Synopses & Reviews
Influenced by survival lessons from the natural world, Cleopatra Mathis Book of Dog traces a harrowing personal journey from hard endingsa divorce, the death of a beloved dogto the fierce arrival of acceptance and change. All manner of life thrives in these pagesplovers, foxes, the companionable beetle on the bedpost, and the coyotes just beyond her back door. This poets discerning eye, focused on the stringent truth of what she sees around her, aims outward and refuses the sentimental. Throughout the search, she is guided by the unbounded faithfulness and wisdom of her noble and comic companions on the path.
"Animals dominate this humane and serious sixth collection from Mathis (White Sea), at first in the chill forests of New England, and then in and around the sea. The title poem begins with 'the wasp fallen to the wood floor,/ enough universe for the dog/ waiting while you are away.' That dog is dying, in 'a long winter with unforgiving winds,' and Mathis responds with a moving 10-part sequence about warmth, cold, commitment, and loyalty. The poet also tries to feed 'my finches in their sullen coats of dun and ash,/ fluffed feathers holding off the cold,' and pays homage to 'Salt Water Ducks,' who can dive in a storm, though not all will survive, 'bodies down for improbable minutes/ before coming back up.' Emblems of perseverance, cause for affection, Mathis's mammals, birds, and even a 'Western Conifer Seed Bug' also give her analogies for human conduct mourning, generosity, reluctance. Mathis's way of weaving together long sentences with stark fragments at times recalls Louise GlÃ¼ck. At other times Mathis simply joins the body of verse and literary prose about dogs and their humans. Mathis's pages show heart, observation, and thought; they also show a loneliness, and a sense of lost human connections assuaged by instinct, by 'her own animal self.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Cleopatra Mathis's best bookpoems that counter absence with dogs, ducks, and spiders in the wilderness just beyond her back door.
"When She Spoke, He Closed His Eyes"
So she tried to disappear, obliged
by his own disappearing, becoming
who she wasn't. Not there was not
who she was, and not how she was.
She could tiptoe out, he could be
relieved or (surprise!) come searching.
But how would that work
when he needed her to be there
in order to make her gone, disappeared
into other. What other? she thought, wondering
how to make herself into someone
absent, so she could be the one
he would welcome, wide-eyed, wanting
to hear whatever it was she had to say.
About the Author
Cleopatra Mathis was born and raised in Ruston, Louisiana. The author of six books of poems, her work has appeared widely in anthologies, textbooks, magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry, and The Extraordinary Tide: Poetry by American Women. Prizes for her work include two National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Jane Kenyon Award, the Peter I.B. Lavan Younger Poets Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Robert Frost Award, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, and the New Jersey State Arts Council. Mathis is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College, where she directs the creative writing program. She lives with her family in Hanover, New Hampshire.