Category: Poetry

Poetry by Ava Love Hanna

A Feminist in the Kitchen: Modern Hestia

Hestia - Goddess of the Hearth. A man drew this. You can tell both by his name and the fact that the virgin of the hearth is showing major nip.

Hestia – Goddess of the Hearth.
Goals. She’s literally holding fire in her bare hand, while still looking put together. (And no, being able to see her nipples doesn’t make her less of a feminist.)

I’ve been thinking about Hestia lately, the virgin goddess of home and hearth. Basically, her story goes like this: she was pursued by both Apollo (the god of the sun) and Poseidon (the god of the sea), but rejected both of them and chose to remain a perpetual virgin in order to keep the peace.

As a reward, Zeus gives her the duty of maintaining the fires of the Olympian hearth.  Oh, and the hearth isn’t portable, so she was rewarded with a life in the kitchen… forever.

On the one hand, Hestia is a model for feminism, choosing not to marry and instead rejecting both of her suitors. On the other hand, she is now trapped in the freaking kitchen forever, an incredibly subordinate role. Is that what she really wanted?

Really? 

Hey Hestia, good job there on keeping the peace and giving up all future sexy funtimes. Here’s your reward, you see that kitchen over there? That’s all you. Oh, and that fire’s not gonna tend itself. Yeah, you’re gonna be pretty busy and stuff so you won’t really get to hang out with the rest of us either, but uh, thanks again.

I won’t lie. That seems like a pretty raw deal. And although I already know the answer to this (hint: it has to do with wieners) why did she have to be a perpetual virgin? It’s not like fidelity was a big deal in Olympus. Gods know Zeus had sex with anything that moved. This sounds a bit like the whole double standard of the woman you want to have sex with versus the good girl you want to marry (or trap in your kitchen forever).

Hestia is also considered to be the most gentle, charitable, and kind of all the Greek gods… but really how hard is that. I’m sorry if I offend any of my currently practicing Hellenist friends here, but I’m gonna say it, Zeus is kind of a dick. It doesn’t take much to seem nicer than him. Yet, a point is made to say that Hestia is gentle and kind. It’s a nice image: sweet, gentle, Hestia, who will hang out in your kitchen stoking your fire all day (and that’s not an innuendo because she doesn’t put out).

Does the contradiction of Hestia versus the more empowered goddesses reveal an understanding of the complexity of women’s roles? Or, does it just set up an impossible standard for women to meet? We all know those guys who want a Hestia on the streets and an Aphrodite between the sheets, but aren’t those two ideals mutually exclusive?

I know I struggled with this idea, but not for too long, because I lost my eligible-to-be-rewarded-with-a-life-in-the-hearth card a looooong time ago. Virginity, perpetual or otherwise, wasn’t on my agenda. And as a young woman, I hadn’t considered the prospect of staying home and tending the hearth.  I just assumed I would be out wreaking havoc in the working world in some way. The idea that getting married and having a child would mean I would want to be home was inconceivable to me.

Now, as a modern woman who is highly educated, has career options, and yet is choosing to stay home while my son is young, there is a feeling of empowerment in the reclamation of the hearth as my domain and in seeing it as a reward rather than a punishment. I am choosing to cast aside the modern gods of wealth and martini lunches to keep the peace with my boys. I am here feeding the hearth fires by choice, though I am definitely not a virgin (insert whistle here).

So, here I am, feeling like one big contradiction, part Hestia and part Aphrodite, but keenly aware that I have the luxury of making that choice. And maybe, that’s the real task of modern womanhood — to embrace all of the contradictory aspects we’ve been taught about the divine feminine and to simply accept the pantheon within us.

I’ll leave you with my spoken word track of Hestia — a brief exploration into my role as a not so virginal hearth keeper:

Spoken Word: Art Class

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not a typical grown-up.  I’m lucky enough to be married to an awesome audio engineer and he recorded me reading, Art Class, the poem I wrote to my son explaining this.

 

Art Class is about the time I took Kai to a toddler art class and quickly realized that I wasn’t anything like the other moms there. The thing is, I tend to feel like a little girl wearing a grown-up suit most of the time. Somehow, without being fully aware of it, I just slipped into adulthood. I never felt a defining moment — there was never a point at which I could say, “Ah ha! Now, I am a grown-up.”

I have often considered the idea that my maturation has been the result of simple time and inevitability with little conscious effort on my part. For the most part, I’m okay with this. However, there are times — mostly now as a parent — when I am forced to interact with groups of people who probably don’t want to talk about Doctor Who or my robot collection… the ones who are really, really okay with being very grown-up and I realize how differently we see the world.

For me, parenthood has been the ultimate proving ground. It’s forced me to interact outside of my comfort zone and made me choose whether to change or to ultimately accept myself for who I am.

It’s Poetry Month!

I’m a poet. I always have been. And even though my writing of late has moved towards essays and magazine articles (money), I will always be a poet.

I love to talk and will spend hours chatting away in person, but when I write I am minimalist, I want to conserve words, I want crystallized moments to explode off the page in just a few sentences. I love the power of poetry. I love its beauty and its truth. And on days when the world seems ugly and gray, I remember that human beings can write poetry and how amazing that it is, and I am filled with hope again.

Despite April being the cruelest month (T.S. Eliot, anyone?), it is also National Poetry Month, so I’ve made a poster of fun ways we can celebrate poetry and share its beauty with those around us.

A high resolution printable pdf of this poster is available here.

10 Fun Ways to Celebrate Poetry Month

Poem: Parents (Spoken Word)

This is my poem Parents, about the things every parent knows and every potential parent should be told.

Before I had a child, no one told me the real truth about parenting (spoiler: it’s awesome, but HARD). Actually, to be fair, they probably tried, but I just wasn’t paying attention: Yes, of course I’m listening: Labor sucks, they never sleep, they…. omg look how tiny these socks are! And there’s a tiny matching hat!!

Nature is a jerk. It has a way of camouflaging  the truth. It made babies tiny and adorable because you cant really get mad at something that little and cute.

Now, if a middle aged man kept coming into your room and crying in your face while you were asleep, or kept accidentally pooping or peeing on you… I’m pretty certain you would give him a piece of your mind. But, when a tiny little person with cute little spider monkey hands screams you awake from a deep sleep, then proceeds to vomit and/or pee on you all while smiling with his little baby mouth and sparkly eyes… what do you do? You smile the hell back and thank the universe for this wonderful tiny person.

*shakes fist at nature*

Here’s the thing, you can not, no matter how hard you try, convince someone that once they have a kid they will never ever sleep again. It’s like trying to explain color to a blind person. There is no frame of reference. You can try, you could say: Okay think about the most tired you’ve ever been and now quadruple that and expect to feel it every second of every day, for.ev.er. 

But, they just can’t comprehend it; it’s tacit knowledge, the kind that can only be learned via actual experience (and by then it’s too damn late and they are forced to have their own epiphany in the middle of the night while rocking what must be some sort of advanced human child who has evolved beyond the need for sleep).

Let’s be honest, it’s probably important that potential parents don’t understand how challenging parenting really is… otherwise, there would be zero chance of the human race continuing.

*continues to shake fist at nature and the manufacturers of tiny baby socks*

Poem: Parents

** Update: The audio track for this poem can be heard here: http://avalovehanna.com/spoken-word-parents/

I’m a poet. Well, I used to be…Well, I still am… I’m just writing more essays and less poetry lately. But, I paid a lot of money to study poetry at a private university, completed a 90 page Master’s thesis chock full of poetry, and my work has been published. So there’s that.

My background is in performance and poetry, so here’s a piece that I’ve done at a few readings. I’ll upload an audio track of it soon.

Parents

It’s funny how at parties, those who are parents

will swap stories about their past exploits

and someone will inevitably joke that

life is over when you have a baby –

but, he or she probably isn’t really joking,

and even though all the other parents

in the room laugh, there’s a tiny awkward moment

 

when every single parent in that room

looks down into his or her drink,

breathes in the acrid breath of mourning,

and grieves for youth,

for freedom,

 

for lost sleep, for long, hot showers,

and meals that never ever included macaroni and cheese.

 

Some will remember walking naked through the house,

or drinking too much, or cussing,

or the blissful sound of nothing,

nothing at all, just rare and precious silence.

 

Then they will catch themselves,

racked with guilt, assume they are

alone in this misery, because everyone

else must love being a parent;

 

so to make up for it they share stories

about how Brittany did the cutest thing,

or how Michael is reading at a fifth grade level.

 

Instead of baby showers,

parents should be given funerals

to mourn the death of their freedom,

their youth,

their sanity.

 

And there in the face of the impending change

can there finally be brutal honesty:

 

about how beautiful and horrible it is to be a parent,

about how much energy it takes to grow a person,

about how they will love and hurt, and love and hurt,

that they will feel stronger and

weaker than they ever knew possible,

feel tired, feel old, feel wasted,

 

feel like this is the most important thing they have ever done,

and how it’s okay to sometimes cry and to miss themselves.

 

The eulogy will tell them

they are gone, but not forgotten,

 

and the banner draped across the coffins will read:

their children will be richer for having known them.