I was admittedly a bit overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of the “Fragments of Persephone” project when Winter Tangerine Review’s Yasmin Belkhyr initially proposed it. There are untold ways to interpret this call, which is simultaneously exciting and intimidating. My objective is to select work that examines those multitudes. I want myriad aspects of womanhood. I want to look at intersectionality: where all your identities meet. Who are you as a woman who is also _______ and _______ and _______? How does gender inform your other identities and vice-versa? Where in the mix does femininity reside? Do you eschew it or embrace it? How?
Who are you in the reflective scope of history? If you sat in a room with Assata Shakur, what would you ask? If you met Lucille Clifton or Leslie Feinberg or Anne Sexton, what advice might they share? Who are you in interaction with Laverne Cox or Angela Davis? Nicki Minaj? Cyndi Lauper? Patsy Cline or Bessie Smith? What lessons have you learned from Medea? Lady Macbeth? Poison Ivy? Avatar Korra? What traits have you adopted from Shakti? Ishtar? Jezebel? Where is your mother in these conversations? Your aunt? Your girlhood best friend?
Persephone—known alternately as goddess of the harvest and queen of the underworld—is an epitome of duality. She represents both spring’s bounty and winter’s decay. Fertility and afterlife. Her evolution, like yours, is complex and layered—fraught with suffering and sin and celebration and courage. Her journey is neither simple nor elegant, but it is not without grace. As the personification of feminine limitlessness, Persephone is both worshiped and feared. What do you worship in yourself? What do you fear? How do you persist and expand? Explore your dichotomies. Be unapologetic.
Jeanann Verlee is author of Racing Hummingbirds (Write Bloody Publishing), recipient of the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in poetry, and the forthcoming collection, Said the Manic to the Muse. She has been awarded the Third Coast Poetry Prize and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry, and her work appears in The New York Quarterly, Rattle, and failbetter, among others. A former punk rocker who wears polka dots and kisses Rottweilers, Verlee writes, performs, and curates readings in New York City. She believes in you.
Photo credit to Johnathan Saunders.