Tuesday Poem: ‘Penelope Dreaming’ by Helen Lowe + National Grammar Day

Penelope Dreaming

He made this bed you know,
crafted first from the aged olive,
then joined to its hoary brother –
its leaves still sing
of winds no longer blowing;
I feel it stir, murmur
in that phantom breeze
when I lie here, as if in your arms
my husband, my beloved, my lover,
waiting for the first light
to ambush me, waiting …

I hear your voice sigh
out of the deep ocean, and sink
with it, down to where you hide,
an apparition spun out of leaves,
silvered bark and light, gnarled
and twisted as Old Man olive,
timeworn, shifting to every wind,
forever slipping away
from my outstretched arms,
my eager touch,
elusive as leaf shadow, dappled
chimaera of heart’s longing.

© Helen Lowe

Published in Broadsheet 7, 2011

I can feel the waiting and longing in this poem. Thanks to fellow TP poet Helen Lowe for sharing this poem again. Here’s a wee blurb about the “Ithaca Conversations” sequence, which this poem forms part of:

“The Ithaca Conversations sequence reflects my long held love of myth and legend, a love which began when my Year 4 teacher, Mrs Hook, placed a colourful poster of the ‘Twelve Olympians’ on our classroom wall. I was fascinated, absorbed … and read every book about the Greek myths that I could lay my hands on. The reading process continued into adult life, with translations of OvidHomer, and less mythic but equally legendary stories such as Xenophon’s Anabasis, as well as novels such as Robert Graves’ Homer’s Daughter. But the Iliad and the Odyssey were amongst my earliest loves and the power they exerted over my imagination is best evidenced by the way they continue to infiltrate my poetry and short fiction—and that the novels I write are centred around epic, legend and myth, both in what is loosely our world (Thornspell) and alternate worlds (The Wall of Night Series.)

Like all the poems in the Ithaca Conversations sequence, Penelope Dreaming provides a slant into the Odysseus legend, in this case from the perspective of the wayfarer’s wife, left behind on Ithaca with her son, Telemachus. I have long had an interest in Penelope, exploring several perspectives on what her ‘story’ could be. Another of these, titled simply Ithaca, appeared in short story form in JAAM 26, edited by Tim Jones.”


About the poet: Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet and interviewer whose work has been published, broadcast and anthologized in New Zealand and internationally. Her first novel Thornspell (Knopf) was published to critical praise in 2008, and in 2012 The Heir Of Night won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award. Helen posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and can also be found on Twitter: @helenl0we


Also, for interested people, don’t overlook the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize competition, with a deadline of March 14. Sarah was friend to many Tuesday Poets. I did not know her personally, but her poetry sings. And this is a wonderful way for poetry to be celebrated. Details here.


Tuesday Poem is a collective of poets who share poetry on a weekly basis across borders and time zones. At the TP hub this week, you’ll find a new set of poems  by Stephanie Lash posted by Hub Editor Helen Rickerby, plus poems by the various TP collective members.  Look down the left-hand sidebar and click on each one to see their weekly contributions.

Tuesday Poem For more Tuesday Poems, go here.

~ ~ ~

And now, from Penelope Dreaming to 21st century America…

I can’t let today go by without mentioning that March 4 is National Grammar Day in the US — which isn’t till tomorrow stateside, but still… I’ll end with a link to this article in Slate,  plus a little piece on Pilkunnussijas, by grammatically inclined editor pals Christopher Allen, Linda Simoni-Wastila, John Wentworth Chapin and Sian Williams.

And I came across this excellent discussion from last year about the tricky evolution of English grammar and usage —

Can you correctly pronounce “rough”, “though”, “through”, and “thought”? Congratulations, you have just navigated the Great Vowel Shift. If I ask you to come up with synonyms of “ask” and you respond with “question” and “inquire”, congratulations: you have seamlessly navigated your way through 500 years of English history. Do you end sentences in prepositions? That is awesome, because that is a linguistic and historical tie back to Old English, the dyslexic-looking Germanic language that started this whole shebang almost 1,500 years ago.

 More here.

And, finally, a few more links to topics and debates near and dear to my heart:

the comma splice

formal v informal language

advanced grammar: a quiz

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1 Response to Tuesday Poem: ‘Penelope Dreaming’ by Helen Lowe + National Grammar Day

  1. Pingback: The Tuesday Poem: Penelope Dreaming » Helen Lowe

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