Review: Goddess of the Hunt by Shelby Eileen

Goddess of the Hunt is a collection of poems describing the innermost thoughts of the goddess Artemis, as well as occasional thoughts from goddesses Demeter, Persephone, Hera, and more. The poems express a heartfelt desire to be one’s self, and a resistance to the preconceived notions of a goddess. Artemis expresses both a desire for companionship and a desire to be left alone, struggling to find a balance of freedom with those that would see her bound to someone. The poems and the pieces of prose-like verse that accompany them explore themes of loneliness, power, empowerment, assault, expectation, and familial pressure.

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What is Goddess of the Hunt about?

This collection of poetry is all about Artemis, a virgin goddess associated with the moon, hunting, huntresses, and a variety of wild creatures. Artemis is represented similarly in different presentations of Greek mythology as not only being one of the virgin goddesses, but also completely isolating herself from the company of men. Different sources and portrayals show her as a lesbian or asexual, and this collection definitely emphasizes more of the latter. Like other iconic heroines who refuse to be tied down, Artemis in this collection wants only the freedom to do as she pleases without the burden of expectations from her fellow gods.

Genre: Poetry

Yes, the genre choice here is obviously poetry. Though (as I’ll discuss in the next section) this doesn’t strictly mean verse poetry, the writing is simple and sweet and emotional in a way that really only poetry can convey. Additionally, the collection is assembled in a lose storytelling format that shows Artemis growing and resisting the expectations of others across at least a portion of her immortal lifetime.

Form: Poems and prose alternating

Despite being a collection of poetry, there are also short bursts of prose. Usually taking the form of the innermost thoughts of a goddess (the goddess being named first) these short, three to five sentences of prose are interspersed regularly between the poems and give greater context to the poems that follow them. I thought that these alternating prose and poetry pieces that represent the thoughts of not just Artemis but other goddesses as well were a clever way of breaking the verses up and giving more information about them.

Themes: Defiance, Loneliness, Expectations

While I’m sure another read could identify more or different themes, these are the primary ones I noticed throughout the collection. Artemis is regularly defiant, specifically of the expectation that she’ll get married one day. She refuses to be molded into the ideal woman and constantly looks to other strong goddesses, most of whom in some way defy the constraints of traditional womanhood. Artemis also defies the need for love, romance, and sex by demonstrating her body is her own. However, Artemis also clearly experiences loneliness but perhaps more loneliness for someone who would not have her change who she is, a companion that respects her decisions. Additionally there is the theme of constant expectation. Artemis is both expected to fight against those around her and to eventually bow to their pressure which is a unique experience that is also highly sympathetic.

The Good

I think that in a lot of ways Artemis’s plight is one that a lot of women can understand. Artemis resists the idea of bowing to the pressure and expectations of her family. However, in another way Artemis’s struggle is highly specific: that of an Aro/Ace person. Aromantic an asexual are two very underrepresented identities in literature. Being aromantic means that you do not experience romantic attraction (in fact, this very blogger is on the aro spectrum) and being asexual means you do not experience sexual attraction. These identities both function as a spectrum of varying degrees and there are also further terms such as demisexual/demiromantic that indicate the degree to which a person does or does not experience sexual or romantic attraction. It was fun to read a collection of poems that are explicitly meant as that sort of representation.

The Okay

I do wish that there had been almost greater resolution to Artemis’ story. Despite struggling with loneliness and a lack of desire for traditional companionship, Artemis never seems to find a balance that truly makes her happy–at least not that I felt while reading. It was a somewhat sad version of events, though I suppose entirely true to form for the mythology of Artemis. Other than that, I also thought it might have been nice to just have more. I read this whole collection in about an hour and was left wanting for more.

The Bad

To be entirely honest, I don’t have any major criticisms for this work. It was beautiful, thoughtful, and impactful.

Final Thoughts

This was a beautiful collection, written from a place of loneliness and also an almost hope. Because now, slowly, being aromantic/asexual is becoming more understood. There are communities that understand those terms and will embrace others who identify with them. The experiences that Artemis struggles with in these poems are still very real, but she would not be alone today, not entirely. The poems in this book also express the desperation to buck off expectations and to live as one wishes, which is something many people can identify with. Despite the ending leaving nothing resolved, I think that there’s still that note of hope knowing that between a time when a Greek goddess may have existed and now, people have lived lives like hers and survived and people today have a way of defining those experiences.

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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