Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott

Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), Voices offers an unforgettable perspective on an extraordinary young woman.

Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power.

Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.

When I first saw David Elliott’s cover for Voices and read the description, I thought I had a decent idea of what to expect when I finally started reading it.

I was right but I was also wrong.

The poems used to tell Joan’s story come from a variety of sources. And only a handful of them are from actual people. The majority of them come from the point of view of inanimate objects – from Joan’s sword to the “fairy tree” she frequently visited as a child. All weigh in adding depth and nuance to a tale that is already well known.

Interspersed between poems are quotes taken from the two trials of Joan; one from before her death and the second years later. They too add a depth allowing us a brief glimpse at the real words of Joan herself and those who knew her.

The poems themselves are truly interesting. Many of them are formatted in a way to evoke the idea of the thing speaking. For example, the poem from Joan’s swords point of view is formatted to look like the outline of a sword. The recurring fire poem – a personal favorite – resembles a burning fire. Each iteration adds a new line invoking the idea of a fire building in intensity. With each new line added the lines at the end of the poem lose letters, again bringing about the idea of the wood that crumbles to ash as it burns.

While Elliott uses period accurate poetic forms, the poems themselves have a more modern feel. At times I was reminded of the flowing lines of spoken word poetry. And I found it very enjoyable.

While I don’t often read poetry collections, I was intrigued by the idea behind David Elliott’s Voices. As a somewhat easy yet thought-provoking read, I recommend it to all of my readers.

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