Roisin Kelly writes a poem about turning from Persephone to Jezebel.

Roisin KellyRoisin Kelly is an Irish poet who was born in Belfast and raised in Leitrim. After a year as a handweaver on a remote island in Mayo and a Masters in Writing at National University of Ireland, Galway, she now calls Cork City home. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry Chicago, Blunderbuss, The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, The Dark Horse, The Baltimore Review, The Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology 2014, and Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 (Eyewear 2016). More work is forthcoming in The Atticus Review. Her first chapbook will be published by Southword Editions later this year. (Author photo by Simon Curran at IAMACOSMONAUT)

The myth of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, god of the underworld, is one that I and countless other writers have turned to many times for inspiration. It was through Persephone that I was able to write about a period in my life when I was still a naïve young woman and had come to learn a good deal about the ways in which naïve young women can be deceived and betrayed.

Eventually I became uneasy about my identification with Persephone, who was tricked into eating six pomegranate seeds while in the underworld and therefore forced to remain there for six months of every year. She had served her purpose and now I wanted a way to express the anger and strength I had found in myself after my time in the underworld. The figure of Jezebel in the Bible was the perfect alternative to Persephone’s passivity and grief. My affiliation with the promiscuous false prophet, whose corpse was eaten by dogs after she was thrown from a window for her transgressive crimes, is intended as an act of defiance against prescriptive norms of femininity that still, astonishingly, persist, and played no small part in what I once saw as my downfall.

Perhaps I will someday return to the myth of Persephone and understand and identify with it in new ways. But right now I cannot align myself with her at a time when outspoken and politically fierce women continue to be seen as dangerous, subversive, and aggressive. This poem is an attempt to reclaim my own story and take control of my future in the way that was denied to Jezebel, and is still denied to so many women in the only world we can live in.


I have re-risen as Jezebel:
princess, prophet, whore.

I wear red. I have inappropriate
friendships with men.

Beneath trees I shred pastries,
feed bluejays and cats.

I am winter and summer
and spring, without minding

the natural order of things.
I wear gold rings.

I pick flowers, whose soft
brown souls go

where they know I can’t follow.
When Orion appears at night

I turn on my silk-fringed lamp
and sit in a high window.

As the moon rises, something
in myself rises with it
like a howl.