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!