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What Penelope Chooses: poems

Cider Press Review, 2019

Praise for WHAT PENELOPE CHOOSES

While Larsen gives voice, much of it in twenty-first century slang, to male figures like Odysseus, Menelaus, and Telemachus, the collection's triumph is that it gives Penelope an opportunity to speak.... In What Penelope Chooses, Jeanne Larsen does what she has done throughout her body of written work and as a teacher: she enables female voices to have a say.... She fuses history, myth, and modernity to help us better understand the context of our own stories and times. Reading Larsen's poetry makes us sharper thinkers and more empathic hearts, better able to seek out that which has not heretofore been said.

 

--Marissa Mazek, "Weaving Women's Voiices: Jeanne Larsen's Poetry and Fiction" in the Hollins Critic Vol.LVI, No. 2 (April, 2019) 

 

 

How does a 21st-century woman read Homer? Jeanne Larsen's What Penelope Chooses shows you how it's done. Her magnificent confabulation of jazzy sonnets turns Homer on his head and gives him some back chat, high fives, dream talk, and rewrites along with showing just what the English language is capable of at this moment in time. Her sonnets give the form a workout, too, fracturing, doubling, and extending them until you forget what she's doing until you think, "Wow, look what she's doing." This collection is a tour de force poetic exploration of the ancient text in a thoroughly modern voice. Brava!

 

--Barbara Hamby, author of On the Street of Divine Love: New & Selected Poems, Bird Odyssey, and more

 

 

Readers are advised to eat their Wheaties and buckle up tight before sitting down at the feast table of Jeanne Larsen's What Penelope Chooses, an "intertextual gabfest" that gives us astonishing new commentary on one of the most hallowed texts in all of Western literature, the Odyssey.  Spelunking deep inside the cracks and crevices of the robust language of 21stcentury life to decenter received readings and investigate historically-submerged plot lines, Larsen fills the absence at the center of the traditional text.... A fantastic linguistic and literary feat that adds to all previous interpretations of Homer's classic text.

 

--Kate Daniels, author of In the Months of My Son's RecoveryA Walk in Victoria's Secret, and more

 

 

These poems veer from high diction to slang, disparate words merging into compound portmanteaus. Their voices slip from one to another, interrupting and fracturing. Renewing the sonnet's possibilities, Larsen uses the classic lyric form to engage with both Homer's epic tales and the contemporary social and environmental challenges we must face today. My response to these poems reminded me of the tilt-a-whirls of my youth, gripped by an irresistible force while simultaneously hoping it won't end. They break open the world, both utterly necessary and passionately bold. 

 

--Rebecca Dunham, author of Strike, Cold Pastoral, Glass Armonica, and more 

  

 

 

 

Poems from this book have appeared in: Artemis, Bennington Review, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Flock, Memorious, Mezzo Cammin, Ninth Letter, North American Review, Potomac Review,Scoundrel Time, and Terrain.org.

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