Ariadne Awakens

In Ariadne Awakens: Instructions for the Labyrinth Laura Costas asks in her introduction “What does it mean to live outside of the imprisoning metrics of ideology?” She enacts the possibility of freedom in poems that continually defy expectations. This is beautiful, glistening work that keeps resisting our predictions, as in “Answering Machine”: “What I called to tell you can’t be told.” While she refuses to relax into settled patterns she gives us luminous shards of possibility as in her “Dream of a song whose lyrics consist entirely of the word Yes.” In poem after poem I kept find- ing myself voicing a grateful “Yes.”

—Lee Upton, author of Visitations: Stories and Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles: Poems

Perhaps the killing of the Minotaur was a mistake. Perhaps something necessary to humankind was left behind that first time in the Labyrinth. Maybe after their one night together on the Isle of Dia/Naxos, Theseus recognized that he couldn’t partner Ariadne, who, in her aliveness would run circles around him. And he did her a favor scarpering at dawn. This island was merely a stop- over, a place where Dio- nysos, her equal, would find her and leave her free to follow her own thread to the heart of a labyrinth, made not by mortal engineering but, by her soul. The prose poems that make up Laura Costas’ Ariadne Awakens: Instructions for the Labyrinth, rearticulate the myth of fol- lowing, finding, losing and following again an invisible thread that connects body to body, body to soul, soul to soul—for our time of answering machines, voice mail, screens, clocks, gas stations and parking lots. These poems are in the imperative because they are directions, however openended, so we can join her there. —Anne Becker, Author of Human Animal

Laura Costas is an artist, writer and Washington DC native. She is the author of Fabulae, Tales for an Age of Ambivalence, and Honest Stories, and she expects you to treat her right.


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.

Broadkill Review