I got some Amazon gift money for my birthday back in February, and the books I ordered with it arrived right before lockdown began. Somehow, I never got to writing about the poetry, so I'm going to try to remedy that over the next few weeks.
I had A.E. Stallings' book Hapax on my wishlist for a long time. (I had shared some of Stallings' poetry in 2010 and again in 2013.) I knew I liked Stallings' wit and her unfashionable use of rhyme, but it was really the title of this one that drew me. A hapax legomenon is a word or phrase that appears in surviving ancient literature just once. You can imagine that it wouldn't be easy to know exactly what this word means, since you don't have anything to compare it to, so you're forced to rely solely on context clues.
Stallings, the back of the book informs us, "studied classics in Athens, Georgia, and now lives in Athens, Greece." Many of her poems tackle classical subjects, both mythological and grammatical. In one, "Dead Language Lesson," she writes,
I confiscate a note in which
The author writes, "who do you love?" --
An agony past all correction.
I think, as they wait for the bell,
Blessed are the young for whom
All languages are dead: the girl
Who twines her golden hair, like Circe,
Turning glib boys into swine.
A series of limericks ("XII Klassikal Lynmaeryx") includes, among many good ones:
With a great mind so tragically fertile
Aeschylus won wreaths of myrtle.
And yet his demise
Could win Comic first prize --
To be brained by a hurtling turtle!
Here's part of "Minutes," which uses the metaphor of minutes as beggars:
Minutes swarm by, holding their dirty hands out,
Begging change, loose coins of your spare attention.
No one has the currency for them always;
Most go unnoticed.
If you, like me, find yourself wanting to read more Stallings, you can find some of her work at the Poetry Foundation.
This week's roundup is here.