenue.  Every

    portent predicts a red-haired

    girl from the bog

    will pour Celtic wisdom

    straight from her reckoning heart

    into the left hand

    of God, re-righting the world

    and bringing it to balance.


I had fun with my book spines.  What  a great idea!   Thanks Lillian .   My poem seems to have been influenced by Mallika Sengupta’s strong feminist voice.  I think the discussion she opens about the relationship between art and politics is significant- I’ve been pondering it myself for many years… I love the way she shares so many of my own concerns and emotions, halfway around the world in a country I have never visited, but which she has managed to make partly mine by opening a window with her words.  It off sets some of the angst that inspired my previous poem.  This prompt offered to return to the world of myth and story, I greatly appreciate! 

Here are the books I chose:

The Red-Haired Girl From the Bog  by  Patricia Monashan

Sleeping On the Wing  by  Kenneth Koch & Kate Farrel

Women’s Dictionary of Sacred Symbols  by  Barbara Walker

The Street Philosopher and the Holy Fool  by  Marius Kociejowski

City of Beasts  by  Isabel Allende

The Dragon Empress  by  Marina Warner

The Left hand of God  by  Adolf Holl

The Reckoning Heart  by  Manisha Roy

Celtic Wisdom  edited by  Gerald Benedict


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