What Penelope Chooses

What Penelope Chooses

What Penelope Chooses


Poetry by Jeanne Larsen.
Winner of the 2017 Cider Press Review  Book Award.

ISBN: 978-1-930781-54-2
Binding: Tradepaper
Pub date: March, 2019


Poetry by Jeanne Larsen.
Winner of the 2017 Cider Press Review  Book Award.

Release date March, 2019

Advance praise for What Penelope Chooses:

What Penelope Chooses is a rare combination of heart, heft, and technical brilliance. The voice is sure as it moves us through this old and familiar tale, both accounting for and challenging everything we think we know about what happened, what it meant, and who the telling serves. The writing in this collection is dynamic, engaging fixed and free form, various dictions, and luminous imagery. One feels lifted, enlivened, and enlightened by the journey one takes with these poems, and as with all journeys, one is essentially changed. These poems are a true accomplishment!”

Lauren K. Alleyne, author of Difficult Fruit and Honeyfish.

What Penelope Chooses is an ‘intertextual gabfest’ that gives us astonishing new commentary on one of the most hallowed texts in all of Western literature, the Odyssey. Larsen fills the absence at the center of the traditional text—Penelope’s patient, wifely waiting—with a third wave, pussy-hatted, female hero for our time who is royally pissed off and woke: ‘A few more centuries & she’d / have played the god / -damn lyre [herself!]’ A fantastic linguistic and literary feat.”

—Kate Daniels, author of In the Months of My Son’s Recovery.

“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. The collection is a tour de force poetic exploration of the modern text in a thoroughly modern voice. Brava!”

—Barbara Hamby, author of Bird Odyssey

“These poems break open the world, both utterly necessary and passionately bold. A thoroughly original book”

—Rebecca Dunham, author of Cold Pastoral


Enjoy a sample poem from What Penelope Chooses:

Singing, Studying on Whiteness, This Penelope Strings

along suitors & the lyre-warp of her loom.

On last night’s unspun body bag, weaves pictures:
deployed youths, broken masts, horses’ heads
hacked. An infant prince flung from a tower
tall as a fracking well. She lights a lamp,
swears her maids to speechlessness, unpicks
the fabric. Looks skyward. Makes out smoggy threads
between stars. Calls them demigods, grotesques,
captives, tracks of what’s not. Come morning, depicts
with water-skeins, veiled eyes: Asia Minor
widows thralled in murderous beds. Her doing

is undoing. That burial wrapper signifies
unhealing rumors. Marvels. A liar’s name shouted
as rocks crash wet. Her ivory dream-talk, raveling.

With thanks to Scoundrel Time, in which the poem first appeared.


About the Author

Jeanne Larsen’s first book, James Cook in Search of Terra Incognita, won the AWP award in poetry. She has published Why We Make Gardens [& Other Poems], four novels, and two collections of translations of poetry by women of Tang-era China. The recipient of grants and awards from the Japan/US Friendship commission, the NEA, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, and others, she teaches in the Jackson Center for Creative Writing at Hollins University. Learn more at www.jeannelarsen.com


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