First of all, I should say I am Elizabeth’s big sister, so there may well be a natural bias to my review, but I will try to be as balanced as possible.
This is a collection of twenty-five poems. Some are just two verses long, while others go across three pages, so there is a variety of style. They touch on many themes but mainly about being a woman and what that means. The poems are mainly written in the first person, so they feel very personal. We read about being born, periods, breasts, hair, self-harming, violence, death…
Some of the poems are rather disturbing (for example – 3 a.m. voice notes on snapchat) and all of them stand up to repeated readings, where you will find something you missed the first time around. One of my favourite poems here is lessons I almost learned, which is both comedic and horrific, but beautifully observed.
As recounted by the Roman poet Ovid, a young nymph, Salmacis, one day spied Hermaphroditus bathing; consumed with passion, she entered the water and, begging the gods to allow them to stay together, the two became one – part man, part woman. An Eclectic Pagan, for Elizabeth Ovid’s fables are more than fiction, and form a framework for exploring identity. Drawing on the rich mythological history associated with the tale of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, and re-examining the tale through the lens of metaphor, Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman is a stirringly relatable and powerful exploration of gender, love and identity. this is my lake salmacis, and i am the wild nymph with a hollow in her belly and nothing between her legs