Laura Costas revisits Ariadne in prose poetry
Ariadne Awakens Instructions for the Labyrinth
Laura Costas’s new prose poem collection, Ariadne Awakens Instructions for the Labyrinth wends its way through modern life examining the possibilities through the eyes of Ariadne, modernized and sloughing through the white noise of western culture. Equally elegiac and hopeful, Costas reminds the reader that connections to inherited ideologies can both be a maze and the minotaur, that abstractions and institutions can both trap and kill. These mazes and monsters are largely internal, though the external world is one maze in another maze in another maze, each rife with beasts. Largely, Awakens is an urgent spiritual call to awake from our entrapments and free ourselves from our own matrices
Written in telegraphic bursts of prose, Costas’ hero is not Theseus, instead, Ariadne reclaims the myth, in a sense, and Costas deconstructs the patriarchal hero’s tale and gives us a modern hero, one that must shake off the emotional wreckage of being lost and abandoned in order to thrive. And in our hyper-connected world, as our behavior and our cortexes are being re-programmed daily by our consumption of electronic content, what better hero than Ariadne, who not only lived in the maze but survived it, using her own leverage with the gods to do so. Without her, Theseus would have been another bro, likely destroyed by the minotaur.
Costas employs wonder, created largely by the use of surreal imagery and juxtaposition, which both satirizes our modern life and reminds us that wonder is abundant. “Customer Service”, a later poem, begins, “For your convenience, a mirror has been placed on the ground, bringing down weather using the finest ingredients. Your clouds have been individually wrapped for your protection. Please remove your shoes.” It is a wonder that cuts, for Costas sharply skewers corporate fuckery while surprising and delighting with packaged clouds. America, for better or worse, has been assumed by corporatism, and throughout Awakens, Costas pushes back against the thread of it in our culture. Costas plucks at a variety of modern dilemmas as Ariadne wends through the world, dilemmas often reflected back in nature. Towards the end of Awakens, in “Invertebrate”, Costas reminds us that human folly is found in the natural world, she writes “Why speak at all? A beetle climbs to the tip of a blade of grass, just to bend it back to the ground.”
Illustrated by the author, Ariadne Awakens Instructions for the Labyrinth offers lush prose poems and a re-energized heroine, Ariadne, sprung from the labyrinth of old and into modernity. Living involves all kinds of Sisyphean tasks, some more delightful than others. We encounter inherited systems every day, and sometimes we have even internalized them. Through Ariadne, Costas warns that we are all wandering around in matrices of our own making, and if we want to be sprung, then the trick is to reflect and to know where you are going and where you have come from.
Stephen Scott Whitaker is a member of The National Book Critics Circle. Whitaker's writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Oxford Poetry, The Citron Review, The Maine Review, and Great River Review.