Goddess of the Hunt is a new book of poetry by Shelby Eileen (author of Sunfish and Soft in the Middle) all about the Greek goddess Artemis. In these poems, traditional representations of Artemis meet with more modern interpretations of her myth in a really beautiful way. She is portrayed as a badass aroace (aromantic/asexual) feminist queen, a mighty Olympian protector, but also as a vulnerable and very human woman.
I’ve been super excited about this book since I first heard about it a month or two ago, so when the opportunity came up to request an ARC, I jumped at the chance! Shelby very kindly provided me with a digital proof copy of Goddess of the Hunt, and it was an absolute joy to read.
For those of you who don’t know, Artemis is the goddess of hunting (as the title suggests!), wild animals, chastity, the moon, nature, and childbirth (in a midwife kind of way, rather than a mother kind of way). She has been my favourite goddess from Greek mythology for a long time because her independence makes her stand out from the rest. Plus I just love her iconography, with the moon, the bow and arrow, and the freedom of living in nature (my dream aesthetic!).
Although Artemis has a very distinctive look and personality, the way she is rendered in these poems makes it easy for anyone to relate to her. The struggles she faces are universal: being true to yourself and your values, rage, confusion, love, loneliness, family ties, etc. She is at once divine and ordinary.
“This moon child who could saw the world in two with nothing but a blade of grass”
Most of the poems in this collection are written from the perspective of Artemis herself as she grows up, but there are some with input from other goddesses who admire her (including her mother, Leto). This focus makes each poem feel incredibly personal and intimate, as we watch the young Artemis grow and learn about herself and the world around her. It feels a bit like reading her diary!
Because of her lack of interest in romantic or sexual relationships, Artemis has long been regarded by some as a bit of an asexual icon. As such, she makes the perfect subject matter for a collection of ownvoices asexual poetry such as this. Shelby Eileen skilfully uses ancient myth to represent and reflect the experiences of aro and ace people today, something which is rare and exciting to see in any medium!
Much like its subject, the writing in this collection is incredibly strong. Shelby’s use of language is delightful; her verse is lush and verdant like the landscape in which her Artemis lives. The words on the page would sound wonderful read aloud, and very powerful. I had seen a few posts about her other books on Instagram, but now I am officially converted to the Shelby Eileen fandom. This poet is bound for great things!
Goddess of the Hunt is out on February 20th – don’t miss it!
The gorgeous cover art is by @sumithefox