“Lunar Study” by Ann K. Schwader was published in Volume 14 Issue 1 (2003) of The Formalist. It seems to have a somewhat gothic, ethereal, witchy tone that is produced both by the long lines and phrasing, the meta-female theme, the Greek mythological references, and words like ancient, legends, vengeance, moon, bloody, hunt, oak, sand, siren, tempting, wine, and wave.
It does not have the tightly controlled length of the sonnets that I have been looking at, but it does keep to its own rigidly formal structure of iambic pentameter divided into quatrains of crossrhyming couplets. One of the nice things about this is that it can spend time developing its themes, and has plenty of time to provide an engaging narrative that draws us in to the deeper complexities.
Although feminist in execution, this, much like Sexton’s poetry, speaks to universal feelings that transcend gender. There was one reference which I thought it might be unlikely that the average reader would be familiar with, and that was Artemis’s “bloody/Handmaids of the hunt” (Line 7-8). The other references are common enough that most people probably can grasp them without difficulty. So the question is, does the reference to Artemis stand without a knowledge of the background mythology? I think that although a knowledge of the mythology would probably heighten the enjoyment of the poem, the mythology is not so intrinsic that the poem fails without it.
I think that I would rather not have known that the poem was based on a photomontage because it seems to be a smoothly flowing narrative that does not require the apology or proviso of the note. I find that I rarely appreciate notes above a poem unless they are quotes from another poem that is being responded to. A footnote would, I think, be much more effective.
I love the final line of the poem, the books cresting in a wine dark wave just pictures for me the elegance of a private library with candelabra, a glass of wine, and Poe or Lovecraft on a dark night. To me it is that that the speaker is discarding, not literature per se, but academia and snootiness. She embraces her womanhood, her connection with the Virgin goddess, complete without any man. You know, on second thought, I think the reference to the mythology does require the background knowledge to be effective. That doesn’t mean I would change the poem though. I think it little enough to expect that the reader look up one semi-obscure (not really that obscure) reference in a poem this engaging, not interrupting the first read perhaps, but before the following reads which are sure to come.