'Write a poem about Demeter & Persephone,' by Rachel Piercey

In this idea you have to put yourself in the shoes of Demeter - her daughter, trapped in the underworld - letting the Earth she maintained with seasons wither away. How is she feeling? Write some drafts, then maybe, if you're confident enough, do an extended writing piece!

Demeter, goddess of the harvest, had a beloved daughter named Persephone. The god of the underworld, Hades, fell in love with Persephone, and took her underground to live in his kingdom with his three-headed dog Cerberus. Determined to escape back to her mother, Persephone refused to eat, until she was so hungry she ate six little pomegranate seeds.

Because Persephone had eaten the food of the underworld, it meant she had to stay there. Distraught, Demeter let the crops wilt and die. People were starving, so Demeter’s brother Zeus struck a deal between Demeter, Persephone and Hades. If Persephone would stay six months of the year as queen of the underworld, she would be released above ground for the other half of the year to see her mother.

In Greek mythology, this is why we have the four seasons. In spring and summer, Demeter is rejoicing with her daughter, and in autumn and winter, she misses Persephone and allows everything to die again.

Imagine you are Demeter, in control of the seasons, waiting to see your daughter again. Create some draft ideas using the prompts below, or any other ideas you might have. Then you can pick and choose from what you have written and and experiment with reordering your favourite lines to create your poem. Will you start with spring/summer or autumn/winter? Will your poem be first person (‘I am Demeter’), or third person (‘Demeter cried for her daughter’) or even second person (‘You watch the entrance to the underworld’)?

Think carefully about which lines/phrases would be best to start and end your poem.

Describe what life was like before Persephone was taken away. Imagine how rich and plentiful the crops were. Think about using descriptive words and similes.

You watch the entrance to the underworld: what can you see and hear? Perhaps you could use some onomatopoeia for the terrifying sounds which seep out – are there sights and smells too?

What does the world look like in autumn and winter? With your descriptive words, try to get a sense of Demeter’s loneliness and despair:

Think about the moment you spot Persephone coming out of the underworld for her annual visit. Imagine the moment in slow motion and focus on small details to bring it to life.

How are your joyous feelings reflected in the world around you?