What to Tip the Boatman?
There are those rare human beings among us who themselves embody so much myth, history, and poetry that what they do includes a depth of profane and sacred meaning, of before and after, whatever the present event. Cleopatra Mathis is such a poet and hero in a non-heroic age, a poet who comes back from hell, from where all heroes must go and return, offering us her poetry, a gift of new life, beauty, and understanding.
Much of this remarkable book of poems is about mothering—the poet as mother of a troubled and gifted daughter. These are “household poems” in the sense that the Iliad is about the household of Priam. The modern Greeks sometime say that a person is “put twice in the fire,” as iron is put twice in the fire to strengthen it. Cleopatra Mathis is such a person and such a poet. Her life is a flame and so is the poetry. The reader has reason to be grateful to her for this lyrical iron.
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