Femme Eterna

by Lyn Lifshin

Paperback, 130 pages, $15.70 (list)
ISBN: 978-0984035250

Available from Amazon.com
Distributed widely through Ingram, Baker & Taylor


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Femme Eterna


Femme Eterna delves into history and myth to examine the lives of three iconic women; their enduring personas so beautifully imagined, they immediately come alive to the reader. This fresh and relevant collection of poems is easily among Lifshin’s finest work. These three luminous women, Enheduanna, who in 2300 BCE was the first person, a woman and a poet, to sign her name to what she wrote, Scheherzade, brave and enchanting, who dared spend nights telling stories to the king who, if bored, would by morning behead her and Nefertiti, not only because of her beauty but even, possibly, king for a while.

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."
— Karen Bowles, founder, publisher and editor of Luciole Press Read the full review

Karen Neuberg:
Once again, Lyn Lifshin proves her intrepid ability to guide us into a woman’s inner hopes, fears, desires, contemplations, and loves. With her unique crafting skills, she reveals three remarkable women of ancient history and legend with unfaltering detail and intimacy.  We meet Enheduanna, the first woman to sign her name to her poetry; Scheherazade, who told stories to keep herself alive one night at a time; and Nefertiti, considered one of the most beautiful women in any era. Lifshin takes us, with surprising ease, into their hearts, and you will be moved and delighted as they lean in to whisper in our ears.

Karen Neuberg, Author of Myself Taking Stage

Christina Zawadiwsky
As Lyn Lifshin illuminates the lives of Enheduanna, Scheherazade and Nefertiti, her poems also cast light on humanity's collective soul with lush references to the sensuality and the sharp mentalities of these three great feminine social forces. These are the people we all long to be, out-spoken, courageous, personal and political, three trailblazing comets across our historical skies. The drama of their accomplishments and their times as poetically portrayed in Femme Eterna comes together in Lyfshin's inimitable and grandly classical style the way a strand of pearls creates a necklace to enhance any woman's natural and spiritual beauty.

—Christina Zawadiwsky, author of The Hand On The Head Of Lazarus and recipient of the National Endowment Award.

Dr. Maura Gage Cavell
Lady Lyn empathizes so well with these three luminous women--Enheduanna, Scheheramde, and Nefertitti--that when she adopts each one as a persona, she almost becomes that woman whose life she is so closely examining. With compassion, she brings each woman’s concerns, dreams, bravery, and experiences to life. Lifshin gives each of these women the kind of dimension that makes them seem to come into existence for her readers. By offering these particular women a spotlight, Lifshin shines her brilliant light on every woman.

—Dr. Maura Gage Cavell, Professor of English, Louisiana State University Eunice

January 17, 2015

It would be difficult to imagine a poet better suited to tackle this book than Lyn Lifshin. The collection celebrates three women (Enheduanna, the first writer to sign her name to her work; Scheherazade, who prolonged her own life with the fruits of her imagination; and Nefertiti, perhaps one of history's most celebrated beauties), each of whom could be claimed as one of Lifshin's antecedents. The poet herself has signed her name to innumerable works, her imagination and creativity are almost frighteningly robust, and she has carried her own beauty on her journey through life as few have managed.

The author is not the subject here, however. Lifshin deals with each of these femmes eterna in turn, painting them in their times and places and, of occasion, stepping back to allow them their immoralities. Fans of the poet will find many of her long-time themes explored and expanded here, while those new to Lifshin's linguistic dancing will find that she can slip easily from the breathtakingly delicate to the deliciously profane from one line to the next.

Lifshin is probably America's most published poet, and ranks among the very few who have managed to make a life out of poesy, however hard the path has occasionally been. Femme Eterna marks another step in the dance she has devoted her career to, and another opportunity for her fans to join her in a tantalizing pas de deux.

— Bruce Woods on Amazon

Poems from Femme Eterna



The first poet we know to have signed her name to what she wrote, she lived 2285-2250BCE. High priestess in the Sumerian city state of Ur. After her death Enheduanna continued to be remembered as an important figure, perhaps even attain, semi-divine status 

in the shadow of a
white glowing house,
a young woman moves
thru reeds and barley.
Her hair shimmers in
the hot light like
ripples on the Euphrates.
In the distance, the
soft sounds of a
stringed instrument.
Children singing to the
Oud. She is Enheduanna,
daughter of Sargon.
Sun turns her copper breasts
fire. How can she know
this man who brought her
berries in a clay dish
is not only the founder of
one of the first empires
in history, a reign that will
last long after his
daughter is no longer
stunned by the majesty's
terror and is wild
to carve her heart's
words, chisel stone with
her fierce passion, a
world grounded in
desire for gods and
goddesses, but is her father.
She feels  braided to her life
with irresistible  power
and ripeness. Birds no
one now living can
see dart thru brambles
but Enheduanna hardly
sees them, already
humming, burning
lost in the rifts of love,
carving her breath
and heartbeat into clay
tablets with a small knife
like a stylus that might
as well be part of her
body, seething and wild
to become the first writer
in recorded history to
sign her name to
what she wrote





She wants you
to be inconsolable,
wants you to keep
wanting more.
Somewhere, under
her hair wild plots
explode like kudzu,
covering a whole
house overnight. Her
stories grow like
an invasive species
taking root, taking
over. She'll reveal
just enough. Her
stories could be a
a dance of veils,
hypnotic, her words,
a belly dancer's skin,
mesmerizing as car
lights you are the
frozen deer in
the trance of until
it's too late to
do her in


I think of her long bones,
enormous dark lake
eyes, that she would be
a beautiful ballerina,
pale with that long
swan neck. You can't
imagine her not having
beautiful perfect fingers.
Were there days, looking
out at the flood plain,
the rich black soil
and the Nile rapids,
she imagined herself free
as the sparkling water
under the blue cloudless
sky, her feet tracing
hieroglyphs, a last