An excerpt from the long poem “Demeter” by Emer Gillespie

One of my favourite books is  the poetry collection by my friend Emer Gillespie. There are many things I like about The Instinct Against Death (Pindrop Press, 2012) But I’m not going to list them all in this post. (For a review of Emer’s book, I recommend this one by  Abegail Morley at the webzine  Ink, Sweat & Tears.)

Emer is a person of many talents – she’s a  novelist, screen-writer , singer and actor, as well as  poet.  And you can tell, in her poems, that she has a keen ear for the sound of a poem – the rhythms and music. And she is also expert at narration and showing characters and emotions.

These qualities all came together for me in her long poem (30 sections) “Demeter” which is Emer’s retelling of the Demeter/ Persephone (mother/daughter) myth. I asked Emer if I could post the last section of “Demeter” here on my blog, and she kindly agreed.

Perhaps, it’s not quite right for me to post the ending , for those of you who have not yet read (or listened to) the first sections.  (I say “listened to” because you can buy  – at a very reasonable price –  an audio book  in which Emer does fantastic readings of most of the poems from the print edition. I recommend you get both the audio and the print editions – they complement each other.)

HOWEVER , posting section XXX  is  only a semi-spoiler because  after all,  Bulfinch’s and other versions of the story has been around since forever!! You can get the entertaining Schoops notes here.

But Emer puts her own distinctive spin on things – her mix of  the timeless and the contemporary ( and even the entomological) renews the story.

The basic myth “explains” the existence of the seasons, but Emer’s interpretation goes deep into the primal relationship between mothers and daughters.

∞  ∞  ∞

So here’s the last section of the long poem  “Demeter” in  The Instinct Against Death,  Pindrop Press (2012) –


The harvest done, once again the time
had come to say goodbye.
This time we all had warning.
Not just trees, birds and animals,
but even mortals knew now to store up food
for the dark, cold days that lay ahead.
Persephone packed her bag.
I stood in the doorway to her room
and noticed that she did not seem that sorry to be gone.
In fact she packed that bag with some alacrity.
When she saw me, she composed her face.
Did I see a flash of pity as she threw her arms
around me? I cleared my throat
and spoke of all the plans I’d made
for when she was away. And it was true –
new challenges for both of us.
I think she believed me.
Hades sent a car. To give him his due,
he knows how to put on a show,
it was quite some car.
Maybe, when I was younger,
if Zeus had sent me a car like that for me…
I waved her off and went inside.
Winter was coming.

– by  Emer Gillespie

∞  ∞  ∞

Me again (Elly) – I just realized that it’s a bit of a hoot bringing on Winter just as we’re experiencing mid-summer heat, but we are past the solstice, the days are getting shorter again, and yes, Winter is once more coming.

Emer’s “Demeter” is enjoyable to read; it is also important to me, partly because it helps me  imagine how it is to be a mother. I’ve never had a child so this is a valuable gift to me. Section XXX  also strikes a deep chord within me …because it shows me ways of dealing with changes in relationships with people I love.  Which is often difficult stuff.


Anyway… according to Joe Campbell there are four functions of myths.   So the fourth

…the fourth function of myth is psychological. That myth must carry the individual through the stages of his life, from birth through maturity through senility to death. The mythology must do so in accords with the social order of his group, the  cosmos as understood by his group, and the monstrous mystery.

… that’s part of what I get from Emer’s telling of the myth: it helps me think about ways to live my own life , as I make my way along, through different stages – how to deal with changes. How to keep going. How to love.

… another thing I like about this book is the WONDERFUL cover which is a collage by Sophie Ryder, 1999 ‘Lady Hare in a Forest With Trees”.  Have a look at Ryder’s web site!! Hares and all sorts of Creatures abound  everywhere, there!!



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