I am pleased to announce the publication of my latest collection; a re-telling of the story of Persephone set in prohibition-era Tampa.
The Rag and Boneyard, available for purchase here.
“Here is a forcefully-articulated take on the myth of Persephone, re-visioned as a familial tragedy set in the bootleg Southern States of America. Its vivid coherence and dynamic pace convey, via visceral and unsparing language, the ways in which archetypal realities are also our own lived realities. The poem, proceeding in cantos, is fluent and disciplined. It considers both actively and reflectively the situating of the female self in response to violation, change and danger. Throughout the narrative Bethany Pope sustains the fruitful transgression of literary and psychological boundaries to explore painful issues of parental force, betrayal and abandonment. A bold and mesmerising book.” -Penelope Shuttle
“Bethany W. Pope’s variation on the Persephone myth, set in the swamps of Florida during Prohibition. One of the most reworked of myths, perhaps because Persephone’s situation, between a mother and a lover who both want to own her, is so timeless. This version, for all its Gothic darkness, fizzes with upbeat energy: Demeter kneading loaves like body parts, facing the dogs of death with her shears; Persephone adapting, confronting, a born survivor. The vision is startlingly sharp and original, the language clinging to mind and memory like the Spanish moss of death’s swamp.” – Sheenagh Pugh
“The Rag and Boneyard will wrap its fingers round your wrist and lead you into a gothic underworld in which Pluton is costumed in dark silk suit, owns a gun, and a car with tinted windows. And you will be compelled to follow, a hungry curiosity will draw you like Persephone from room to room of his vellum-walled house. Bethany W Pope writes with a visceral and sexy intensity; her imagination brimful as a well-stocked charnel house.” -Helen Ivory
White-haired Jove sits
sipping an illegal mint julep,
watching flecks of dead plants
rise and fall in the glass.
Pluton, his brother-in-business,
reclines deep in his wicker-backed throne.
His dogs circle round him;
three large, sharp-toothed Alsatians
that pant in this heat with murderous thirst.
The king of the swamp lets dangle his hand
to be kissed by those tongues, livid and steaming.
‘I thought we had come
to some measured agreement.
The trading rights, all of Tampa,
in exchange for your girl.’
Jove tinkles rare cubed ice
in his glass, contemplating
finances, weighing their promise
against the wrath of his wife.
‘My friend, you’ve got to think.’
Pluton tracks the brown-streaked
path of a hare with his eyes,
watching the lithe form bound
across the watery soil.
‘Every hotel, every speak,
stocked by my product,
and every dealer reporting
to you. I’ve got thirty tables
of New Orleans finest,
ready to go, awaiting your word,
awaiting your daughter.
I need you to bind us.’
The sun tries hard,
but cannot reach them,
shaded as they are by live oak,
by stalactite mosses.
Jove swallows a cold stone,
nods his white head.
‘We have a deal. It’s your job to keep it.’
Dark Plouton rises, his weight
creaking the strong boards of the veranda,
his mansion mountain-like behind him.
A wave of his hand send forth his dogs.
‘Go Tartarus, go Hades, atta boy Dis!
Go get that fucker!’ He turns to his friend,
soon to be in-law ‘You’ve got to see this.’
The lupine bodies flash
across the almost-liquid marsh,
their hooked claws raising pellets of mud.
Hades catches the fleet body of the hare
within fifty paces, shattering its grace
with a crack of his jaw.
When it falls into his master’s hand
its wide eyes are still glazing.
‘Good boys, all of you.’
Before the body has time to cool,
much less stiffen, Pluton the giant,
the titan, whips a sliver-edged knife
from his boot and slices the fleet hare in twain.
The intestines pool in hot coils
on the pine boards, a pink and white
pile that steams in the air.
He prods the liquid jewels with knife-point,
seeking out runes.
Smiling at nothing, the mystery his.
‘The Greeks knew a thing or two,
my friend. Not those fools there now,
the ones fighting the Turks.
They squabble like we do. The ancients.
They knew our futures were scribed
on our guts. I’ve got yours here.’
‘What do you see, Pluton?’
Jove drains his courage
from cool, minted bourbon.
‘Riches. Sex. Madness. Death.’
He grins at his partner,
‘The usual stuff.’ Pluton pours
from the pitcher, his water of life.
‘Let’s drink. To this,
to us: royal splendour.’
His dogs, three, all large
and half-wild, lap up the blood,
the proof of the pain,
tonguing dead eyes
and the board patched with fur.