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And here we are! My triptych of sonnets, "Libitina's Garden" is included in this 200th and penultimate issue of Mythic Delirium.
 


It consists of the sequence, "The Grove", "Vespillonis" and "The Dream of Augustus". It is a kind of cousin to my poem of last year, "Vanth - a myth derived", in that it sprang from the same body of research and the same provocative lack of evidence. Was this goddess of corpses, whom Horace prayed his works would escape, such an integral part of the Roman cultural fabric that she was simply never described? Or was there an interdiction on her name and image, in keeping with the general taboo against pollution by death? Undertakers were called "Libitinarii" and were only permitted to enter the city gates after sunset. That one of the first decrees of the first Emperor was for the improvement of the cemetery which lay outside the walls, converting a wilderness of bones into parkland, is another teasing snippet.

In any case, this superb production also contains poetry and short fiction by such tenebraries as Kate MacLeod, Benjanun Sriduangkaew and John Phillip Johnson. I especially like the poem "After Pandora" by Maya Chhabra.  Mythic Delirium achieved near-legendary status during its 20 year run and I mark its passing with a branch of cypress.

This issue -and all preceding- may be purchased here. The first two sonnets are free to read here.

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Blessed solstice! I am in an especially celebratory mood, because my poem "Vanth - A Myth Derived" is in the new edition of *Eternal Haunted Summer*, an online magazine of pagan songs and tales. Accepting the piece, the editor said that they didn't get much in the way of Etruscan mythology. The poem itself explains why.

This piece came out the research I conducted for a short story as yet unpublished, that brought home to me just how shaky is the base for all our ideas about Ancient Rome, let alone less such cultures that were less self-aggrandising. Our entire knowledge of the death goddess Libitina, for instance, rests upon maybe four passing references in Horace, Festus and Juvenal, a longer entry in Plutarch and the miraculously surviving regulations for the conduct of undertakers in the city of Puteoli. Scholars have long thought her an adaptation of an Etruscan death deity, which led me to Vanth. About whom even less is known, but at least we have some tomb paintings and this exquisite bronze.


Vanth
is a name carved in an Etruscan tomb,
a bronze woman whose arms are wreathed in snakes,
the beating of rainbow-shaded wings,
the stranger at the banquet,
a torch-bearer in dark places,
who comes to announce the end.

That’s what we know, from statue, vase and wall.
The Etruscans did not write her story down
in any way that we may read today...


So yes, I write free verse every now and then.

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