The ancient Greek goddess Hecate was extremely powerful. So much so that Zeus, father of the gods, gave the goddess a special position, says poet Hoa Nguyen, referencing Hesiod’s epic poem “The Theogeny.”
“He honored her and ‘allowed’ her to have dominion over earth, sea, sky,” Nguyen said in an interview with three Advanced Placement poetry students at Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts. back in January 2011.
But, Nguyen, whose newest book “Red Juice” came out in September, says that Hecate later morphed from this prestigious, “mysterious and very old goddess” into something darker.
“Even by Shakespeare’s time, she’s made into the crone, she’s evil,” she told Art Beat.
It’s a fate that the poet doesn’t agree with, so in her book, Nguyen aims to “steal (her) back from patriarchy, from being vilified.” And Hecate isn’t the only one; others, like Mena, the Roman goddess of menstruation, make appearances.
“The book is very interested in re-positioning the feminine in its appropriate and proper place of power.”
“Red Juice” is really a re-issuing of her first two books, “Your Ancient See Through” and “Hecate Lochia,” combined with previously uncollected poems. All of the poems were composed before 2008, during a 10-year period in which Nguyen gave birth to her two sons. That experience plays heavily into themes in the book.
“When you bring children into the world or you are around children, you realize ‘oh,’ now there’s a certain responsibility that one starts to feel,” she said.
Many of the poems in “Red Juice” deal with a concern for globalization and sustainability.
“You can see that progression in the book, that there is more and more urgency around the concern about financial collapse, concern about environmental collapse, concerns about disaster and surviving,” said the poet.
Listen to Hoa Nguyen read “They Sell You What Disappears” from her collection “Red Juice.”
They Sell You What Disappears
They sell you what disappears it’s a vague “they”
maybe capital T who are they and mostly
poorly paid in China
Why does this garlic come from China?
It’s vague to me shipping bulbous netted bulbs
Cargo doused with fungicide and growth inhibitor
What disappears is vague I can’t trade for much
I can cook teach you cooking ferment
bread or poetry I can sell my plasma
They are paid poorly in Florida
picking tomatoes for tacos
Some CEO is surely a demon
in this poem
Need capital to buy need to buy or else
you are always paying rent one month away
from “the street”
3 neighbors asked for money this week
We are guilty
bringing in sacks of food bought on credit
Trademark this poem mark this poem with a scan code
on the front and digitally store it somewhere
not to be memorized “by heart”
For Nguyen, concepts of sustainability, globalism and womanhood are linked. She points to outsourcing, saying that when production is removed from the local community, that community is not as strong and self-reliant.
“But, if you have a resilient community, things reside right there. You are moving with the seasons and you are sharing resources in a way that makes sense. Here’s a river, let’s mill with water power from the grain that we grew over there and let’s collect pecans at this time. That to me is the old matrilineal.”
“They Sell You What Disappears” from Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008. Copyright 2015 by Hoa Nguyen. Reprinted with permission of the author and Wave Books.