I have spent the last several years transcribing notes from napkins, old journals, running text messages to my self, and sporadically placed post-its. Cataloging the chaos that has become a dysfunctional system for me in my 30's has been an ongoing effort. I've stressed over how to categorize, unify, and present hundreds of poems, prose, and partially thought out ideas. After some lighthearted counsel with one of my absolute oldest friends, I decided how I wanted them organized but still struggled with revisions and dividing them from the chronological order in which they were written, as I can be a little compulsive. I'm sure those who know me well are riddled with surprise. The one thing I've been absolutely sure of, is that each book will be titled after a goddess, encompassing their attributes, symbolism, and stories of which I connect with. As I was preparing to enter a chapbook contest, I found myself weighed down by the pressure of writing a title poem for book one (of five), Athena.
As it turned out, Athena was the poem I didn’t know I needed. The poem that absolutely had to be written in order for me to understand who I am now and for me to be comfortable publicly laying claim to my existence as a writer. Completing Athena redefined what I wanted for my book and for who I want to be as a published writer. This has led to hours of extended research and rewrites well spent. That said, I never made the contest deadline, and much of what I started with (a modest 30 page chapbook) has been heavily reworked and is transforming into the full length manuscript I've conjured in dreams and planned on vision boards over the years. My memories and experience delivered in poetry. Delivered as myth, magic, fairytale, fiction, history, and culture, yet still - as nothing but my reality and it's many transformations and stages of life.
The women in my family are born with equal parts tenacity and tenderness, may their eternal love continue to guide, forge, and comfort me. Without further ado, for the women that made me and the woman they've made me into, I present, Athena.
I come from a line of women rooted in legends of myth.
I stand here a mosaic of symbolism and virtue.
A biological structure composed of lure.
Crafted with the threads of goddesses and mothers
from places I’ve never seen outside of my fantasies.
I kneel to be crowned in a halo of orange blossoms
and braided wheat. She said,
just for me, her Tiger Lily.
Destined to be sweet and victorious.
And I imagined myself
riding through Mount Olympus in a chariot
with her ghost by my side.
I, a ready warrior for battles I didn’t see coming.
My mother, her name was Maritza.
And though its bounty was worth its weight
in the iron of my spear,
she never understood what I loved about it.
Her name means of the sea.
You see? I am the daughter of Metis.
Born to bare the thunder of Zeus.
Despite her absence now,
she is the wisdom he and I carry.
Our most trusted counsel.
Since the day I sprouted,
armored and full of fight,
when I see the ocean,
I take a moment to be still.
Waves and ripples coming towards me.
A fluid field of turquoise shades of blues and greens.
And I feel her abundant love.
I stand here before you,
because I read Metis my ramblings as a child,
and she called it art.
In Spanish and in life,
she and her name were an alteration of her maker, Maria.
Every cell hand stitched with her mother’s modesty,
patience, and attention.
Leaving me the proud grand-daughter
of the Titan Tethys.
Reigning star dust,
I am the great-grand daughter of Gaia, herself.
A perfect host goddess for our very own Flora.
And from her gifts and provisions,
we all received the cinnamon of our skin. And the grit
to nurture those, we love
through the pains of mortal life.
I have spent most of my life
drawn to the desert
with no real reason why. Perhaps,
it was the rumors
that I am really the daughter of Poseidon and Tritonis.
Perhaps I was in search of Libya
when I found refuge in the sands
which hold up mountains in the name
and in mercy, of Atlas.
Perhaps I just longed for my forefathers of war
whose blood still lives in the sands of Tripoli.
Or maybe the salts of Lake Tritonis is a route
for my travel between worlds.
This river of the Triple Queens.
Making me maiden to the serpent.
Risen from mother’s waters.
Medusa as my crone.
No matter the version you chose,
or I tell.
The women before me were mighty.
Together we are a tapestry
still being dovetail woven over time.
But my era is just beginning.
All of this? This is just a fragment
of the mosaic of me.
Of the earth, the nymph, and the warrior in me.
Of the goddess in me.
(Athena: Title poem for my debut book coming soon!)
Book Club Notes & Disclaimer:
Unfeathered Ink’s book club is designed to challenge what we think we know, about our selves, society, and the world around us. We aim to expand views and encourage cohesion. At some point, various participants may find certain reading selections, questions, or topics more personal than others. That said, this is a space where we respect not only shared views but those which may greatly differ from our own. Take care to be a good human above all else.
*If you are comfortable with doing so, please include your country, region, or culture of reference. Be it your own or one of study or interest. This allows us, as an online community to learn more about a people, a topic, and outside perspectives through open communication; bridging the gaps in areas where we may otherwise lack experience or exposure.
Hateful and inappropriate comments will be deleted.
Like most things in life that I truly enjoy, Cat’s Cradle challenges, genres, stereotypes, and personal beliefs. It’s no wonder that with Vonnegut’s complex past, that he seemed to easily pen works that uproot deeper emotions through protagonists that are often met by extreme circumstance and reason with the world around them in a way that simultaneously expresses curiosity and moral trial. Primarily categorized as science fiction and dystopian satire, we as readers will also find ourselves drawn by our connections, shared experiences, and even disagreement followed by a desire for answers to some of life and faith’s bigger questions.
Bio's on Vonnegut
1. On pg 49, Dr. Breed declares, “Pure research men work on what fascinates them, not on what fascinates other people.” This statement is reflected in the opinions of many others interviewed about Dr. Felix Hoenikker (a mad scientist of sorts) throughout the beginning of the book.
When considering the role of modern-day scientists and governments, what do you feel the benefits and risks are in connection to more extreme levels of tunnel vision. How has this affected us as a society?
2. Jonah goes through great lengths to uncover what he can about Dr. Hoenikker; on pg 50, in a moment of what seems like misplaced frustration, Dr. Breed accuses Jonah of being a member of the “yellow press”. Yellow journalism is a term used to describe articles or publications known to overindulge in catchy headlines in lieu of thoroughly researched articles simply for the benefit of increased sales. In today’s world of endless information, thanks to the internet and saturated markets, we often now refer to this as click-bait or my less favorite connotation, fake news.
How has this constant stream of news and information jeopardized the integrity of journalism and what impact do you feel this has had on how we receive said news? For instance, I’ve noticed in many, an increase of anxiety over health concerns, government affairs, and the mistreatment of marginalized groups in an era where the truth and facts, despite also being vastly available, often come second in public consumption to 'reel-them-in with nonsense' articles.
3. Chapters 41-46 depict Jonah’s interactions with several new characters he encounters on the plane. With each new introduction comes identifying behaviors and traits from which we can surmise their views on topics including business and social ethics, relationship dynamics, nationalism, and capital punishment.
Choosing one of these interactions, analyze the beliefs of a new character (or pair of characters) and draw some comparisons and contrasts to your own views. What concerns arise? Do you find yourself favoring their opinion? What experiences have led you to think and feel this way?
3a. On p.137, Hazel expresses relief that San Lorenzo is "a Christian country". Fear of the unknown creates illogical hate & discrimination. How have you overcome this barrier when traveling or encountering cultures different from your own. How have others reacted when introduced to your culture?
3b. Crosby ties his open belief of Bokononism to his rights as an American on p.154. How has this privilege effected us ("freedom of religion" countries) as a society? How has the disillusion that some religions are seen as more patriotic than others effected the realities of citizens who practice faiths by a different name on a national and global scale?
4. Another consistant happening in Cat's Cradle is Newt being undermined, underestimated, and patronized because of his hight/dwarfism; most particularly by his sister, Angela. (see example on p.111-112) Unfortunately, what Newt endures is common for those who deal with physical, medical, or mental barriers. It's widely assumed that having any form of disability is synonymous with being generally incapable. The reality is that with sensible accommodations and support many live full and rewarding lives.
Thinking back to interactions you have had or may have with someone who belongs to this subculture: Were you accepting of their conditions and unique traits? Are there things you could have said or done to respect their abilities, views, or independence?
If you are disabled or differently abled, consider sharing:
5. Throughout Cat's Cradle we are introduced to several concepts, beliefs, and ‘harmless untruths’ that construct the fictional religion/belief system that is Bokononism. Below are a few examples from the text. Consider your own religious, spiritual, universal, or science centered beliefs:
Do the defined concepts and views of Bokononism raise questions that you have struggled with or worked through regarding your own beliefs? Do you think there can be a universal understanding that faith and fact intersect or coexist regardless of what we believe? How would that impact your current beliefs? What benefits do you think that would have on communities?
5a. While most residents publicly claim to be Christian, “everyone on San Lorenzo is a devout Bokononist…” (p.172) What do you think it says about a people or a nation that openly promotes one religion while practicing another? Thinking back on humanity's own history with religion, what lessons should or could be learned? Would you be comfortable with practicing your faith this way? Even if you are comfortable with your beliefs now, has there ever been a time in your life where you hid or minimized being open about it to appease someone else or to be more socially accepted?
Any open dialog and opinion on the reading is always welcome. Was there anything you would like to discuss that was not mentioned in previous questions? Let’s hear what you have to say! Drop your thoughts in the comments!
The tail end of Cat's Cradle offers great thoughts and notions for contemplation. Write a poem (calypso), verse, lesson, letter, or essay based on one or more of the following.