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Rating: ★★★½☆

“Mythmaking is the first art. Written with a unity of vision largely forgotten by contemporary poetry, G.M. Palmer’s With Rough Gods grazes the foundations of Greek mythology, endowing gods and legends with a numinous humanity often unseen in traditional compilations of lore. Complete with a glossary of its characters, With Rough Gods embodies our human experience as only mythology can.”

‘With Rough Gods’ is a short collection of sonnets by poet and ancient world enthusiast, George Michael Palmer. It is a look into the ancient world and it’s tales through the eyes of Gods and Heroes alike, exploring both the dark and light side of classic myths.

The opening poem, ‘Homer & Calliope,’ sets the stage for the literary feast that we’re about to devour, with arguably the most famous writer of poems that the world has ever seen, addressing the muse of his craft, invoking her that she might place her blessing on the works to follow, which she does.

The collection is set out in such a way that there is an overall arch, almost as though it were split into chapters, it provides excellent pausing points to take a break, so that you might digest what you have just read, and perhaps go away and research what you find interesting.

Palmer has a fantastic way of portraying even the bleakest of ideas, such as those of war, murder, and betrayal, you’d be hard pressed to find a myth or legend from the ancient world that doesn’t feature at least one of these themes, so getting them across in a well structured and entertaining way is an impressive skill.

The cunning of Cronus, the arrogance of Aphrodite, and the condescending nature of Athena are just a few of the excellent personality traits of the Gods that Palmer manages to get across, and along with the traditional pantheon of gods, there are many more that Palmer introduces to his sonnets, from the more obscure realms of myth.

This book relies on you knowing a reasonable amount about the ancient world, the poems do not explain anything in depth, which works very well, but it does mean that while reading it might be an idea to have Wikipedia open on your computer, so that you may remind and teach yourself as you’re progressing through the poems.

A criticism of the book, and this doesn’t reflect on the quality of the poems, is that it can be quite difficult at times to decide who the speaker is talking to. While the speaker is sometimes the first person mentioned in the title, they can also be the second person, on top of this sometimes the speaker is talking about the second person, and sometimes the speaker is talking to the other person.

The same stars in the sky have been looking down on us reading these myths and legends for years, the fact that we’ve still got talented people, such as G. M. Palmer, coming up with new and exciting ways to portray these age old stories, should inspire and impress those that read them.

As an aside I should also mention that the title of the book causes me some concern, a single google search of the title shows that it might not be the best thing to suggest this book as reading for a GCSE or high school class.

Though it definitely helps to know something about the Olympian gods going into the book,  ultimately if a poem makes you think, and encourages you to go away and learn about the subject matter, then the poet should be proud of a job well done.

The book is available for purchase on the Amazon Store: With Rough Gods

The author can be found on Twitter: @gm_palmer

The book’s page can be found here: WithRoughGods.com

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This article was first posted on February 10, 2013