Bragr by Ross Cogan
Whether it’s myth intended to explain the constellations, the secret of eternal life, or the bloodthirsty tale of the mead of poetry, Ross Cogan’s collection Bragr (meaning ‘poetry’ in Old Norse) is a reimagining of Norse mythology for our times. In particular, the collection focuses on environmental concerns. The earth’s incredible beauty seems all the more fragile in the face of habitat loss and global warming.
The first part – ‘The Beginning’ – interweaves themes from the Norse creation myths with our own, human, preoccupations. The opening poem mirrors the stately procession of creation which, like in the Biblical Genesis, seems to arrive trailing both glory and the seeds of its own (human) destruction. Included in this part are beautiful poems about trees, about wood grain, about the lovely Idun, about seascapes and starscapes, the playgrounds of the gods.
Part two – ‘Bestiary’ – is a celebration, and also a lament, for the richness of animal life that the world is losing. Here we find poems, frequently wonderfully complex yet compact sonnets about: toads, bees, snakes, goats, rats, ducks, seagulls and hares.
Part three reinterprets the ‘Twilight of the Gods’ and the last battle of Ragnarök when natural disasters and floods encompass the earth. Later from the darkness comes a new cycle of death and life. Although mystical elements feature throughout the collection, the author’s aim is also an immediate, down-to-earth view of the threats we face today from global warming, the depletion of the Earth’s resources and loss of biodiversity.
Myths have survived for so long because they say important things about what it means to be human. People have reinterpreted them from generation to generation, developing and adding to them as their worlds have evolved. I hope these poems form a small link in this chain.