Guest Blog Posts

The possibilities of Medusa & The Loneliest Girl – guest blog post Kate Gale

I began the The Loneliest Girl in 2015. I wanted to explore the experience of being a woman in the 21st century and compare that to the experience of Medusa. Medusa was a virgin who was raped and then banished to the island of Cisthene where she was cursed with a head full of snakes. People complain about cancel culture and being banned, but Medusa had it far worse. The story of Medusa that went down in history is the one where a man came to that island, cut off her head and rescued the princess. The story of the man is the one we hear; that is deemed the important story. First she was raped, then isolated, then beheaded. Her erasure was complete.

We isolated writers use literature to write our way out of a corner. I have watched bullfighting in Spain and thought about the place in the corner of the ring that the bull defends: his safe place, his querencia. We all have a safe space that we defend. Sometimes we need to let go of our story, leave our corner and walk out into the middle of the ring into a new narrative. I wanted to give Medusa the power to write her way out of that dark story and into another story.

I gave Medusa other possibilities. She fell in love with a woman. She lived with a group of women. She had many lovers. She moved to live in the stars. In my stories, Medusa has agency. She wasn’t crouched in a cave waiting to be beheaded by a man named Perseus. There was no Perseus. She owned her own story, her own life. I wanted to believe that even when we make mistakes, we can create a new path for ourselves. We can find a way out of the corner of the ring.

For many women, it feels like the story we inhabit was written a long time ago, and we are inside a narrative that keeps pushing forward. My book asks us to question and then rewrite the narrative. We are not victims.

Finding time to write is not easy for me. Almost all of my time is taken with working in publishing and teaching. I work from the time I wake up until about midnight every day. I work on weekends. When I walk my dog, I make phone calls. When I drive to the beach, I make phone calls and when I walk on the beach, I make phone calls. I wrote this poetry during my few free evenings and in the early mornings. I wrote out the first drafts and then worked on edits. In the first drafts, the narrator sounded wild around the edges, but eventually I got the dark of the poems into stanzas and into that heady place that we consider a publishable poem.

Writing poetry for me requires being alone in a quiet place. There’s not much quiet in the world, it’s full of noise. Slowing down enough to be at the pace of poetry requires stepping away from the internet, the phone, the television, and entering the void. The Loneliest Girl was written at the bottom of the well. I was down there in the dark finding my way with a flashlight, a pen, and scraps of moonlight.

When I was a child, I once spent the night at the bottom of a well. I remember when the moon rose above me and I stood to throw up my arms and yelled, “Save me!” But the moon was far away and sailed on and left me in the dark. In the morning, someone found me and threw down a rope.

Writing these poems felt like that night in the well. We are lit by our own imaginations when we write poetry, we are sailing on a canoe in the dark over the moon going to find language, story, the island of forgiveness. Sometimes I think every poem is a prayer to the universe to forgive me for not being perfect. Poetry is the language of silence. I have found my way there in The Loneliest Girl, and I emerged with a book in my hands.

Dr. KATE GALE is co-founder and Managing Editor of Red Hen Press, Editor of the Los Angeles Review. She teaches in the Low Residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska in Poetry, Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction.

She is the author of the forthcoming The Loneliest Girl from the University of New Mexico Press and of seven books of poetry including The Goldilocks Zone from the University of New Mexico Press in 2014, and Echo Light from Red Mountain in 2014 and six librettos including Rio de Sangre, a libretto for an opera with composer Don Davis, which had its world premiere October 2010 at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee.

She speaks on independent publishing around the US at schools like USC and Columbia and she speaks at Oxford University. Her opera in process is and an opera on Che Guevara is in process with Cuban composer Armando Bayolo.

5 replies »

  1. Thank you, Kate Gale, for mailing me this glorious color postcard — and congrats on the new book. However, I was confused by the reverse side of the postcard, which only had my address label: no book description, no quotes, no price, no URL, no events, no info on where to buy your book. Can you comment, please? Thank you.

  2. I enjoyed the blog, learned true history,and the name of a book I need to buy. Congratulations on the book.

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