Thursday, August 3, 2017

New Site

I'm in the process of moving my archives over to my new wordpress site: https://suzykopliku.wordpress.com/

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Folktale and Myth for Modern Times -The Handless Maiden.




I recently re-read the story of the Handless Maiden. 

It is a European folk tale that I first read in the Jungian analyst Robert Johnson's wonderful book on the archetypal male and female wounds: "The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden."
It is fascinating to me how relevant these ancient stories are to the contemporary world. Below is the story.

There once lived a Miller and his family. 
Every day the Miller turned the heavy millstone by hand to grind grain into flour. It was a hard task and there was only ever enough flour to make bread for his family, with a little to sell.

One day the Devil himself came by with a proposition for the Miller, "Good day Sir!" said he, for even the Devil has manners.
"For a fee I will show you how to grind your grain much faster and with much less effort."

The Devil brought his mechanical expertise and made adjustments showing the Miller how to create a water wheel that turned the stone continuously grinding and grinding the flour.
The Miller was delighted with the speed with which he could now work.

For many months all was well and good. Indeed the Miller had quite forgotten to pay the Devil his price.
The Devil, however, had not forgotten for the Devil never forgets even the smallest detail. So one bright morning he returned to collect his fee.
Tragically, the fee that had been agreed in haste was the Miller's daughter.

The Miller did not want to give up his daughter, in fact he had thought it would not be difficult to renegotiate with the Devil when the time came to collect his due.
Surely the Devil would prefer fine silks, gold coins or a team of strong horses of which, since the installation of the water wheel,  the Miller now had an abundance.

But the Devil would not be moved.
If he could not take the Miller's daughter he would take back the water wheel.

The Miller was in despair.
He could not give up his daughter but equally he could not imagine how he would survive again without the Waterwheel.

After much desperate arguing the Devil, in rage, cut off the girl's hands and marched away with them.

There were many months of sorrow and struggle, but the Miller's daughter eventually found ways to cope without her hands. 
There was now enough money to have servants in the household and she no longer had to do the work that required her hands.

After time, she became ever more unhappy at her inability to do things and she grew more withdrawn, more distressed.


One night she left home and went alone into the forest. 
There, in the darkness and solitude, she found relief and a measure of peace. She stopped weeping and began to journey through the woods.
As she was beginning to feel hungry, by chance, she found herself in an orchard that belonged to a King.

She ate the ripe gold tinged fruit from the trees until she was so tired she fell asleep on the unclothed earth.
After some time the King found her, carried her to his palace, and had his servants take care of her until she recovered her strength.

Of course as days turned into weeks and months they began to fall in love and within the year they were  married.

As a wedding gift The King had a pair of silver hands fashioned for his bride. The hands were beautiful and costly but could not be used like real hands, they were not soft and they could not move, and whatever, she touched she could not feel.. Still as almost everything was done for the new Queen she hardly noticed these things anymore.
A year later she gave birth to a son.
The kingdom rejoiced. Yet, being unable to touch her son, bathe him or cradle him in her own arms left the young Queen desolate.


In desperation, one day, she took the child and fled again into the secret peace of the forest. 
She lived with the child in the seclusion of an abandoned forester's hut. But one day the little child who was to young to be steady on his feet fell into the stream. As he was carried away by the current  the queen frantically cried out for her servants. But, of course, the palace was to far away for her desperate plea to be heard.
With nothing left to do she followed her raw intuition and in a moment of sublime strength plunged her silver hands deep into the water to rescue her child.
When she drew the boy from the water choking and sputtering she held him tightly in her arms. Her eyes were tightly closed  yet she could suddenly feel the soft curls of his head and the plumpness of his cheek.
Her hands had been restored to flesh and blood at last!


The devil's bargains we have made in the name of convenience.
In the last 40 years there have been two major nuclear disasters.
Probability suggests that at this rate we can expect a Nuclear leak every 20 years or so.
How many can our planet realistically sustain?

The fee for convenience is often a disconnect from nature and our own humanity.
As life becomes more atomized and abstracted we loose the ability to use our hands both metaphorically and literally, our hands disconnect from our hearts and spirits when they are used only to create products and fulfill functions. 

The modern workplace is illustrative of this. As part of a corporation we often don't have the opportunity to see something through from conception, to design, to finished product in the way an artisan or crafts-person of old would.


Interdependence.
Our natural state is interdependent. 

According to studies it can take up to 10 years for a mother to recover from childbirth. In many ancient cultures there was a sacred time after birth where a new mother would be cared for by her family and the wider community. As the child grew it would have many adult role models to learn from and be cared by.
In modern, industrialized societies we are encouraged to carve out individual lives. Families live and grow in their own nucleus with less and less involvement from extended family, and community networks.   Our cage may be gilt and shiny as the maiden's hands were silver, but we long to feel real connection. We long to reach out for help when we need it and give help to those strangers, maybe even those who live only a street away. We long to see and be seen without masks, to touch the raw edge of our experience on this planet and to feel the earth against our skin. In our exile, we substitute the real thing for vicarious reality TV versions that are all too often contrived, mechanized and only touch truth as well a pair of silver hands touching a screen might.


The Miller's daughter represents the sacred feminine. 

The sacred feminine, in all her forms, from nurturing Gaia to our intuitive spiritual nature, has been maligned and marginalized through industrialization. Her hands have been severed and she has been stripped of her active power.We have tried to create technology to replace her but that technology cannot offer a Mother's loving touch or embrace. Though our standard of living may be higher than ever, something is always missing.
By trading in the sacred feminine for material convenience we risk orphaning ourselves and becoming severed from the source of our spiritual vitality. 


Yet the story of the Handless Maiden, as all tales worth their salt must do, offers hope.
And the hope it offers is not simply a sentimental gesture but a practical solution.
At both crisis points in the story, the Handless Maiden goes to the forest.

The forest is a symbol of feminine intuition.  
The forest is a  hidden, holy place.
It is the sanctuary of animals, and the hermit's solitude.

Our natural senses are heightened in such a place and so is our spiritual awareness.
We are close to the elements, vulnerable, stripped of our pretense, our pride and all the false structures that scaffold our sense of identity in the world "outside."
We are left with our raw intuition.
Body and spirit interfaced.

The Maiden's first encounter into the forest leads her to the King's orchard which saves her physical life, yet she must leave that gilded cage with it's silver hands, if she is to save her spiritual life too and become whole again.
Her desire to care for her infant son (look outside of herself and make choices from a place of love rather than fear) herself is the catalyst which draws her away from false security into true embodied awareness. 

Nowhere more keenly is the sacred feminine exemplified than in the love of a mother, a kind of maternal care that goes beyond a bond between mother and child but encompasses
 all children and all the future generation's to come, including even plants, animals, mountains and glaciers in its embrace causes the young woman to plunge her silver hands into the baptism of a flowing river.

 Immediately, her hands are restored in flesh and blood. 





The Place of the Sacred Feminine in the Modern World
In the age of the DAPL pipeline, fracking and plastic filled oceans we might do well to remember and rekindle our relationship with our original kith and kin; our mother, the earth herself. We need her flesh and blood to infuse us with our own intuitive sense and feeling. If we poison her eco-system, we poison our own nervous system. 

In early adulthood we are strong and ambitious, our health is in its prime, we move away from home, we cut the umbilical cords of our childhood and we begin to define ourselves as individuals. This is the Hero's journey that Joseph Campbell speaks of, it is when we create a container for our ego as Richard Rohr would say in his book on spirituality in the second half of life "Falling Upward." It is a vital and necessary stage. However, in Robert Bly's book on the adolescent nature of modern adulthood: The Sibling Society he argues, that this is a stage many of us become stuck in well into our old age. The stage of self-hood is meant to pass like any season must if life is to continue to flow. Water that stagnates is in a state of dying. Paradoxically life can only exist in movement and change not sterile rigidity.

Mechanical hands might be durable and efficient, they may not decay like flesh but that senselessness makes them insensitive and numb to the true condition of what they do and what they create. We live in a highly mechanized world. In many ways the trade of feeling, sensing and intuition for utilitarian efficiency has aided medical progress, sanitation and the development of new technology but unless we are guided by our feelings and senses ( the feminine) as well as our intellect and will, (the masculine) inequality and imbalance will be infused into everything we do creating technology that contravenes our ethical values and higher standards of living that will only ever be the privilege of the few at the expense of the many. 

Graham Hancock has argued that our society values a particular kind of consciousness; a consciousness that is male dominant in its ideology. It could be argued that this is the consciousness of the King, the consciousness of silver hands. It is the Beta Wave or alert problem solving consciousness, the kind of consciousness that makes us productive and focused on our objectives while everything else falls into the blurred, edges, margins and peripheries.
The messy, frayed edges of rivers, like the one in which the child was submerged,  run their irrigation channels like the life-blood of a circulatory system, a golden thread of spirit that awakens and animates and gives meaning to our material lives. This is the sacred union of both the feminine (water) and the masculine (flow) energies from which all life is propagated.

We need will, intellect and objective scientific rigor, we also need intuition, instinct, feeling and compassion. We need both the King and the Queen of our consciousness to be fully intact if we are to save the child, our soul: planting deep the roots of our yesterdays and feeding well the branches of our tomorrow.



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sehnsucht - a poem about belonging.

Image may contain: text



Over the winter solstice, my young daughter came along with me to a red tent gathering for the first time. As is practice, a wool yarn bracelet was woven between us in acknowledgment of the deep interconnection and interdependence with have with one another and the earth. This bracelet became very special to my daughter and she planned to wear it till the next gathering where she would burn it (as is custom) in the communal fire pit but the bracelet (it's strands now felted to one piece ) was cut off at school for contravening both uniform rules and health and safely standards. So I gave her my bracelet to keep in her pocket because it is just as much a part of the web as herself was and then I wrote a set of Haiku, like you do.

Sehnsucht
They took your bracelet
Chink of chain link, thread of web
Pelt of woven warmth
Your wrist, forsaken
Stark-bare as a naked flame
In the midst of rain.
They took your bracelet
The knot of your belonging
The twine and tendril
Of your born longing
You were going to save it
For the sacred fire
Where it would spring back
Into a firebird and leap
As spark from ashes
They took the bracelet
Glowing in the empty cup
Of your day blind hands
And flung it
Far from this world’s grasp
Reclaim it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The End We Start From - A Review

 

“What we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

 https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/megan-hunter/the-end-we-start-from

The story begins on the brink between the ending of one world and the beginning of another. While a woman gives birth to a child an environmental cataclysm leaves London flooded. Rumours swill around the cocoon of her hospital bed  that much of the city, including her flat with its newly decorated nursery, has been left underwater. This strange and frightening reality informs the physical and emotional landscape of this strange and beautiful tale and describes the waterlogged world the characters must navigate if they are to survive.

Throughout the story, the sense of immersion in a world made fragmented and disorientating becomes a beautifully wrought extended metaphor for the transforming and transfiguring nature of birth and motherhood. As the story continues, the city and it's inhabitants begin to emerge, through the pages, as if from some amniotic sac and the reader is left to reflect how easily collective constructs of reality can be dismantled by change.

Prophetic statements as if quoted from ancient, sacred text are interspersed throughout and they add a  mythological gravity to the story taking the reader out of the realm of ordinary time and space.

The writing style is exquisitely poetic yet sparse of superfluous detail. As is necessary in any emergency situation, only the barest essentials are required and this briefly sketched but well defined structure maintains the strong momentum of the plot. Indeed, I found the stripped down, starkness of the text created a sense of immediacy and intimacy which engaged me from beginning to end, or perhaps end to beginning in this case.

The mother's hope that she might salvage a somewhat normal childhood for her son along with the vivid descriptions of the child as he grows and changes, the wordless disappointment and rejection in her relationship and  the lifesaving comradeship between her and another new mother named O, create relatable characters. My only criticism is that these relationships could have been more fully explored as I loved the humanity they brought to the story.

The metaphor of new parenthood is beautifully echoed throughout, its internal conflicts reflecting  the disarray and confusions of the external world.
I found it interesting to note that when the dire and desperate nature of their situation becomes fully apparent the male partner begins to finds reason to distance himself from his family. When he eventually leaves it is done under the premise that he is seeking a way for them to survive.

Although the story is set around a cataclysmic event there is an intentional lack of hysteria and sentimentalism in the telling. The juxtaposition between the quietly recorded accounts of daily existence, and the overarching theme of survival and integration into a re-imagined world creates a kind of hyper-realism which makes the story scarily believable. 

The End We Start From is available to purchase here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Plum - by Hollie McNish - a review

Source

Hollie Mcnish's new book Plum is a page turner of a poetry book.
I read it in one sitting today, sitting in the afternoon sun, recovering from a bout of tonsillitis. Poetry is pretty good medicine, especially when it's as funny, moving and warm as this.




McNish is a spoken word artist as well as a published poet and her words beg to be read aloud, flowing, as they do, from the page to the tongue with ease. The deceptively simple rhyming structure and relatable subject matter at the core of her work have broadened the definition of what can be a pretty narrow and exclusive genre and have helped make poetry relevant, even for people who might not ordinarily think they like it.

Using a kind of contemporary ballad style McNish's poems tell personal stories that often follow a clear narrative arc where humour happily rubs alongside pathos enlivening and deepening it rather than negating or neutralizing it.

Plum includes poems and excerpts McNish wrote as a child along with freshly written poems and commentary in her non-pretentious, informal, style. Themes are diverse and include teen relationships, love, sex, modern childhood, family relationships, getting older, death, and gender stereotyping.

As a contemporary of McNish the anecdotes in the first part of her book, describing school discos, slow dances and first kisses jolted me back to the mid nineties with a mix of nostalgia filled with cringe-worthy memories of angst ridden arguments with classmates over Boy bands and Grunge bands.
After describing clumsy school disco kissing techniques the poem Macerena continues:

       "now little boys recoil to
line the edges of the room
- a centrifugal dread
the girls - darted to the loos -
eventually sneak back."

The poem Yanking about a mistake made during a first sexual encounter stings with the intensity of the experience in the mind of the adolescent experiencing it while making the most of the comedy value that comes with the advantage of hindsight and perspective. I can still hear the muffled Chinese whispers of such encounters ricochet around the refectory, quads and assembly halls of my old secondary school.

"     apparently
"up and down"
did not mean
like a lever
like a door handle
like a joystick
like a casino slot machine."

McNish's style is well suited to political subject matter too, often building emotive cadence with a clever use of internal rhyme, meter, assonance and the rhythmic punctuation of short lines following long. Layered over these devices are pointed messages that ring with clarity, acerbic wit and authentic outrage at gender stereotyping, marginalization and narrow mindedness.

In the wonderful No Ball Games, McNish confronts the use of "mosquito gadgets" used in urban areas to disperse gangs of youths by sending out painfully high pitched noises that can only be heard by those under the age of 20.

"NO SKATEBOARDING", no wheels, no
bikes all public concrete set with
spikes
       still headlines cry - obesity!
- computer games! - too much TV!
"KEEP OFF THE GRASS"
"KEEP OFF" KEEP OUT"
"NO BALL GAMES" HERE
 no teens allowed."

Likewise Aspiration a poem about when she decided to stop watching the build your dream home show Grand Designs, hits the mark with precision aim.

and i stare at our walls and the
picture-hook holes and the mark
on the carpet i couldn't scrub out and i
imagine fresh paint and wallpaper
patterns and affording thick curtains
that trail to the ground
        and tim's sitting down with the
architect now and he wants "bigger
windows to let in more light" and
sarah is showing off heavy silk fabric
that they haggled to five ponds in
bali one night."

The collection also contains the brilliant Language Learning which I remember watching McNish perform on channel four years ago. It was probably my first proper introduction to spoken word. The genre helped me understand how sound could underscore, underwrite and underpin the whole  meaning of a poem. Until then I hadn't fully explored or valued meter, rhythm and rhyme which spoken word artists use so adeptly.

One thing McNish does very well is describe a vast range of experiences relevant to contemporary life such as public breastfeeding dilemmas,  parenting, body image, and the lack of coherency and meaning in our 24/7 social media recorded lives and whittle them down into beautifully formed anecdotal points that feel both inclusive and deeply intimate.

What more can you ask of a poetry book.

Plum is released on June 15th through Pan Macmillian.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Four Poems on Liminal Places


Liminal
ˈlɪmɪn(ə)l/
adjective
technical
adjective: liminal
1.     1.
relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
2.     2.
occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

  

If prose is a map that leads you from A to B, poetry would be the landmarks in between. Prose seeks a destination, a linear narrative as a guide and lots of provisions for the journey. With poetry, you bring your own tent and sleeping bag.

 The satisfaction of a poem is often its lack of resolution, its depth rather than the breadth of landscape it covers, the spareness of words acting as leaven in bread; collecting invisible spores from the collective consciousness and rising slowly in the warmth and darkness of the individual heart. 

 The lack of explanation, resolution and clear direction in a poem can open a space where possibilities collide in free association to form radical, new perspectives. It's a kind of chemistry. Mixing sounds, ideas, words, meanings and symbols to describe thoughts, experiences and feelings that are beyond the scope of literal expression creating their own ecosystems where thought, feeling and experience can be explored in new ways. This is a liminal space, a space between departure and destination where we can pause, sit, admire the view, absorb the images, let them stir within us, allow them to weave and spin, recreating patterns of understanding, redrawing the field guides and maps for our individual and collective journeying.

The poems below directly address and describe the liminal spaces between one realm and another in a variety of different ways.


Mary Oliver's Maybe, speaks of a spiritual threshold  which demands a complete reconsideration of life. In this way it evokes Rilke's Archaic Torso of Apollo.


A Herd of Does by Hugh MacDiarmid makes tangible the brief glimpse of the ephemeral, ethereal "other-world" of spirit or illumination in the form of a herd of Does that glimmer in and out of sight.

Mark Doty's Migration draws the reader into a dimension suspended between the ordinary and the extraordinary by contrasting the everyday, mundane excursion of going to the local grocery store with the innate, knowing navigation of migrating geese that fly like some transcendent thought above the often aimless nature of human endeavor.

A Meeting Missed by Rabindranath Tagore is a cry of one in exile, suspended between this world and the next. The poet speaks as one who has experienced the divine and fears forgetting or forsaking that experience in his everyday life. Each, post it note to self like stanza becomes a knotted rope thrown out from the brink of an illuminated horizon into the gritted streets of the world like a life raft.




Maybe
Mary Oliver

Sweet Jesus, talking
   his melancholy madness,
       stood up in the boat
          and the sea lay down,


silky and sorry,
   So everybody was saved
     that night.
       But you know how it is


when something
   different crosses
     the threshold — the uncles
       mutter together,


the women walk away,
   the young brother begins
     to sharpen his knife.
       Nobody knows what the soul is.


It comes and goes
   like the wind over the water —
     sometimes, for days,
       you don’t think of it.


Maybe, after the sermon,
   after the multitude was fed,
     one or two of them felt
       the soul slip forth


like a tremor of pure sunlight
   before exhaustion,
     that wants to swallow everything,
       gripped their bones and left them


miserable and sleepy,
   as they are now, forgetting
     how the wind tore at the sails
       before he rose and talked to it —


tender and luminous and demanding
   as he always was —
     a thousand times more frightening
       than the killer sea.




A Herd of Does
Hugh MacDiarmid

Gildermorie

There is no doe in all the herd
Whose heart is not her heart,
O Earth, with all their glimmering eyes
She see thee as thou art

Like them in shapes of fleeting fire
She mingles with the light
Till whoso saw her sees her not
And doubts his former sight.

They come and go and none can say
Who sees them subtly run
If they indeed are forms of life
Or figments of the sun

So is she one with Heaven here,
Confounding mortal eyes,
As do the holy dead who move
Innumerous in the skies.

But now and then a wandering man
May glimpse as on her goes
A golden movement of her dreams
As ‘ twere a herd of does.




Migratory
Mark Doty

Near evening, in Fairhaven, Massachusetts,
seventeen wild geese arrowed the ashen blue
over the Wal-mart and the Blockbuster Video,


and I was up there, somewhere between the asphalt
and their clear dominion – not in the parking lot,
the tallowy circles just appearing,


the shopping carts shining, from above,
like little scraps of foil. Their eyes
held me there, the unfailing gaze


of those who know how to fly in formation,
wing-tip to wing-tip, safe, fearless.
And the convex glamour of their eyes carried


the parking lot, the wet field
troubled with muffler shops
and stoplights, the arc of highway


and its exits, one shattered farmhouse
with its failing barn…The wind
a few hundred feet above the grass


erases the mechanical noises, everything;
nothing but their breathing
and the perfect rowing of the pinions,


and then, out of that long, percussive pour
toward what they are most certain of,
comes their – question, is it?


Assertion, prayer, aria – as delivered
by something too compelled in its passage
to sing? A hoarse and unwieldy music


which plays nonetheless down the length
of me until I am involved in their flight,
the unyielding necessity of it, as they literally


rise above, ineluctable, heedless,
needing nothing…Only animals
make me believe in God now


– so little between spirit and skin,
any gesture so entirely themselves.
But I wasn’t with them,


as they headed toward Acushnet
and New Bedford, of course I wasn’t,
though I was not exactly in the parking lot


either, with the cars nudged in and out
of their slots, each taking the place another
had abandoned, so that no space, no desire


would remain unfilled. I wasn’t there.
I was so filled with longing
– is that what that sound is for? –


I seemed to be nowhere at all.



   

A Meeting Missed
Rabindranath Tagore

If I am not to meet you again in this life then I want to feel that I have missed the meeting, don’t let me forget, let me feel the pain of it in my dreams and while awake.


As the time passes in the black dust of the body, and I get fat with money, I want to feel that I have gotten nothing out of it all — don’t let me forget, I want to feel the slivers of pain in my dreams and while awake.


When I walk up the steps, exhausted and tense after a long trip, or when I climb into some lonely bed, I want to feel that the long trip is still ahead of me — don’t let me forget, I want to feel the pain in my legs both while asleep and while awake.


When my house is all cleaned, and drinks are set here and there, and I hear people laughing, I want to feel that I haven’t invited you to my house — don’t let me forget, I want to feel the pain of that grief both while asleep and while awake.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Writing Motherhood - A Review

Sharon Olds


I lightly tap these words and watch them tip toe across the quiet, ordered screen so as not to stir my grandson as he sleeps soundly in the bed beside me. This is about as much quiet and order as I've been able to wring out of the day thus far.
Practically speaking, a mothers time is  limited by her children's needs and routines and the  constraints of the childcare available to her.
Free time feels luxurious and rare these days, especially for mothers. Free time is akin to a favorite Saturday morning sweatshirt that makes allowances for natural breadth and freedom of movement. As both a full time mother and a work at home mother I have, at times, over the years, felt metaphorically as bound in bone corseting as any pre- twentieth century woman.
A mother often plays the centrifugal role in a family and as a result her own identity often becomes an extension of that role. In the early weeks and months after having a baby, identity becomes a question that many mothers wrestle with. Much of this book illustrates the ways in which mothers navigate their roles in order to make time for creativity and how, post birth, they can emerge with an identity that may be re-defined but that they are not solely defined by. The over arching message in this book is optimistic. Not only can motherhood make space for creativity, it can often be a catalyst for it. The excerpt below written by  Rebecca Stonehill, titled "Writer and mother: How children can help (and not hinder) the creative process." suggests that perhaps one is flint to the others steel. Perhaps, the experience of motherhood can, actually become tinder for the creative flame to kindle.

"Prior to children, my right-hand companion to my writing process was procrastination. With three small children to care for and a supportive husband who took them out on Saturday mornings so I could write, I didn't have TIME to procrastinate anymore. Here was my precious opportunity and I had to seize it with both hands. 
Those mornings came to form a vital pulse of my writing, with many short stories and sections of my novel springing from them. 

Writing Motherhood edited by Carolyn Jess Cooke is full of thoughtful essays and poems that examine the role of motherhood in a womans creative life. The diversity of experience detailed in the book share the common theme that motherhood can be a window into a woman's creative expression rather than a door which closes her to it.

https://www.serenbooks.com/productdisplay/writing-motherhood

A mother's life is made up of many constant re-negotiations of time, needs and priorities. The obstacles mothering presents to creativity are real, sleep deprivation, breast feeding and birth recovery being the most immediately pressing and physically demanding. These difficulties are not shied away from, indeed they are described at length from many diverse angles throughout the book. Yet the breakthroughs that come like morning light are equally as present. The kind of re-emergence of self that motherhood brings is beautifully described from the perspective of the child as his understanding of the world around it simultaneously grows ever more coherent in Rebecca Goss's exquisite poem, "The Baby who understood Shadows."

"This baby she washed, fed,
kept close as fog, now able to see through

the branches of her arms, find the sun's rays,
his own shadow, all things that are not her."

Though motherhood draws boundary lines around space and time it just as powerfully forces a blurring of boundaries between self and other. Empathy with a child's rhythms can expand a mothers sensory experience of the world. Exploration of the world through the budding sensory perception of a child is detailed in the playful internal rhymes of Sinéad Morrissey's poem "The Camera" which describes how  her young daughter steals and stashes random, ordinary objects around the house and wraps them in "blankets."

"pine cones, driftwood, rocks -
the waist- high were your common subjects

and while I watched, the air above me stretched"

The photographs  her daughter takes take this extra perspective to a poignant conclusion.

"your own bright smile framed twice),
you've nevertheless led me back
to an earlier time, before we swapped

the kitchen table for a sturdier one
or painted the doorframes brown,
when you were four, unschooled, unkempt,

absorbing this house and your place
in it: bewitched by the marvelous - 
and then stealing it."

Motherhood provides more than just new insights and creative inspiration though. In the chapter titled Mothers Work, Holly Mcnish deftly argues that the skills required for negotiating with a toddler provide better qualification for a chief ambassador to the UN peacekeeping force than a PHD in conflict resolution. Her piece concludes:

                 "Have you ever had to settle a dispute with a child or group of children without resorting to fist-banging, shouting "Ra ra, Mr Speaker", raising your voice or laughing in a pompous, arrogant manner at them?
                Er no.
                Ok, thank you. We'll let you know. We were really looking for someone who has toddler-care skills. Primary teaching might work too. We'll call you."


Writing Motherhood covers all aspects and stages of mothering including, most movingly a chapter on loss, absence and suffering.
In Postcards from a Hospital, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, writes with aching clarity about the time her newborn spent in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Poetry glimmers through each starkly written paragraph.

"Blood blood - Blood blood - a steady thud."

"Every hour I descend to the basement in search of my Persephone."

The sharing of such experiences through the art of writing gives voice to the experience of motherhood from mothers themselves, as Sharon Olds writes:

 "Someone who has knowledge of a subject like motherhood, which through most of human history had not been memorialized or embodied in art, has precious knowledge."

Considering how the experience of motherhood effects us all as human beings it does seem extraordinary that the writings of mothers on the subject of motherhood hasn't been more widely available.

As a writer and artisan who is also a mother to five and grandmother to one I thoroughly enjoyed reading Writing Motherhood, in-between nap-times, exam coaching, cooking, taxi driving, changing nappies and school runs of course.

Suffice to say, the picture below paints a thousand words. And yes, I have written this piece in several child, interrupted installments.

"Writing Motherhood" is available for purchase from Seren books.