This review is taken from Stand 237, 21(1) April - June 2023.

Fiona Benson, Ariadne, trans. Haris Psarras, illus. Judith Eyal (Broken Sleep Books, 2021)
Emma Filtness, Bandaged Dreams (Broken Sleep Books, 2022)
Pádraig Ó Tuama, Feed the Beast (Broken Sleep Books, 2022)

Broken Sleep is a relatively new publisher under the dynamic leadership of its director, Aaron Kent. Three of its more recent pamphlets suggest  a decidedly contemporary mind-set.

Not being a classicist, I first checked the foreword of Fiona Benson’s Ariadne, to be rewarded by a welcome potted history of Greece in Marina Marks’s two paragraphs. Benson’s five poems demonstrate a similar clarity with one of the most popular Greek myths. It is a complicated story with several versions told here in unpretentious language. From childhood, both sister Ariadne and his mother express great tenderness for the wayward Asterios – even when half-fazed by his epileptic fits. At nine months, he can’t lift his bullish head yet his mother chooses to admire ‘his perfect, shining limbs’. Ariadne is equally understanding:
You had to listen.
He had a way of speaking …
give, please, help
We had a sign for sorry.

On King Minos’s orders Asterios is imprisoned in the labyrinth and there his chronic condition creates a longing to end his life. Ariadne commiserates: ’he turned his head to me and tilted so I’d stroke his cheek …Want. Die.  And then he made the sign for help’. In the last poem, Theseus, Ariadne’s lover, offers a lament for the remorse he feels after killing the child who became the Minotaur. He, ...
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