February 2016 was productive for me poetry-wise. Two of the poems I wrote that month have already been published, but the other one I’d also started then languished for an entire year before I managed to finish it.
February 2017 felt very different from February the year before. The world had, if not changed, become unmasked at its ugliest places. I was tired and impotent and just low-key angry all the time. I told my friends I’d never been so full of rage, and all the words now were brittle and dry, fire and ruin.
Over a few days, I’d finished (a rough draft) of that unruly poem, surprising myself with how quickly it came together when I’d written and deleted so many stanzas before. It dawned on me I hadn’t been able to do it before because I hadn’t been angry enough. People think writing is about bleeding on the page, and it kind of is – but not all emotions translate the way you expect. Anger has always been draining to me; it’s not something that inspires my creativity. Or maybe I just never knew how to channel it until now.
Today, I’m so happy and proud to share THE FOOTRACE with you in its completed form.
It is one of the most difficult poems I’ve written, the one I’ve done the most revisions on, and it’s maybe my best so far. You can also hear me read the poem on the Strange Horizon’s poetry podcast.
And I’m so grateful for Strange Horizons (who gave me my very first poetry sale, also on a Greek myth-inspired poem) for publishing it. Not only that, they moved the pub-date from January to May, when the weather would be more appropriate for the poem, and I’m touched by that level of care from the editors. It’s also nicely full-circle because I submitted the poem to them in April last year, and now, a little over a year later, here it is for everyone to read.
Atalanta’s myth has long fascinated me because she’s one of the few women in Classical Mythology put on the same field as the most famous of heroes. She sailed with Jason’s Argonauts; she drew first blood in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar; she was the subject of one of the most famous races in myth and only lost thanks to divine intervention. I always felt the narrative did Atalanta wrong in the last, making her most known for golden apples and losing a race that would’ve been hers.
This poem isn’t exactly about that Atalanta, but it is inspired by her and all the women I know who are determined to write their own stories, the ones who persist.
I hope you love my proud, angry girl as much as I do.
Supplement: (Art) The Storm | Kate Trish (Music) First Burn | April Hamildrop (Music) Freedom | Beyoncé