I’ve been meaning for a while to mention the publication of Mandragora, the latest anthology of esoteric poetry from Scarlet Imprint but have been sidetracked by life. So here it is. Mandragora: Further Explorations in Esoteric Poeisis is a wonder to the senses, a tribute to book arts that is reminiscent of something from the Edwardian era with its exquisite cover of copper shot crushed cloth and the image of an alluring female mandrake (it’s also available in affordable paperback and e-book formats). I am always impressed by books that reward the sense of touch, as well as sight. I am also impressed by what is within (yes, disclosure— I am a contributor): a range of impressive poems and insightful essays on the art and practice of poetry as a magical, visionary and spiritual practice.

Editor Ruby Sara starts the book off with an apt and illuminating quote from Heidegger: “Poets are the mortals who, singing earnestly of the wine-god, sense the trace of the fugitive gods, stay on the gods’ tracks, and so trace for their kindred mortals the way toward the turning…to be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods. This is why the poet in the time of the world’s night utters the holy.”

The book includes a rich grouping of essays, including my own “The Head of Orpheus: Hesiod, Plato and the Muses”, an exploration of what I call the poet’s truth in many cultures and the demotion of such visionary truth (roughly speaking, myth) in the western world by Plato in stark contrast to the views of archaic Greece. Phil Legard’s “Black Venus & Wise Hermes” touching on poetry, grimoires, Hermetica and the ‘violence of the imagination’ wrought by inspired poetry and “A Spell To Awaken England” on Ted Hughes (perhaps best known by Americans as the husband of Sylvia Plath) by Peter Grey are fascinating forays. Alexander Cummins’s “On Cut-Up” is a brilliant piece exploring the magic of cut ups, the technique especially associated with postmodern magician and experimental novelist William Burroughs but with precursors in Dada poetics and related collage practices. “Cut up is an explicitly magical re-articulation of language, art and experience.” As a practitioner myself I can attest to that (some of my own cut up poems can be found in Maintenant 4 and 5). There’s an intriguing look at the Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa who wrote as a legion of identities by Jose Leitao and a piece on the poetics of ritual theater by Australian performer Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule. Erynn Laurie has an illuminating essay, “Burying the Poet” on Gaelic incubatory practices, from which a quote: “She {Brigid} presides over the holy well at the center of being where fire and water meet to produce poetry, prophecy, and magic. She is the mystery at the heart of the hazel, the spots on the sides of the salmon, the smith who creates us anew.” And P.  Sufenas Virius Lupus writes his own ars poetica in “The Poet as God-Seducer”, an interesting take on the art, (though I was surprised to see the assertion that only gods but not goddesses seduce mortals in classical tradition; well, how about Aphrodite bearing Aeneas by Anchises for starters?).

T. Thorn Coyle (whose poem riffs on the famous Song of Amergin), Valentina Cano, Peter Dube, Mark Saucier, Erynn Laurie and Jennifer Lawrence are a few of the poets whose work stood out for me. And of course there are some by me: “Lava Flowers’ and “Keeper of the Well” (for Nuadhu).

The publishers Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimech and editor Ruby Sara have outdone themselves in this outstanding collection.


3 thoughts on “Mandragora

    1. Okay 😉 But my point is that it is not unusual. Aphrodite had a variety of human lovers, as did Demeter. Then there are those goddesses that marry mortals like Harmonia who wedded Cadmus.

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