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Mother Love Paperback – 28 Aug 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New Ed edition (28 Aug. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393314448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393314441
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 0.8 x 21.1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 887,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This volume shows Dove-Pulitzer Prize winner, novelist, and 1993-95 U.S. Poet Laureate-at the height of her poetic powers."

About the Author

Rita Dove, former U.S. Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and musician, lives in Charlottesville, where she is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
America's Poet Laureate! 16 Jun. 2008
By Sylviastel - Published on
Format: Paperback
Rita Dove is not as well-known as Nikki Giovanni or Maya Angelou but she is one of the more accomplished female poets and African Americans of this generation. Her poetry is often simple at times but there are several levels and new information is given regarding her poetry. In this book, she calls upon the ancient Greeks and examines the love between mother and daughter. The poems' settings are as various as Arizona and the streets of Paris and Mexican pyramids. Rita Dove's love of poetry comes through in her work and she should be better known to today's readers.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Delving into the myth of Demeter and Persephone 26 Jan. 2013
By Paolo & Francesca - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mother Love is a highly original collection of poetry that uses the myth of Demeter and Persephone to portray the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship and the human relationship with hell. While the allusion is clear, the poems are never literal. We always feel that the women in the poems are contemporary, that the ancient Greek myth is enacted everywhere, throughout the ages. The setting of the poems range from America, France, Mexico, and Greece, to Mexico, yet we are always brought back to the central tension of innocence vs. experience.

What is most fascinating to me about this collection is its ambivalent take on hell. The underworld is not so much another world as it is our world, the world we enter every day and watch our children enter. Flowers are the central metaphor here, and they are both the flowers of innocence and the flowers of experience. The world of innocence is one of constant menace: Persephone, who wanders in a field of flowers is suddenly snatched underground. The world of beauty is a prelude to a world of darkness, one cannot enter one without going into the other.

The world of hell is not a polarized one either. In "Persephone in Hell," the daughter, new in "the stone chasms of the City of Lights," (Paris) is curious about all that the city has to offer. She is delighted by the "croissants glazed in the sheen of desire," "nipples gleaming on innocent beignets," and the boys, "their pale eyelids, foreheads thrown back so rapture could evaporate." She says, "I was curious, mainly: how would each one smell, how many ways could he do it? I was drowning in flowers." The flowers in this poem are the flowers of hell, the bloody blooms of desire that begin to awaken in the young woman. In "Bistro Styx," the mother questions whether the daughter is happy with her new life. But as the young woman tastes all the exotic new fruits, she has no desire to return. Even though the daughter never acknowledges love as the reason she stays underground, she chooses to go back because her entrance into adulthood means that she can never return.

It becomes evident that hell is the grief the mother enters as she loses her daughter. Yet here there is evidence that suffering brings about transformation, even transcendence. In "The Narcissus Flower," the speaker says, "the mystery is, you can eat fear before fear eats you, you can live beyond dying--and become a queen whom nothing surprises." In "Exit," the poem begins, "just when hope withers, a reprieve is granted." In "Her Island," a human need to make a sport of death emerges "through sunlight, into flowers." The last poem offers no solutions to the drama of suffering and offers simply the words, "no story's ever finished; it just goes on, unnoticed in the dark that's all around us: blazed stones, the ground closed."

There is never a resolution to suffering. It is everywhere and we live with it. The opening poem offers a clue to the mystery of life and death--"O why did you pick that idiot flower? Because it was the last one and you knew it was going to die." Yes, we lose our innocence. Yes, we suffer and grieve. But we chose it because we want to live in the world, and not some sterilized version of it. The only alternative is death. To remain in innocence would be our death. And to chose suffering is to chose wisdom and life.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Mythology Meets Its Match 9 Jan. 2013
By Jillian Igarashi - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've been very interested in mythology in poetry lately. Rita Dove performs a well-crafted and haunting exploration of the myth of Demeter and Persephone. The colloquial language offers such a connection, such an earthiness, and sketches (darkly) images of mothers and daughters and sexuality that are at the same time tender and disgusting, but always beautiful.

You can see my full book reviews at!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Spectacular Allusions 17 Nov. 2012
By Kaleena M Thompson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rita Dove's Mother Love combines contemporary existence with ancient Greek mythology, taking the reader through a cynical, optimistic, honest view of what it means to not only be a woman/ daughter/ mother in contemporary society but also during the height of Greek society.
Dove's magic comes in the subtle allusions her poems possess. In "Demeter's Prayer to Hades," the title implies the struggle and pain that Demeter felt upon Hades' conquest of her daughter Persephone. But the poem takes on a cynical look at society in the final lines when the speaker declares, "[b]elieve in yourself / Go ahead--see where it gets you." This sort of sarcasm fills the pages of Dove's book. In this poem, Dove reminds the reader that one may not escape truth.
This wonderful book emanates women's sense of passionless sex and courting. In "Hades' Pitch," the speaker (Persephone), in response to Hades' advances wonders "[w]as she falling for him out of sheer boredom." Both Persephone and her contemporary counterpart seem to have lost any desire. Dove questions the validity and authenticity of love in the 20th century, but she also shows a parallel to love in ancient times. Women have always had longings for more than domestic affairs. To be settled is not enough for a woman who aches for a full life filled with passion.
Dove's speaker takes on the persona of a modern day Demeter and sometimes Persephone. Readers who enjoy mythological references or teachers who are looking to enhance their study of Greek Mythology, should consider this wealth of literary genius. As a high school teacher who values the importance of students abilities to identify and analyze allusions, I find this book very beneficial. Staying cautious of some of the harsher language, teachers can find many fantastic poems here for students to analyze.
Readers will enjoy the constant weaving of the voices and stories of Demeter and Persephone and at the same time evaluating Dove's message to the modern day poetry enthusiast. If you are looking for a classic which will speak to generations to come, this collection is it!
Love poems? Love this!!! 7 Oct. 2011
By B. McIntosh - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book for a friend back home. Seems its highly rated as its used in school there to teach literature. Great literary work!!!
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