Kudos to the winners of the
Ode to Olympians contest honoring Hephaestus, the God of the Forge! David Whippman
won in the adult category, with his poem “Trade from Achilles” and Tatiana Morand took first place in the under 18 category with
The Tapestry of Bronze is a series of novels set in Bronze Age Greece.
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A real page-turner . . . a wonderfully nuanced novel that repays previous knowledge of its subject matter - but never requires it -- Historical Fiction Review
First Place Winner Adult Category
TRADE FROM ACHILLES
First Place Winner Under 18
from the first, you remember
falling. no gentle tumble this;
collision, sky to sea, soar to
still. below the waves, wait
for a wiser world; perhaps
yours to build? but deflected
with their jeers, you are adrift.
trial by fire, they whisper,
licking traces of ambrosia
from your wife’s sugared skin.
whispers bind tighter
than any web constructed
to trap them, caught in cages
of their own gossamer lies.
they laugh instead.
who are you to dictate?
to plead, to sob perhaps.
you’re only the blacksmith.
worse, those blackest of all curses:
ugly. undesirable. unequal
to her beauty.
you can make anything,
but you can’t make her love you.
you can fix anything, but not
your broken heart. cracking
rust trembles between
your fingers, your eyes
bleed, and still, you serve.
Honorable Mentions – Adult Category
DREAMS OF HEPHAESTUS
It used to be I dreamt only of water, not the fat sizzling drops drying mid-dance on the white of a blade, or the dense hovering particles forming hot spectres in the air, but water that lifted me up from below, morphing my twisted root of a leg in to a painless limb of driftwood.
But those dream waters brought me back around to my mother's face, to the view I had as my soft baby back slapped the water and I stretched my tiny transluscent nails upward. My mother never noticed my oyster-smooth infant nails, the milk-white of my newborn thighs. She never saw past my red, raw, shrieking face, unlike her own.
For awhile, I willed away my dreams with fire. Women who had turned, offering me only the shell-curve of their moving ears, the creamy creases of their turning throats, now stilled themselves beneath my weight. Men bought my compulsions as weapons.
Lately, my dreams have returned. They are not of water. I am in command of an army of metal legs. I leave them behind as they march in formation, and I limp alone through a low, dark, worm-smelling tunnel. My mother turns slowly toward me from a wall of packed earth. Her skin is the skin of an apricot, her eyes are almonds, no longer hard. The bracelets I have made for her are manacles.
Crossing the Everglades
Crossing the Everglades in starlight
and briny air, Jupiter rising.
Swamp trees snapping gator teeth.
Candelabrum of mangrove,
brake lights::: rubies illuminating
a dark snarl of scrub oak, scratch pine, spice bush,
shadows of anhingas winging.
Far at sea, tongues of flame flick
with a hunger for fire-
Oil wells burning.
Beyond heat lightning, tidal sweep,
Seminole bones in quicksand and saw grass,
salty exhaust, thunder, rumble strips,
sun softened causeway tar-
Miami glows with a halo.
A meteor falls
into the Gulf of Mexico;
Vulcan flung from heaven.
In my shoulders I carry the chimera
of champions; their glory ensconced in
my anvil and I patiently extract it with
gentle blows; victory is a shy beast
but not as shy as beauty; which has
flown and hidden herself from my shame:
she suffered it as I shuffled through forge
fires and korl refuse. So I lift my arm
one-two the wheezing bellows breathe
dragon fire as my hammer comes down
like triumph canvassing the heads
of heroes but I cannot pound out my
loneliness in pig iron. A net trapped them
but didn’t keep her when you love some-
thing you must set it free; is that why
they cast me down from my heavenly
I am suspended, my lameness weighing
me down earthwards, whilst my ore
talents keep me afloat; I am heavy
with the dust of steel and light-headed
Only I am the only one to return from
whence I am cast; the wayward
son of anvil and black; limping
home to the lonely life I have
Hera cringes from her deformed son
she cannot stomach the ugliness that
mewled forth from her womb a cruel
twisted joke begat of sibling parents
don’t limp around me and tarnish my
gleam don’t spill wine on my gown
stains on my beautiful gown flings
son down from her Olympian perch
sea nymphs love what mother rejects
Hephaestus grows from bent Godling
to smelt enchanting pearl jewelry and
hammer armor at his volcanic forge
his goddess mother loves glitter asks
nymph who made her pearl necklace
mystical shimmer like my radiant self
he shall forge gleaming gold for me
golden throne sent from son under sea
Hera’s chair clamps tighter hotter no
escape for vain loveless mother made
for love by your thrown-away son ha
ransom paid by Zeus to free his wife
Aphrodite is served up on a half shell
Hephaestus craves beauty she cringes
soot finger smudges on her pale skin
on Zeus' orders Hephaestus shapes
clay Pandora revenge aimed at
Prometheus misfires leaves nothing
but slim Hope behind to comfort man
No longer a Scottish Borders mill town
and the smithy’s gone, that master of fire,
but his forge is yet here and bakers recall him
by their ovens and the local tweed barons still
toss at nights for the smithy’s old stone floor,
an extinct volcano’s rim, yet reeks of fire
and molten metal.
Feared in wool mills, in lush August grain,
Vulcan, yours is a weird bond with us, for
in snow by hearths, your praises flow.
In Glasgow, your tempestuous spirit’s tong-glow
in kaput shipyards where welders’ tools are cold.
Lava spews with grain gifts are odd bedfellows.
Was your dual trait created in that early forsaking
by Juno? From youthful play with dolphins, pearls
as toys, strangely sprang a water-loving Fire God,
a fisherman’s embers the catalyst for your smithy.
Later, some Gods mocked you, a soot-smeared,
limping God with bellows that molded foolish
Pandora to fist us for fire theft.
You’re patron saint of steel-making Sheffield, and
an iron statue of you stares in Birmingham, Alabama,
at tarmac and whizzing cars. The world forever alters
its mode but not you. I see you most clearly in your
forge under Vulcano, still making Jupiter thunderbolts
and Mars weapons; a willful, individual God.
Red fire and murkish glow,
Lame bundle in cloth, hot
with envy, hot with spite,
hot with the yearning of coolness
only a mother’s hands can bring,
but only knowing wind whips during
Lemnos, Lemnos, Lemnos!
Open arms for this bastard child,
conceived in the manless womb
of Hera, goddess who claimed all children
other than he. Crippled child--
know bowels of volcanoes seethe
under throne rooms, betrayal, treachery.
The Love Goddess will not shackle her wrists;
women were never friends to thee.
Yet with battle
the Athenians cried, “Lend thy fire.
Lend thy metals, thy tongs.
Lend thy blazing flames dormant
beneath the callouses of sweating palms.”
Hammer what is dull, throbbing with heat,
before it transforms to blade.
Forget Olympian seats,
they are taciturn.
Become the condoner of
You were born out of the blue swirling white,
Seaweed hair gathered on your shoulders,
Mother pearl eyes, sitting straight and tall,
With a sea silk cloth draped over you,
Loved by all, scorned by no one.
I was born out of the harsh flames, yellow,
Of my own mothers heated jealously,
Melted face with smouldering eyes,
Blistered skin, loosely folded over my body,
Loved by no one, scorned by all, Except you,
You were carried on a crystal shell, silver,
With nymphs and dolphins riding with you,
Sun shining drying off your seaweed locks,
Lying back, listening as even the waves stop,
Loved by all, Scorned by no one.
I was thrown in a violent thunderstorm, black,
With devils and mockery plaguing me,
Lightning striking, thunder following,
Darkness, as my heart gave way,
Scorned by all, Loved by no one, Except you
I became a master of jewellery, gold,
With commissions and loyalty thrown down quickly
As if that could make up for their lack of believe
Cloaked by stone statues declaring my worth,
Admired by all, Scorned by no one
Yet you became little more than a dating service, red,
Betraying the customers by offering the unreachable,
Causing war and strife, every step taken by your sandals,
Your hair now green with jealously, your lips red with blood,
Scorned by all, Loved by no one, Except me.
Hephaestus the God of Fire
of the forge and the fire
Hephaestus: An acrostic
Heroes amongst men are justly honored and so heroes amongst gods must too be justly honored.
Earth knows of Hephaestus little more than this: After being cast out of Olympus he fell to Earth
Pity betook Fate so that she allowed him to live and he, broken in body, became master of the forge
He rose from the ashes and chose to forgive those who had cast him down, he chose to answer
A favor asked of him by Zeus, a mission, to sculpt Earth’s first woman.
Each muscle bruised was worth it when Hephaestus saw what he had built, the girl, Pandora
Soft as the tips of a dove’s wings, yet made by the roughest amongst beings
Treasured beauty, but forged by the most hideous god, Hephaestus
Ugliness gave birth to beauty and from her Earth was given light along with dark
So forever may Hephaestus stand as a monument amongst gods; True beauty is found amongst the broken
The craftsman works with strong hands
Skillfully he selects his tools
He does not fear the fire
The flames bow at his command
The craftsman works with magic
It courses through his fingertips
How easily he enchants his creations
How wonderful they are
He does not stand
He does not walk
He does not need to
The craftsman's hands are enough
Visit the winning poems of other Odes to Olympians contests!
Concerned that you don't know enough about the Olympians to write poems about them? You can explore these websites:
Parada's Greek Mythology Link: A tremendously detailed resource
Theoi Greek Mythology: Exploring Classical mythology in Literature and Art
Timeless Myths: Greek myths and others as well
Several have wondered: who are we and why do we do this? What exactly is this “Tapestry of Bronze?”
First, our names are Victoria Grossack & Alice Underwood. We sponsor this contest because we want to encourage excellence and creativity. We’re using the same method used by the Greeks back in Classical Athens: competition. Instead of olive wreaths, we offer money and certificates for prizes. We especially want to encourage the under-18 because we want to support educators and students in our own small way. The idea occurred to us – most appropriately! – when we were visiting the ruins of ancient Olympia in Greece.
Second, the Tapestry of Bronze is a series of interlocking novels. They are set in the Bronze Age of Greece – several generations before the Trojan War. This was known to many as the “Golden Age of Heroes,” but to us they seem to be made of bronze and not gold. Our series is a tapestry, because the books tie together, but one book may focus on one character while another focuses on another. Each book can be enjoyed separately, or the books can be enjoyed together. As we state above, it is NOT necessary to purchase or to read our novels in order to enter the contests. However, purchasing the novels helps to support these contests.
Not sure if you’ll like the books? Then electronically download a sample at Amazon. Clicking on the covers below will take you to that company’s website.
Do you wish to contact us? Write to us at “tapestryofbronze” at “yahoo.com”
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The Niobe trilogy:
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