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ALLEN BERRY REVIEWS MELISSA DICKSON'S SWEET AEGIS

In Sweet Aegis, the latest collection of poems by Melissa Dickson, the poet breathes new life into classical mythic characters; turning carved marble into flesh, and inviting them down from their pedestals, to walk among us and give account of their lives to the amazed reader. Dickson challenges us to gaze, unflinching, into the eyes of one of Greek Mythology's most infamous monsters, and find within them, not the horror we have come to know, but a misunderstood creature twice victimized.

Through Dickson's writing, heroes and villains are drawn into the cold, often unflattering, light of modernity. Here the crime of Poseidon against the young maiden in the temple of his sister Athena is tried in the court of poetic discourse. The maiden, victimized by a deity and cursed by the goddess she cried out to for rescue, is at long last allowed her testimony. The brash youth who slew Medusa, thus securing his fame and his place in the pantheon of heroes, is revealed to be more braggart and opportunist than icon. The estranged father, who left his infant daughter in the keeping of the goddess and Medusa's two sisters, present their victim's impact statement to the jury of readers.

Dickson's poems challenge use to look deeper into the life of one of our deepest cultural myths. To gaze upon the monster whose history we have scarce considered, and in doing so, reverse the spell as the reader's stony heart begins to soften toward this much maligned creature. Gazing into the eyes of Dickson's Medusa, we experience not terror, but sympathy for her as victim rather than dread of her as a villain.

Sweet Aegis is a powerful work, casting a modern light on a classic myth. Heroic tale becomes modern allegory as the famous and infamous walk through the contemporary south. Once you have read Sweet Aegis, you will never look at Medusa and her contemporaries the same again.