“Lupa and Lamb”, by Susan Hawthorne

Reviewed by Mary Saracino

Lupa and LambSusan Hawthorne's newest book, Lupa and Lamb, is a bold, provocative—dare I say, transcendent—collection of poems, plays, and 'lost texts' that reclaims the buried mysteries of ancient sites in Rome, Sardinia Malta, Etruria, and Sicily—all with an unapologetic female, feminist sensibility.

Lupa and Lamb is steeped in the language of women's culture, women's cellular knowing. Hawthorne excavates subaltern memory and eviscerates the imposed collective amnesia that has too long silenced the voices (and the reality) of women.

The poems are unflinching, provocative, beautifully crafted.

Like Olga Broumas' groundbreaking book, Beginning with O, Hawthorne's Lupa and Lamb creates a powerful and profound world—one that is both literary and female.

The book opens with a quote from Monique Wittig's The Guêrillères urging readers to remember that which has been silenced.

"There was a time when you were not a slave....you walked alone, full of laughter, you bathed bare-bellied. You say you have lost all recollection of it, remember....You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exit. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent."

Wittig's quote initiates readers into the wild and magical ride that lies ahead, for Hawthorne's book is as much a celebration of women's culture and a reclamation of women's subaltern memories as it is a collection of finely wrought poems.

Hawthorne dedicates her book to "all the wolves, sheep and women killed in the name of progress."

Lupa and Lamb takes readers on a compelling metaphorical ride across time and space that is enchanting and exhilarating, ever more so because it is grounded in Hawthorne's deeply female sensibility and her in-depth knowledge of women's herstory from Paleolithic times to the present.

Hawthorne divides the book into three sections, Lupa, Lamb, and Lambda, and weaves together fragments of mythology, archaeology, and ancient languages. She creates a cast of characters to guide us: Curatrix, Director of the Musaeum Matricum and guardian of the 'lost texts'; Lupa/Ilia/Rhea Silvia/Acca Larentia, a woman and a she-wolf; Diana/Artemis/Artemisia, a goddess; Agnese/Santa Agnese/Saint Agnes, a Christian saint and martyr; Sulpicia, a Latin poet (63 BCE-14 CE); and Livia (58 BCE-29 CE), an Empress of Rome.

Lupa and Lamb unfolds in a series of poems, short plays, and shards of 'lost text'—each one deciphering a code of long-lost memory, silenced language (the language of women).

The first poem, "descent", sets the tone for what lies ahead:

the call
that hollow sound of Cumaea
I was here before
thousands of years ago

your hundreds of mouths
shouting
words frothed at the edge
of my mouth

In "nuraghe", she writes about the memories and secrets held in ancient stone buildings in Sardinia:

Agnese and I wander
turn full circle
stare at the megalithic words
breasted baetyls and sickled menhirs
rocks piled in poetic structures

we walk hand in hand
between the lines
disappear behind the towering boulders
put our ears to the rocks
listen to the songs

In "Sabine women 720 BCE", she questions the version of history passed down through the ages that obliterates women's lived experience:

history is being rewritten
it's not rape it's abduction
says Wikipedia that anonymous
unaccountable author

In "Palermo, Sicilia: inquisition", she echoes the horrors of the institutionalized murder of countless women branded as heretics:

death rides a skeletal horse
corpses trampled
a woman's silent scream
arrow in her throat

In "Lesbos: aidos", she carries that institutionalized oppression into contemporary times, linking the hatred of women's bodies with female sexuality:

I want to tell you what happened
but how to put it into words
how can I say the words
when my body is the crime

In "tomb of the forgotten women", she writes about female resistance and the fate of so many who have resisted.

there is nothing here
          but silence

we begin to sing
we chant the names
of some who tried
to end their enslavement

In "sibyls", she writes about taking charge, renouncing the silence, reclaiming that which has been lost:

Phemonoe the poet
says it is time to cease
prophesying

the future is now
time is
turned on itself

there
          then
here
          now

the known a memory
the knowable invented
our million mouths singing

Lupa and Lamb is a remarkable achievement from a gifted poet. Hawthorne's book is a gem and a 'must-read' for anyone interested in women's spiritual traditions, women's history, mythology, archeology, and archeomythology.

Lupa and Lamb is published by Spinifex Press, and can be obtained from their website.

 

Mary Saracino

Mary Saracino is a novelist, poet, and memoir writer who lives in Denver, Colorado, USA. Her most recent novel, Heretics: A Love Story, was published by Pearlsong Press in June 2014. Her novel, The Singing of Swans (Pearlsong Press, 2006), was a 2007 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist. She is the co-editor (with Mary Beth Moser) of She Is Everywhere! Volume 3: An anthology of writings in womanist/feminist spirituality (iUniverse 2012), which earned the 2013 Enheduanna Award for Excellence in Women-Centered Literature from Sofia University. Mary's short story, "Vicky's Secret," earned the 2007 Glass Woman Prize. Mary's other book-length work includes the novels No Matter What (Spinsters Ink, 1993) and Finding Grace (Spinsters Ink, 1999), and the memoir, Voices of the Soft-bellied Warrior (Spinsters Ink Books, 2001). Her poetry and stories (creative nonfiction and fiction) have been published in a variety of literary and cultural journals and anthologies, both online and in print. Mary is a member of the editorial board for Return to Mago: Magoism the Way of S/HE; http://magoism.net. She is also a writing coach/teacher/editor and the founder of MOTHEROOT, an enterprise that offers embodied art-making and creative writing workshops and classes centered on the Dark Mother/Divine Female. For more information visit www.marysaracino.com; www.pearlsong.com/newsroom/marysaracino/marysaracino.htm; http://magoism.net/people-3/contributors-2/

Latest posts by Mary Saracino (see all)