Femme Eterna


Lyn Lifshin

a review by Karen Bowles

It is rare to find a collection of poems that so unequivocally serves to both inspire and educate its readers, lifting them into rarefied realms steeped both in history and myth. In Femme Eterna, author Lyn Lifshin has pulled off a feat of epic engineering that "shimmers in / the hot light like / ripples on the Euphrates." 

Lifshin focuses her narrative magic on three colossal icons of history: Enheduanna, Scheherazade and Nefertiti. Each name touches upon elements of legend, being the earliest recorded names of women to make their mark in antiquity. Femme Eterna offers a chance to step into the world of literary high priestesses (Enheduanna), master storytellers (Scheherazade), and mysterious idols (Nefertiti). Readers will be enchanted as they are absorbed by each poem, witnessing the author

                             carve her heart's
                             words, chisel stone with
                             her fierce passion, a
                             world grounded in
                             desire for gods and

Lifshin has clearly done much research to go along with her creative renderings. Unusually vivid in scope, one would be forgiven for feeling as though they had actually been transported back in time to witness these towering figures of the ancient world. Perhaps each classical lady served as an avatar for the author, allowing special resonance as she gave "birth to what / explodes from / her heart." Short or long in length, every verse is

                           free, pulsing, alive,
                           luminous in darkness 
                           as Enheduanna's
                           poems, her words,

Each composition is birthed with care, with the poetess "carrying / the embryo of a / poem in her fingers." Honoring the sacred essences of strength and wisdom in an astute rendering of human attributes, Lifshin's stirring prose will appeal to all readers in search of "a masterpiece, vivid, / glistening." This collection sheds light upon the heritage of all writers, as Enheduanna was the first writer to inscribe her name on her work:

                          a woman who couldn't
                          sleep and walked out alone
                          under the stars and could
                          not keep what was
                          pulsing inside her, dug
                          her feelings into clay
                          and signed her name

Lifshin is a master of "dream divination," allowing her readers to be transported into mythology while simultaneously underscoring how much like the ancestors we truly are. Readers ponder regular life dilemmas mixed with heady tastes of the celestial, facing the difficulties endured when both states crash into each other and force a choice to be made. But for those who like "stories, pungent as a / mango grove," the choice is quite easy. Do not hesitate to pick up "Femme Eterna" and watch as its words

                         your blood and 
                         your dreams.

Karen Bowles is the founder, publisher and editor of Luciole Press (www.luciolepress.com). She gained the nickname "Firefly" from a friend for her enduring love of the glowbugs in the South; "Luciole" means firefly in French. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Literature, and loves photography, reading, writing, theatre, and painting. After spending many years moving around, this military brat has laid down roots in Northern California, where you can find her gazing at stars and arguing with the bossy blue jay in her backyard. (www.facebook.com/BowlesKaren)