Persephone by Lyn Lifshin
Red Hen Press,2009. 181 pp. ISBN978-I-59709-124-4
To read Lyn Lifshin's, Persephone, is to be energized by a flow of poems which catapult through the book's 181 pages. Prophetically, none of her poems ends with a period so our natural instinct is to read non-stop, absorbing the cumulative effect. Her subject matter ranges from self discovery, love, motherhood, women and poems of place and important events. Although the topics appear diverse, there is a natural, almost urgent flow from one poem to the next.
In Section I, Autobiography, she writes about the ephemeral self: "if I tell you/how bruised she got you'll/ probably think she's me." In another poem, "a woman goes into darkness/ ..You probably think it could be me." None-the-less the persona of this poet comes out loud and clear as a woman of intensity, passion and sensitivity, ready to face all the ironies of the human condition.
The poems move effortlessly on to the Section on love where the term, black roses, contrasts the dark side of love with its sensuality such as "skin touching skin." In The Affair, which portrays an on-line romance, she says, "I wanted his body glued to mine/Distance kept the electricity vivid. /It was a dangerous tango. / How could I know his mother leaped into Niagara Falls. /How could I know he was ice."
Some of the most powerful poems are in the section, Bay of Love and Sorrow: Mother Poems. Here Lyn conveys her intense affection for her mother as well as a profound sense of impending loss: "My mother's crumbling inside/ her black coat. She wants/ to get to the ocean. it's/ late, with bad cells, IV./But I rustle her into my T Bird/We can't wait for waves. I'm / dragging, pushing her. She/stumbles, shriveled as some/thing lost in some Salvation/Army coat " The poem ends with this. "...I cover her, think the/ first stop, a warm motel where I / can undress her, wrap her in warm/ towels, fuel up for what's ahead.
In the several Sections that follow, the poetic voice turns to other
women including The Woman In love with Maps, The Ice Maiden Mummy, The
Mad Girl and, plucked out of mythology, Leda's daughter, half-woman, half-swan.
The poet, herself, is always a presence. In these poems the poet skillfully
makes use of the bizarre to bring out some universal themes - isolation,
cruelty and passion.
Someone Says They Looked Like
http://www.themontserratreview.com/bookreviews/persephone.html The Montserrat Review of Persephone