From her first book, Aerial View of Louisiana, published in 1979, Cleopatra Mathis has given us poems that somehow manage to be elegant and visceral at once. What has changed in the progression of the six collections since then--in poetry addressing marriage, the mystery of animals, the delicate and indelible bonds of family, illness, and mortality--is that the visceral quotient has steadily increased, though the elegance remains undiminished. For Mathis, the natural world no longer provides the affirmation and solace it once did; the navigation of a darkened hallway at night is a perilous expedition. After the Body charts the depredations of an illness that seems intent on removing the body, piece by piece. Through close and relentless observation of her own physical being, Mathis shows us how miniscule ambition, planning, and a sense of control over our own bodies are--things we so blithely take as real and solid when healthy. Her many publications, awards, and praise from peers testify that she is a lyric poet of the highest order. This expansive new book reflects a brilliant career, and is a necessary addition to any collection.
About the Author
Cleopatra Mathis was born and raised in Ruston, Louisiana, and has lived in New England since 1980. She has published seven previous books of poems, most recently Book of Dog and White Sea, both from Sarabande Books. Her many awards and prizes include a Guggenheim Fellowship, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and two Pushcart Prizes. Her poems have appeared widely in journals, magazines, and anthologies, including The New Yorker, Threepenny Review, The Georgia Review, Best American Poetry, and The Extraordinary Tide: Poetry by American Women. The founder of the creative writing program at Dartmouth College in 1982, she lives with her family in East Thetford, Vermont.