Aphrodite’s Daughter by Becky Gould Gibson
Aphrodite’s Daughter, winner of the 2006 XJ Kennedy Poetry Prize, is a feminist study expressed in 38 poems. Gibson predominantly uses themes surrounding the relationships of mothers and daughters. The collection also seeks to understand - on a larger scope – the roles women seek for themselves or those which they are given by society.
The first section of the collection has a strong Greco-Roman-Mythological influence. My favorite is “firstname.lastname@example.org” for the way it skillfully combines the classical with the modern. In this poem, written in the loose style of email, Harmonia writes to her mother: “- i’m leaving - i’m walking out of your myth finally - i need a mother not a love goddess with gold hair poured from a bottle.”
Within the second section, Gould presents individual poems as well as a few sets of poems. There is the Icon series, Postcards from Crete and Triptych. With a strong influence of art and culture, Gould uses biblical references in the Triptych set and ekphrastic references in all three groups within the collection. In “Postcards from Crete,” Gould states in her notes that she has an artistic indebtedness to Carol P. Christi’s 1994 lecture tour of sacred sites in Crete. The juxtaposition and confluence of classical and modern continues to be essential to the overall feel of Gould’s collection.
The final section of Aphrodite’s Daughter contains thirteen poems, including one that is six pages and partitioned into seven sections of its own. The poems in this final section contain the strong feminine personas and voices that are apparent throughout this collection, but these poems hold less of a connection to a sense of mythology, or to the idea of the mythmaking of women, than the earlier sections. Yet, these poems still have extremely important stories to tell, such as that of the hooker in “Tenderloin, San Francisco” and the farmer’s daughter in “Blackberrying.”
The poems of Aphrodite’s Daughter seek not only to answer what it means to be a modern woman, but also bring into question the history of womanhood, giving birth to a broader sense of what it is to be female.
Reviewed by Jessie Carty.
Poets’ Quarterly | October 2009.