Wednesday, February 16, 2011

20. "I search every book for the dedication / I must make as myself"

I have been angry, lately, about these things: the cities that hate children, the children in Kansas city (the city near my city) who set fire to their school 151 times this year because the city hates them and they hate the city, the category of “mother,” the category of “child.” Hazel, my own child, told me this the other day: the reason you do not see homeless people in Overland Park (our city)  is that the homeless people are all mothers and children.  She is a child but nothing and everything like a child.  I am a mother but.  The reason you do not see them is that they are all mothers and children. We are mothers and children and secret in that we are (as mothers and children are categories) a kind of reproductive always-and-ever-ness, perpetually of the body and in this not of the public or the mind.  The younger the child, the more tedious and abject its presence.   How children have no place in this public. How the cities hate children.  How the mind is like the city.  How poetry is like the mind is like the city hates children*.

These (we) humans exist, too close to biology, and also, we are not to bring out ourselves, so close to biology, as mother, though as mother we cannot escape ourselves (a category!):  mother, an embarrassing natural fact.   Some people only need say out loud “Mom poet” to make other people laugh. And child, like what?  Not a person, really, only Suri Cruise.

You would only need to say this to me in the comments field:  Mom.  You would only need to say to Hazel, despite every evidence of her wit and cunning and the way she obliterates every quantifiable measure of human brilliance:  Girl.  

Our  category is an insult.  This is not a conservative assault, it’s also a “post-modern” “post-human” “post-private” “post-biological” one.

How normative --  to exist.

Laynie Browne’s Daily Sonnets (Counterpath Press, 2007) is so full of pain like this.  Take these lines from one of her New York Sonnets: “When I lived here the mothers were somewhat invisible / Just as I have become elsewhere” or from the poem, Chance Meeting Couplets,  which begins: “I’ve been having babies/ And you?” and ends “Our secret worlds are crucial / to all our public meetings”.

The poems are full also of what I think must be the stuff of the poet’s motherhood, which is also the stuff of a boy’s childhood: dinosaurs, bunny suits, boys, lambs, superman, bears, small plastic objects.  The poems come, I think, from great effort: like a sponge the hands can’t stop squeezing to get the smallest bit of life to drip out in the mess that is mother and unpaid labor: “I expect to enter/ a place of no hunger / a realm of pure imagination / This makes me angry / Dear, poetic deficit.”

This is also the book of “private” life in the age of public terror, and the poems must go on for obvious political reasons, must be “your personal amulet”
in this age of malcontent benefactors

Against an ironclad schooner

Feudal kingdom

Dismemberment by jubilant crowds

Strangely indifferent faces

As taboo as it is for private life all up in the mind or city or public it is as inevitable that public life will ceaselessly invade the private, or at least the “private" mind.  The sonnets here exist for and also exist against or: “Against terror implicit in color alerts,” “Fear breeding paycheck absence,” “Against dread of news,”  “Against monotony of daily endeavor,” “Against monotony in verse.”

*I am going to make this clear: not all poetry is a city that hates children.  But what revolutions are contained in the poetry that does not hate children, like these are a new mind or new city themselves. 


  1. I love this. Thank you Anne.

  2. "I am going to make this clear: not all poetry is a city that hates children. But what revolutions are contained in the poetry that does not hate children, like these are a new mind or new city themselves."

    This is a transforming pair of sentences. Thank you.

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