Poem of the Week | August 12, 2019

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Alecto” by Maya Phillips!

Maya Phillips was born and raised in New York. Maya received her BFA in writing, literature, and publishing with a concentration in poetry from Emerson College and her MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in At Length, BOAAT, Ghost Proposal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Vinyl, The Gettysburg Review, The New York Times Magazine, and The Rumpus, among others, and her arts & entertainment journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vulture, Mashable, Slate, The Week, American Theatre, and more. Her debut poetry collection, Erou, is forthcoming in fall 2019 from Four Way Books. A former content editor & producer at the Academy of American Poets, Maya currently works as a web producer at The New Yorker and as a freelance writer. She lives in Brooklyn. (Photo Credit: Molly Wash)



because a woman scorned.

because there is precedence for such a thing.

                                                        such a thing being the man                                                                                                                   and the woman
                                                        to which he was sworn                           (scorned)
                                                                                                                            now wed
                                                                      to this matter of things             being
                                                                                   the woman
                                                                    who is unceasing in her —

here let’s call it         kindness
                                                                      that which is boundless

                                                                      that which is without cure

                                                                      that which has sisters
                                                                                                  and mothers
                                                                                                  and daughters
                                                                                                  and cousins

because there is precedence for such a thing.

                let’s call it birthright
                                                                      that which is carried

                                                                      that which is born     like a child

                                                                      that which is called woman

                                                                                      and yes
                                                                                                  let’s call it woman.

because hell hath no —

             hell hath nothing      in all worlds                                                     like this.


Author’s Note

Alecto is one of the Erinyes, or Furies, from Greek myth—monstrous goddesses of vengeance who were so feared that they were, ironically, also called “the Kindly Ones,” as though a soft euphemism could mitigate their wrath. In the manuscript from which this poem comes, I create my own version of the classical hero’s journey in the style of Odysseus, Jason, and Aeneas. But I also wanted to ask, what about the women in those stories? Always the women left behind, in the shadow of men. The Furies are frightful not because they’re monsters but because they’re women, realized and mobilized in the full potential of their rage. What is a woman when unbound from sexist expectations? Limitless, powerful. A beautiful horror in the imagination of men.