Revisionist History

Revisionist history - the attempt by current scholars to incorporate into the historical canon the new facts, information, evidence and interpretation that recent academic work has uncovered ; looking again at what has happened and changing our perspective on what we can otherwise never change.

In her poem, "History" (from The Next Ancient World ,Tupelo Press) Jennifer Michael Hecht revises the story of Eve, seeing her as "the only soul in all of time to never have to wait for love" and explaining her reason for falling from grace.For this prompt, look at either an actual event in history or your own personal history and reexamine it in the light of your perspective today.

Also see our blog entry on Jennifer Michael Hecht


"All the women wore crinolines",
the teacher pointed to the prettied picture,
screening out the ordinary women
their drab skirts scuttering along pavements,
unnoticed, sidling round corners,
down narrow alleys
with their constant messages, bringing back
their constant answers :
bread, milk,potatoes, clean clothes.

I went back home, our 1811 house,
went looking suspiciously at each door.
Even downstairs sitting rooms
had narrow entrances, slim jambs and thresholds.
No crinoline had ever passed through.
Next day at school I paid
a different attention; teachers
were wrong, books incorrect;
there were no witnesses.
Only doorjambs advertised
the humble women passing through
a century ago, their messages ignored.

Pat Jourdan


There is in Rock Creek Park
A nameless statue
Among all the names
In Washington.
Henry Adams planned quiet.

St. Gaudens made her
In Silence as planned,
A faceless cowled woman
In Silence as planned.

Do the apples in the bowl
Who lean on each other
Have no story to tell
But the science of light?

The hung side of beef
Where Rembrandt stood
With burn sienna blood
Still reaps the smell of earth and time.

Edward N. Halperin



Humans. Their love is like a challenge.
We grant them gifts,
to handle something well.
Music or money,
cooking or cloth,
words or weaving.
They pull it close.
As if we could not pry it
from their fingers.
As if these party favors
were the prize.

Some humans cling so tight
they almost meld themselves
to the gifts they're handed
and they become poets
or warriors
or Arachne.


That girl could spin anything.
Hands moving so fast
that her story wove
and warped
through histories and oceans
until she found herself
locked high in a tower
spinning, surrounded by straw.

And the centuries of singers
transformed me,
turned me male and short,
dead certain that no one
could guess my real name.

Paula Elsloo


It's far too warm for a mid-winter morning.
I walk and the wind changes towards me,
near the town dump. My nose anticipates
sourness and rot. I have known that smell.
Instead there is-pine! Like hundreds of freshly
cut trees. Just sharp, cold pine, and I am in that

kitchen in puddling snow and my father curses,
my mother retreats but I'm stuck, pine needles
pin me in place. "Hold up your end, goddamn it!"
I try but he's sawing the lopsided trunk of the
scraggly tree that will never fit in the tree stand.
Soon he gives up and lets it list to one side and

it's my husband, our kitchen and needles, a trail
through the house, sticky pitch, more cursing, I
say it looks fine but "No! Can't you see, it's not
even!" A punch caves the wall. He cuts some more
and the sections of spruce trunk hit the floor, roll awhile
and rest, each fragrant slice almost the exact circumference
of one thin neck.

Svea Barrett-Tarleton


Draw a fantasy landscape showing figures
and buildings on an inclined plane.

Following the rules as I understood them,
sweating over contours, masses, vanishing points,
pretending Golden Mean was my middle name,
I drew a castle at the top of a light-headed hill.
The frail princess could barely be seen,
her feet tiny pin points below the flounces
of her dress, her arms outstretched
as she looked down. She was clearly in need
of saving by the metal clad Knight standing tall
in the center of town.

That was twenty years ago. Today, well, OK,
I would keep the vanishing point to save my grade.
But only the castle would stand on the crest.
The princess in her denim dress or even jeans
would have begun walking down on her own,
aerobic sneakers propelling her swiftly into town.
She could survey the crowd at first hand,
perhaps choosing to speak to the open-faced
young man in the soft flannel shirt,
who seems on unfamiliar ground.
They could visit places she couldn't imagine
from her aerie room; hour by hour,
day by day, becoming friends. In the future
she might share living space with him.

Or if that wasn't her bag, she could say,
the hell with men, and live up there alone.

Ruth Zimmerman



". . . all men are alike in outward forms and all religions are one and the
Poetic Genius is the true Man and that the body or outward form of Man
is derived from the Poetic Genius likewise the forms of all things are
derived from their Genius which by the Ancients was call'd an Angel
& Spirit & Demon . . ." - William Blake

And the poet's words blew fiery and sinful
and illuminated
as mountains gave up their secrets
and the heavens screamed fierce with prophesies
smoking the skies like dry autumn leaves of banned books burning gray
and black and pungent
and out of control in wood-chipped songs of visionaries
like Blake
or Nostro or Ezekiel
or Mohammed
or the anonymous psycho-dramatist turned clever
who knew
but never said
just as the artist with an invisible brush and magical mixes of paint
swirled in their faces but never dared canvas though sketched out in his mind
and drawn on the plate in his head " . . . all men are alike in outward forms
and all religions are one and the Poetic Genius is the true Man
and that the body or outward form of Man is derived
from the Poetic Genius
the forms of all things are derived from their Genius
which by the Ancients was call'd an Angel & Spirit
& Demon . . ."

babble resides in Babel
if hot tongues of those who know
are kept silent in the obscene belief
that they are not to be believed
which is usually true
so and

the poet-cum-artist-cum-prophet's babbles blow fiery fiery
and sinful
and illuminate in hindsight
which of course
by then

is too late
of course



He did not sign the Magna Carta,
you know - writing
one more thing John's
parents did not give him.

His seal dangles from a ribbon
at the parchment bottom:
a waxy John Rex.

Today they'd say
it was all his parents' fault --
engrossed as they were
in their own marriage siege --
they the ones who would
not show him affection,
dandle him on their regal laps,
show pride in what he would never do.

Even the beefy barons,
walking from that meadow --
Runnymeade along the
late afternoon Thames --
might have agreed that John
the weakling son of a too strong
king and queen might never have
become John the bully butting up
against poor England,

had Eleanor and Henry
simply paid more attention
to him than to their own ambitions,
shaping Europe amid their quarrels
to suit their own coin heads.

Michelle Cameron




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