About the Book:
“In Jacqueline Jules’ poetry collection, Stronger Than Cleopatra, the reader accompanies Jules on a heart-wrenching journey of devastating loss to come out on the other side, embracing a new life, one changed forever. Like an immediate close friend, the reader pads along on a trail with Jules’ thirty poems reflecting all the while on our own choices. It takes guts to be this vulnerable on the page. It would be pat to say that there is beauty in Jules’ wistful tone; it is more than that. Her words are like stop motion camera clicks where every action is crystal clear—but the crystals are from an alternate refracted universe. We feel the range of emotional conflicts: not being able to donate her dead husband’s nine pairs of shoes sitting at the back of the closet but finding a sense of peace and comfort in answering student questions as a teacher who must return to work. In the gorgeous “Four Days After Your Funeral,” the deceased is the thunderstorm at night, enraged at having life cut short. Jules writes, “I hug my knees in the dark as you howl and howl until my own rage rises to the sky beside you. Together, we hurl stones at the earth below—a team of two-year-olds demanding repair of a toy irreparably broken.” Jules maps the moments that are unbearable but also what saves her. In “Sweet Dreams,” the speaker confesses that she can sleep just fine: “in the dark you are not dead…”
There is an obvious mortality reminder in Stronger Than Cleopatra –that life can be wiped out in the blink of an eye, but with deft skill, Jules teases out the healing and sweet moments of life as well. In “The Blue Dress,” she wonders if she can wear what she wore to the funeral again, finally deciding, “there’s no need to discard everything I loved in my life before.” Even the domestic task of making challah, is a gentle rebirth. She recalls a memory of her husband, the day he watched her pound the yeast, fascinated. The speaker pauses, but the bread still goes into the oven to create a wonderful smell for the living to enjoy. And we do.”
—Jennifer MacBain-Stephens, author of EveryHerDies and Clotheshorse.
“We had just begun to publish the first of Jacqueline Jules’ many beloved children’s books, when my husband died suddenly of an aneurysm. Jacqueline generously shared some of the poems she had written when her own husband died. They were beautiful and comforting. Moreover, they offered insight into the complexities of mourning and renewal that one would not expect from so new a writer and so young a wife and mother. As I have reread them over the last years, I find new courage and new comfort. How wonderful that this collection will now be available to so many others.”
—Judye Groner, Founder, Kar-Ben Publishing
“Jules’ gift is in finding the small moments—green paisley pajamas, carrot cake, the giggle of a nine-year-old boy—and gracefully elevating them to tell the story of a life. Not much has been written for those of us who lost a spouse before 40—and nothing at all with the exquisite power of Jules’ newly planted marigolds. If half of all marriages end in widowhood, Stronger Than Cleopatra is a manual for how to go on.”
—Pamela Ehrenberg, author of Ethan, Suspended and Tillmon County Fire
“Jacqueline Jules’ visceral howl at the power of the seemingly random universe and passage through the five stages of grief will rattle your emotions and capture your heart. Here is a collection of poems as fragments of light amid the darkness. That she captures that light to share with us is the true marvel.”
—Richard Peabody, editor Gargoyle Magazine
“A story so poignant and passionate that it only makes sense to tell it in the dramatic heart wrenching sputters that are these pomegranate poems. Don’t think of it as a poetry collection —this is a memoir, where the rawness of the situation can only exude in these small perfect bits of lyric. A journey you’ll want to consume and then consume again. Magical.”
—Hildie S. Block author of “People” and editor of the anthology Not What I Expected
Want to know even more? Go Behind the Title with ELJ Publications here.
What People are Saying:
I first read some of these poems when my husband died suddenly. They were beautiful and comforting and offered insight into the complexities of mourning and renewal. As I have reread them over the last years, I find new courage and new comfort. How wonderful that this collection is now available to others. ~ Judye Groner
In Stronger Than Cleopatra, Jacqueline Jules has created a book of poetry that is, at the same time, elegy and paean. In both these faces, it is remarkably beautiful. From the palpable gasp of “First Grief,” Jules pulls us through her exquisite verses, and we feel as attached as her memories, “as shadow,” she writes, “stretching from my heels” (“Shadow”). We are part of the somber celebration as we see her “leave the funeral pyre” (“Balm”) and put her tail behind her, “long as a monkey’s” and “lively as a cat’s” (“Tail”). I don’t think there is a reader out there who won’t finish this Janus-like work in one sitting. And then pick it up again. ~ Jane Harrington
This is an amazing collection of heart-wrenching poetry that somehow manages to leave the reader with a sense of hope. From “Four Days After Your Funeral” a gripping description of rage as a thunderstorm, to “The Last Night in This House,” where every wall “emits your absence,” Jules takes us on a journey of grief both profound and poignant. But with poems such as “Wings from a Chrysalis,” she helps us all emerge into a world that remembers but moves forward. We’ve all had losses–no matter what yours have been, you can relate to and draw comfort from this collection of tender word images. ~ Moira Rose Donohue
About the Author:
Jacqueline Jules is an award-winning poet and author of two dozen books for young readers. She has published poetry in over 80 journals and anthologies. Stronger Than Cleopatra is her second poetry book. To learn more about her, please visit her website or her ELJ Author Page.