Saturday, April 20, 2013
Poem: Er in ye s
A friend of mine wondered about the title of this poem - i.e. is it from the girl's name Erin? It is one among several poems which have ancient Greek titles and for which the significance, if one read them more or less together, would be more obvious. Erinyes, in ancient Greek (Ἐρῑνύες, pl. of Ἐρῑνύς, Erinys; literally "the avengers" from Greek ἐρίνειν "pursue, persecute" [sometimes referred to as "chthonic - underworld - goddesses" - χθόνιαι θεαί ], are the furies, the terrifying women who haunt and hunt Orestes who has slaughtered his mother Clytemnestra for poisoning his father Agamemnon who sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to get favorable winds for Troy to go slaughter people and reacquire Helen from Paris who made off with her...
Women were then property, prisoners in Athens and elsewhere in the newly patriarchal Greece. The face of Helen launched a thousand ships and the death of Iphigenia gave them wind...
This is a story of Kings, Queen, Princesses and Princes, of murder of children for favor in war, axe-killing of the murderer (hard not to sympathize with the daughter and her mom), slaughter of the mother by Orestes (reasserting the patriarchal line), and hunting by the Furies. They are stopped by Athena, the warrior and wise woman, of no woman born, sprung from the head of Zeus, in the Oresteia (Ὀρέστεια), Aeschylus's trio of tragedies. They are transformed into Eumenides.
Athena, as I discovered in Athens three summers ago, was originally a snake goddess and rose out of the earth. She was connected to the earlier egalitarian matriarchal society in Crete. See here, here and here. The transformed myth - the stripping of Athena of womanliness because of the story about Zeus, though her son, Cecrops, the first king of Athens, is a snake - is part of the patriarchy, as false then as its deteriorated mirror (there is little one can do with the family sagas of the Bushes and Cheneys...) is false today in America.
The patriarchal Founding Myth about Zeus' headache (and an axe blow from Hephaestus) birthing Athena is linked to the suppression of egalitarian matriarchy on the Greek islands. This Founding Myth or Amnesia is connected to American Founding Myths about slaves and indigenous people, and to Israel about Palestinians.
My friend is, of course, right that the separation of the syllables (more or less) gives them a different life, finds something new.
Here is the poem.
Er in ye s
blackwoman among whites
cannot g o
can not g o
bighousein Marylan d
can not g o
a b r o a d