Penelope (Hardcover)

The Story of the Half-Scalped Woman--A Narrative Poem (University of Central Florida Contemporary Poetry)

By Penelope Scambly Schott

University Press of Florida, 9780813016382, 72pp.

Publication Date: January 17, 1999

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Description

"The poet's journey into the past and another culture, fired by eponymous inspiration, leads to discoveries, a new appreciation of lost moments. To bridge three centuries and create a verbal portrait though a picture is lacking is quite an achievement. Naturally, this effort will be compared to John Berryman's great poem about Anne Bradstreet, but to no harm."--David Ray

"In this fascinating sequence Penelope Scambly Schott poignantly re-imagines a devastating story in language that brings together the sensibilities of centuries distant in time but not, at their most intimate, in feeling. She invokes her namesake with urgency and tact, a remarkable combination."--Rosellen Brown

This brilliant tour-de-force narrates the life of a woman shipwrecked in the 1640s on the shores of modern-day New Jersey, axed in the belly, half-scalped and left for dead by the Lenape Indians, then nursed back to health by them and taken into the tribe. And that's only the beginning.

Penelope Scambly Schott has carefully researched the facts and woven them into a poetic page-turner. She cites her sources, provides a glossary and, best of all, indicates what is fact and what is fiction. Her technique is well chosen: the interior monologues, mostly of the heroine, Penelope Kent van Princis Stout, and, in a few poems, those of her namesake, the author. A more distant Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, is also invoked.

The poems take us directly into the mind and heart of a strong woman, who is extraordinary partly because she thinks she is ordinary. With craftsmanship and feeling, Schott has limned unforgettable characters whose lives transcend the mostly ignoble history of settler-Native American relations.

Penelope Scambly Schott is the author of three previous collections of poems, most recently The Perfect Mother, which won the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry. She has also been awarded four fellowships by the New Jersey Council on the Arts.