Reviews||

The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood

8th May 2014

★★★★★
The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood
In The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood editors Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright allow thirty-two women poets to discuss the state of being that is motherhood.

Often taken for granted – “anyone can have a baby”, “she’s just a stay-at-home mum” – motherhood is undoubtedly one of the most demanding jobs a woman can undertake; apotheosized as it is by pop culture then denigrated in the real world.

Thank God then that instinct, biology or mere conditioning means that no matter how many times teenagers rage that they “never asked to be born” our mother, for the most part, continue to love us.

This Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood, a follow-up to the same indie publisher’s Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse (2013) celebrates what it means to be a mother using myriad voices and perspectives, many of them determined to shed light on the reality of being a mother and having a mother.

The collection’s most optimistic poems, including the lovely DIY by Carole Bromley and The Tempest by Melinda Kallasmae,  concentrate on the state of pregnancy and new motherhood, the part of our lives when (one supposes, this writer is not a parent) we are most aware of the fact of “new beginnings” and experience them through the babies in our wombs and arms.

The most realistic meanwhile tell of the relationships we have with our mothers as adults. The saddest to my mind is Deborah Alma’s My Mother Moves into Adolescence a story of a potential estrangement that develops from a mother’s reliance on her adult daughter. A near-universal experience at points, it is one that does not get any less painful when rendered through the poet’s experience.

It is worth stating though that this is not a sad book. Rather, it is the kind of read that makes one consider one’s relationships with the women and children that make up our lives. The writing within provokes thoughts of mothers, step-mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and the many children that now make up blended families in this age.

Thank God then that instinct, biology or mere conditioning means that no matter how many times teenagers rage that they “never asked to be born” our mother, for the most part, continue to love us.In spite of its ability to achieve such feats in a few short stanzas, poetry is remains an undervalued medium. How delightful then to pick up a book that collects many talented female poets together, to describe a part of the female experience that though not quintessential in terms of the feminist narrative, remains uniquely feminine and still provokes enormous debate whenever it is mentioned in the mainstream media.

One does not have to be a mother to enjoy and see the value in The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood. In many ways it may be more valuable to see this collection as a piece of artfully rendered female testimony that all feminists can study with a view to gaining greater insight into the lives of other women than to pigeonhole it as a piece of memoir that is simply aimed at one type of woman: a mum. That at least is what this writer would encourage readers to do.