A Poetic Look at Our Struggle to Evolve
Littoral Zone, by Barbara Branch Bates, is concerned with displaced peoplesstrong women, Native Americansand how theyve ruled the world and havent, and how our present is ruled by the past. Many of the poems appear to be inspired by Robert Graves The White Goddess, in which Graves posited a takeover of human culture and civilization by men. This was portrayed by many of the Greek myths, in which women, from whom the men seized power, were demonized. One such story is Perseus and Medusa, referenced in this collection in the line but that was before Perseus scattered you into the centuries. Which happened long, long ago, a phrase that titles a poem about female power in many cultures and eras and also titles a part of the book that deals with the vestiges of womens social power retained in spite of whats been seized by males.
Lost Harvest titles a part of the book and has a similar theme, that of the takeover of the native peoples of America by the (male) European conquerors. Here again, the conquered people survive in spite of their loss. Like women, they are celebrated in these poems. Like the crowwhich has a similar place in African American legendthe Native American keeps a low profile, and so endures: Littoral Zone, honors the (enduring) power of those who have been (temporarily) eclipsed by European male culture.
The past is almost always present in these poems, especially in the section titled Looking Back, and particularly in the poems Resurrecting the Dead and At the Swap Meet. The Cradle talks about a fragile but enduring distaff-side artifact in one time zone and a fragile but enduring cradle of civilization. May that civilization continue to survive in spite of the best and worst efforts of (once again) warring men.
Barbara Branch Bates grew up in the western states and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in Santa Barbara, California. She says her writing is inspired by history and anthropology, including the works of Frazer and Graves, Levi-Strauss and Malinowski, as well as the Greek classics, the works of Dante and Rilke, and Native American lore.