Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 277
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 219, Volume 41 Number 1, September - October 2014.

The Last Mythopoet Amanda Jernigan

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Want to know where I’ve been?
Under the frost-hard
Ground with Hell’s Queen,
Whom there I embraced
In the dark as she lay,
With worms defaced,
Her lips gnawed away
– What’s that? Well, maybe
Not everybody’s dame,
But a sharp baby
All the same.

This is ‘The Rymer’, by Jay Macpherson (1931–2012), perhaps Canada’s pre-eminent ‘mythopoet’. It is a poem that suggests that all poets are, to some extent, mythopoets: their haunts otherworldly; their companions, too.

Not everyone would agree. There are critics for whom mythopoetry is, if anything, a was: a short-lived literary movement that grew up here in Canada under the influence of the mythopoetic criticism of Northrop Frye, and died out when its chief practitioners – Macpherson and James Reaney (1926–2008) are the two most often cited – went on to other things. In the May/June 2013 issue of PN Review, Evan Jones called me, only half-jokingly, the last of the mythopoets: ‘the only heir to a tradition that was once central and has now died out’.

Romantic as it is to be considered a rarity – a last unicorn, a Lonesome George – I felt in my gut that Jones was wrong. For mythopoetry – the kind of poetry that not only uses myth but makes it – seems to me alive and well in the work of my contemporaries. I thought first of the enigmatic mermaid on the cover of Sea ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image