“Lilith” by Janet McCannBuy the Poem
Journals publishing Janet McCann’s poems include Kansas Quarterly, Parnassus, Nimrod, Sou’wester, New York Quarterly, Tendril, Poetry Australia, etc.. She has won five chapbook contests, sponsored by Pudding Publications, Chimera Connections, Franciscan University Press, Plan B Press, and Sacramento Poetry Center. A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she has taught at Texas A & M University since 1969. Her most recent poetry collection: The Crone at the Cathedral (Lamar University Press, 2013).
So often Lilith is depicted as mad in one sense or another, so much so that the first line of this poem feels like a feint. Could she really be at peace with her life? Won’t the rest of the poem give the lie to her claim? How refreshing, then, to find this Lilith does actually “rest there” (from the quotation from Isaiah) in her self-proclaimed “No Man’s Land.” Even as she addresses Eve, the woman who replaced her in Adam’s life, she makes no threats, insists only on being heard. She knows she is frightening, too, but doesn’t seek to inspire terror, only her own “image in the brackish pond.” The poem then, gives the lie to the idea that a woman who desires solitude must be mad.
There are two stories here: the official, codified one from the Bible and Lilith’s own, personal statement in response. The two typefaces had to reflect those different sources and yet complement each other visually. The passage from Isaiah is represented in Century Schoolbook, the most traditional of the three faces used. It’s regular italic echoes the motion of Aji Hand, which approximates a quick scrawl. Roman Antique’s straight lines and grainy edges lie somewhere between the two styles, uniting them further.