Nico Peck’s THE PYRRHIAD
by Evan Kennedy
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Read Lauren Shufran’s interview with Nico at Trafficker Press.
pyrrha was the name robert graves (and others, i assume) thought achilles used. my rewrite of the story predates the patriarchal cis-gendering of achilles/pyrrha, placing hir in the trans* pantheon, so to speak, so that achilles/pyrrha was never one gendered, just as xe was both human and immortal (except for one vulnerability) … so that the current understanding of achilles as this uber-masculine warrior is totally a Roman colonialist overlay on the original epic poem that lived for hundreds of years in the greek isles. during the pre-roman greek time, my imagined story is that there was also a pyrrhiad cycle, that was one of anti-war sentiments, of make peace, war is futile, fuck the man … some of which still lives in homer’s version. ok, so this is somewhat of a fantasy, but the term pyrrhic victory, although a coincidence, speaks of a victory that is so “hard won” it barely is worth it… and the worship of fire — the hearth — the respect for the destructive capacity of fire … is in my version … the fire of love … that is in my version. i also connect to hd’s helen of troy and anne carson’s work. the selkies are a reference to the fact that pyrrha’s mother, thetis, is a sea goddess, so in a sense, achilles/pyrrha is amphibious. another trans* parallel. water mammals. hmmm i also am speaking of the destruction of the subject/object dichotomy, the dualism of thinking, it’s a non-binary manifesto of sorts, because i believe the either/or issue of gender is fuckin oppressive and stupid. the non-dual philosophy of buddhism very much influenced this, as did the gita. there is pyrrha talking to herself rather than god, but the conversation of why fight or what it means to fight in a war is there — the death is there — the rebirth is there. non-dual thinking is thinking that is divine, that is god consciousness, that is free from attachments to ego, to grasping … it is living that is only love-motivated.
Totally brilliant. An outrageous, delicate crasis of Homer and Stein and myth-worlds between and after. Nico Peck has conceived, gone into labor, and brought forth a second self that is void of self—illusive, efflorescent, and ultimately enlightening. Read these poems, swim in them like a selkie, and let them echo through your chambers. Very few books of poetry have the power to transform consciousness. This one does. —Stanley Lombardo
Poetry is just the right vessel to conceal a self that is multiple but not divided, an epic that is at once local, and foreign, and without location at all. In Nico Peck’s striking The Pyrrhiad, each poem is a map in hiding and a step aboard a thousand starr’d ships, each page a consent that collapses, breathless, into the arms of Pyrrha, who—mistaken for a cis-man—some have called Achilles. Peck neither reveals nor constructs but instead bridges a multitude of worlds by allowing the liminality of transformation and translation to sound off in voices both ancient and familiar. In case you think all is lost, just look at Pyrrha: not Carson’s Geryon or Woolf’s Orlando, but the speaking flame that heralds them both, standing witness to the terrifying and exquisite possibilities hidden within each of us. The foregone past does not always arrive as we expect; in Peck’s stunning collection, however, Pyrrha surfaces as we might never have been able to imagine were it not for such stellar lines and strong ties between this world, the last, and, undoubtedly, the next. —Meg Day
Nico Peck’s work has been published in the anthologies Herstory Inventory (ed. Ulrike Muller), It’s Night in San Francisco, but It’s Sunny in Oakland (Timeless Infinite Light, 2014), and Troubling the Line (Nightboat, 2012); the chapbooks The Pyrrhiad (Trafficker, 2012), I Love the Dark, the Lord of the Night (Mondo Bummer, 2013), Welter (Queer City, 2012), Bug (Paper Waster Press, 2006), and While You Were Watching (DPress, 2004); as well as the magazines EOAGH, Try, With+Stand, Dusie, Fact-Simile, Pressed Wafer, First Intensity, OMG, The Walrus, and Five Fingers Review. Peck’s visual art has shown at Frameline, ATA, SOMArts, Krowswork Gallery, The Tornado, The One, Southern Exposure, and The Brooklyn Museum. They live in San Francisco.