An Imaginary Hellas


Mary Maxwells first-book manuscript was a finalist for numerous awards, including the National Poetry Series, the Walt Whitman Award and the Yale Younger Poets Prize. Drawing on her studies in Greek and Latin poetry, these classics-inflected lyrics (some which first appeared in The New Republic, The Southern Review and Yale Review) drew acclaim for their spirited resurrection of the ancient worlds female voice. Her translations of the Roman Sulpicia and the deathless Sappho join literary ranks with the Celtic Boudicca and the unnamed girls of Pindars Daphnephorikon.

In her introduction to Maxwells Discovery/The Nation reading at the Poetry Center of the 92ndY in NewYork City, judge Lynn Emanuel observed:  

Mary Maxwells subject is the canon, both literary and social, the received forms of love and literature. In her work, the personal realm of the romantic and the public realm of literature are joined by a myriad of deft stitches. Her poems to other writers have aspects of love poetry, and yet the poems are not set pieces of admiration. They are dialogues with the masters… And she is intelligent. And like many intelligent people, she is argumentative: She talks back. And she talks back from the gloriously conflicted and interesting position of a writer who is also a woman… A kind of wonderful bravura moves through these poems in the guise of self-deprecation as this writer simultaneously celebrates and undermines the canons of thinking and feeling.

Invocation    11

Threnody    12

Nausicaa: The Movie .   13

Exercise    17

The Presentation Of the Virgin    18

The Stonewall Jackson Hotel    19

To My Father    21

Hart Crane’s Death, An Editorial    22

To Henry James    23

James Agee’s Belief, A Soliloquy    24

To Robert Lowell    25

Chanson De Toile    26

Speaks Latin, That Satin Doll    28

Poseidon    29

After Sulpicia    30

A Song Of Experience    32

Team Player    33

Maiden Song    35

Ulysses In Hell    40

Strophes And Antistrophes    54

The Oxbow    55

Sapientia    59

Ten With Edwin Denby    60

Battle    65

Boudicca In the Underworld    67

Mary McCarthy’s Pocketbook    69

Nativities    70

The Etruscan Discipline    77

The Spinsters’ Bouquet    78

Classic    80

The Recently Discovered Lyric Of Sappho     83

At the New England Aquarium    84

Envoi: Aphrodite    85


Notes    87

Acknowledgments    91

About An Imaginary Hellas    93

About the Author    94