What Penelope Chooses: poems
Cider Press Review, 2019
Praise for WHAT PENELOPE CHOOSES
language that slaps like rap, that feels both breathless and textured, glib and somber.....Larsen sonnets through Odysseus's consciousness, calls him a liar, and lets him lie. If you are a friend or foe of Odysseus, if you entertained him once on your lonely island, you're likely now represented in these poems, both constrained and liberated by fourteen lines....Shifting the camera from Odysseus to Achilles, reluctant royalty of Hades, Larsen weaves the jargon of wars from today into his recollections. This makes for a continuous war, a theme long-suffering Odysseus must know, from Troy to the slaughter of suitors in his own home. It's something Americans know, from our warmaking on distant shores to the war here in Ferguson, Baltimore, Baton Rouge....Pop culture, military jargon, the class warfare blooming in the shadows of our tech overlords, our wine-dark seas rising up to swallow us whole — all is fodder for a story about a godlike man, whose wife waits, weaving a shroud...
--Miranda Dennis, Quail Bell Magazine (November, 2020)
Larsen evokes street-smart personas that echo the classic text with a twist. Riffing on the motif of Penelope's weaving, Larsen examines the construction of a text while challenging its acceptance….Questioning who is allowed to speak and who is speaking, Larsen offers statement and then unraveling as Penelope did her warp and woof….Poems for the era of the Women's March and #MeToo, this collection gives a powerful voice to the voiceless and sass to silence.
--Sarah Kruse, Shining Rock Poetry Anthology & Book Review (Summer, 2020)
While Larsen gives voice, much of it in twenty-first century slang, to male figures like Odysseus, Menelaus, and Telemachus, the collection's triumph is that it gives Penelope an opportunity to speak.... In What Penelope Chooses, Jeanne Larsen does what she has done throughout her body of written work and as a teacher: she enables female voices to have a say.... She fuses history, myth, and modernity to help us better understand the context of our own stories and times. Reading Larsen's poetry makes us sharper thinkers and more empathic hearts, better able to seek out that which has not heretofore been said.
--Marissa Mazek, "Weaving Women's Voiices: Jeanne Larsen's Poetry and Fiction" in the Hollins Critic Vol.LVI, No. 2 (April, 2019)
How does a 21st-century woman read Homer? Jeanne Larsen's What Penelope Chooses shows you how it's done. Her magnificent confabulation of jazzy sonnets turns Homer on his head and gives him some back chat, high fives, dream talk, and rewrites along with showing just what the English language is capable of at this moment in time. Her sonnets give the form a workout, too, fracturing, doubling, and extending them until you forget what she's doing until you think, "Wow, look what she's doing." This collection is a tour de force poetic exploration of the ancient text in a thoroughly modern voice. Brava!
--Barbara Hamby, author of On the Street of Divine Love: New & Selected Poems, Bird Odyssey, and more
Readers are advised to eat their Wheaties and buckle up tight before sitting down at the feast table of Jeanne Larsen's What Penelope Chooses, an "intertextual gabfest" that gives us astonishing new commentary on one of the most hallowed texts in all of Western literature, the Odyssey. Spelunking deep inside the cracks and crevices of the robust language of 21st century life to decenter received readings and investigate historically-submerged plot lines, Larsen fills the absence at the center of the traditional text.... A fantastic linguistic and literary feat that adds to all previous interpretations of Homer's classic text.
--Kate Daniels, author of In the Months of My Son's Recovery, A Walk in Victoria's Secret, and more
These poems veer from high diction to slang, disparate words merging into compound portmanteaus. Their voices slip from one to another, interrupting and fracturing. Renewing the sonnet's possibilities, Larsen uses the classic lyric form to engage with both Homer's epic tales and the contemporary social and environmental challenges we must face today. My response to these poems reminded me of the tilt-a-whirls of my youth, gripped by an irresistible force while simultaneously hoping it won't end. They break open the world, both utterly necessary and passionately bold.
--Rebecca Dunham, author of Strike, Cold Pastoral, Glass Armonica, and more
Poems from this book have appeared in: Artemis, Bennington Review, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Flock, Memorious, Mezzo Cammin, Ninth Letter, North American Review, Potomac Review,Scoundrel Time, and Terrain.org.
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