A painting of a woman in profile with a black hairy balaclava. White banner at top with title in red capsHekate, Nicola Nathan

Dare-Gale Press, 2022     £7.00

Packing a punch

Nicola Nathan describes Hekate in a brief introduction and then provides a glossary of Greek words which feature in the poems. The stage is set. Brevity is the hallmark of this pamphlet. There are only nine poems and they are written in short-line tercets. Immense power, however, is packed into these tercets through the choice of vocabulary, and the effective use of line and stanza breaks.

The first poem ‘Hekate/Crochet’ uses an image of spinning yarn with associated rhythms. The word ‘and’ features strongly in the last two stanzas, mimicking the to-and-fro of spinning. The ‘lace that falls / across her lap’

is charm
and prayer
and chain

and reel
and anchor
for the ailing soul.

In the poem ‘Defixio’, the poet uses a combination of enjambment and deeply resonant words at the end of each tercet to create a compelling appeal to the goddess: ‘world’, ‘demon’, ‘blunt edge’, ‘memory’, ‘echo’, ‘blood-rift’, ‘dreams’, ‘bones’ and ‘hex’. The next poem ‘Moon Jellyfish’ also uses simple Anglo-Saxon vocabulary as well as enjambment, ending

Days I feel
there’s no more
to my name

than the flaunt
of blood
on a bride-white sheet.

The poem ‘Apollo/Hekate’ has an incantatory feel to it. The short lines create pace which pulled me along the linked stanzas:

your stories, cursed,
smudged with rage.
Since the fear of you,

can barely be held
under the breath

This poet is adept at creating memorable images. I particularly liked the simply-expressed ones in ‘Cerberus’:

may the beat
of these words
draw down

the moon’s pale
and light be a seal
over my sleep.

The last poem, ‘Hekate/Love Spell’, is dark: ‘old wounds weep’ and ‘nothing will bloom’. The poet imagines ‘a foretaste / of grave dirt’ where she seems to become one with Hekate, ‘Borborophorba: / eater of filth’.

By the end of this pamphlet, I felt completely immersed in the drama and power of Hekate.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad