The Gorgon Verses: Poems for a Queer Mythology (review)

Book cover of The Gorgon Verses: Poems for a Queer Mythology

It’s rare that I sit down to read an entire volume of poetry in one sitting; rarer still that I feel deeply connected to it. Trey Moonwood’s The Gorgon Verses: Poems for a Queer Mythology ticked several boxes of my various passions: 1. queerness; 2. paganism; 3. the beauty of the natural world, and 4. evocative words.

Moonwood’s poetry balances lush imagery and wordplay with a pleasing economy of words, while expressing ancient and primal truths in modern tongue and context. It’s sensual and often heart-wrenching, particularly as the verses explore the pains of coming to terms with one’s queer identity:

What absence yawns so wide
that I cannot but enter into its cavernous mouth
and make from tomb
a cocoon in which to dissolve
and return whole at last
and home?

“Foretelling,” Trey Moonwood

The perspective of the poems is one of reaching for the true, the potential, and the eternal in a world that deifies falsehood, quick fixes, and disposable pleasures, and yet it is completely grounded and unpretentious in its approach. Reading through this journey — at times euphoric, actualized, and connected to the world, at other times terrified, lost, and deeply lonely — it’s remarkable how specific and yet universally-relatable these experiences are. Moonwood’s journey toward understanding and eventually living into their queer identity is raw, unflinching, and complex, much like the Gorgon for whom the volume is named.

All these poems were written during a yearly poetry class during the long, introspective winter months, where my teacher and mentor Ann Gengarelly encouraged us to go deep, to access our inner voice, and to write what was calling at our hearts. She often says to me that “our poems are ahead of us,” and in many ways the poems I selected for this collection were all ahead of where I was when I wrote them. Looking back on many of them, I see how much they encapsulate the underworld descent and rebirth of my self (a process that still continues into the present) – and as I reread those written more recently, I wonder what secrets they hold that I have not yet learned to interpret.

Trey Moonwood

The queer storyline in The Gorgon Verses uses backdrops and metaphors drawn from Moonwood’s Heathenry, as well as classical mythology and Arthurian legend. Despite their modern style, the poems have a timeless quality to them.

The collection itself is modeled on a Classical form, beginning with the poem “Invocation” – though instead of invoking the muse, I invoke Dream as the “dark brother” who guides us to meeting our true selves.

Trey Moonwood

As I finished reading this book, my main thought was, “I want to buy this for every queer and trans person I know.” One of the struggles I have with my own queer identity is putting words to the experience and my own understanding of Self, so when I find words that so perfectly reflect that experience, I treasure that.

About Trey Moonwood

Trey is a queer witch, spaeman, and godi in the Heathen tradition. They are the founder of Chase Hill, a Heathen community in Southern Vermont, which they have led since 2010. With Chase Hill, they have previously published two songbooks of ritual music. Trey teaches Heathen practice in workshops, writing, and ritual. They are also a novelist, a poet, and a drag performer. Learn more at treymoonwood.com and https://www.facebook.com/treymoonwood/.

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