Calling upon the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, Mother Love examines the love between mother and daughter, two tumblers locked in an eternal somersault: each mother a daughter, each daughter a potential mother.
This slim volume shows Dove-Pulitzer Prize winner, novelist and 1993-95 U.S. Poet Laureate-at the height of her poetic powers. In the tightly crafted two-page introduction, essential to understanding these sequential poems, she cites Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus as her model. She notes that she has elected the tightly constrained sonnet form to explore the mother/ daughter drama because its narrators-here variously Demeter, Persephone and nameless modern-day mothers and daughters-``are struggling to sing in their chains.'' In some poems the speaker's energy breaks free, but Dove continually returns to the strict 14-linesonnet form. However, whereas Rilke maintains a division between self and other, the human and godly, Dove merges her voices into the voice of a single speaker. The result is vividly contemporary and ironic, occasionally bordering on farce. Hell is depicted as pseudo-cultured Parisian society or an Italian grotto; the narrator, confronting a ``gatekeeper'' who is obviously afraid of the dark presence before him, quips, ``hasn't he seen an American Black/ before? We find a common language: German.'' (May)