Aug 28, 2022
[This is one of the finalists in the 2022 book review contest. It’s not by me - it’s by an ACX reader who will remain anonymous until after voting is done, to prevent their identity from influencing your decisions. I’ll be posting about one of these a week for several months. When you’ve read them all, I’ll ask you to vote for a favorite, so remember which ones you liked.]
The sense that everything is poetical is a
thing solid and absolute; it is not a mere matter
of phraseology or persuasion.
— G.K. Chesterton
William Carlos Williams attributes the title to his friend/rival Ezra Pound, mythological references’ number one fanboy. Kora is a parallel figure to Persephone or Proserpina, the Spring captured and taken to Hades by Hades himself. Persephone as a plant goddess and her mother Demeter were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which promised the initiated a groovy afterlife glimpsed at by psychedelic shrooms. And Kora means maiden. Ancient Greeks called her that either because she was like Voldemort, and you were apotropaically not supposed to say her true name because this is a Mystery Cult, damn it. Keeps some of the mystery. Or because she in a way represents all of the maidens, everywhere. So, in that sense, Kora in Hell alludes to the multitude of suffering young women Williams met while working as a doctor, assisting in 1917 style home labors, and, because WWI was going on at the time and doctors were extremely scarce, as a local police surgeon. Conditions were dire: