Sunday, November 29, 2015



The Pyrrhiad by Nico Peck
(Dirty Swan Projects, San Francisco, 2014)

Long ago and far away a young man — still an unbearded boy — named Achilles was tutored by the centaur Chiron as a warrior, and was so adept that his reputation reached Agamemnon who, preparing for war, sent a delegation to draft Achilles as a warrior. Upon which Achilles’ mother, the nymph Thetis, fearing he would die in battle, disguised him as a girl, Pyrrha…

But no. Pyrrha is primary.

Oh children of memory,

if the sky
is ablaze

recall for us the story of Pyrrha

daughter of Thetis
who —

mistaken for a cis-man —
some have called Achilles.

Thus the brilliant opening (itself a terrific pastiche of the openings of the Iliad and Odyssey) of Nico Peck’s brilliant poem. Xe moves between desire

Dear Helen,
Arrived here. Coming there soon.
My genitals are getting rusty. Miss you, P.

and death

and so the living carve a trench in mud
fill it with milk

speak across the milky gash
to the dead

among the landscapes of San Francisco and Asia minor, an ocean of selkies, a world of voicemail, bulldozers, police, libations to the gods. And above all the liquidity of gender, the total immersion in queerness which is not queer that is to say not strange but just exactly how it is, and the complete and completely unsentimental necessities of love and death. Written with not one unnecessary syllable, completely meticulous, diving so deep I am left breathless.

This is a necessary book in a thousand ways.

There is an earlier chapbook version too, from Trafficker Press, less complete as a poem, but with a terrific interview by Lauren Shufran which happily exists online at (Nico’s earlier name).

Self-disclosure: I am mentioned in the interview and thanked in the thank-you’s but if you don’t believe me when I say that this is an important, necessary, and wonderful book, read Jackqueline Frost’s review on the Kelsey Street Press blog,


Judith Roitman lives in Lawrence KS. Her books and chapbooks include No Face (First Intensity), Slackline (Hank’s Loose Gravel Press), and Two: ghazals (Horse Less Press).

No comments:

Post a Comment