This issue of Minerva Rising is a powerful tribute to the connection we feel to our mothers and our children. Each story, poem, essay, and picture is a testimony to the influence these relationships have on our creativity. In “Cyberattack,” one woman questions what her twenty-year-old self would think of her decision to be a mother. In the poem, “My Mother was Dead, a daughter walks the streets in Poland retracing the steps of all the Jewish mothers who came before her. And “Aunt Ruth’s Purse” connects one woman’s tragic loss of her daughter with another woman’s struggle with infertility.
The theme of “Motherhood” is still fresh for me as I am a new mother to a 12 month old daughter. My poem “The First Week“ is an account of the first week of being a mother and specifically, the awkward and challenging first week of breastfeeding. Motherhood is all-encompassing beautiful and terrifying goo that has changed me in every way, including my writing as its seeps into each experience and shifts my perspective in softer ways. It has made its way into the marrow of my being. Motherhood and writing have both forever expanded my heart.
Anne Carson insists that adjectives “are in charge of attaching everything in the world to its place in particularity. They are the latches of being.” I think of poems about “mothers” as adjectives that latch and unlatch the fictional and real bodies of human mothers. Perhaps our poems will challenge the tired adjectives of motherhood—long-suffering, sentimental, angelic—and help us see “mothers” in complex, surprising, and contradictory ways.
The topic of motherhood brings to mind for me the number of women who struggle to become mothers due to physical or emotional complications. As the child of an adopted mother, I see the many different relationships between adoptive and biological mothers, as well as women who become mothers through marriage. I believe the difficulties of motherhood are as important to explore as the rewards.
In my last conversation with my dying mother, we discussed work women do. She regretted that so much of her life involved housework, which distracted her from her painting. Her final plea to me was to “create, just create. Nothing else matters.” Much of my poetry concerns this terrible tension between motherhood and art. Many women struggle to balance demands of partners, children, parents and work, while keeping alive fires of creativity.
I paint landscape-inspired acrylic paintings with a spiritual and expressionistic component. My process employs reduction rather than embellishment, distilling elemental truths about places through interactive color, texture and form. My aim is to engage the senses of the viewer at the immediate, almost entirely intuitive, point of recognition, testing the balance between representation and abstraction.
Public relations, marketing and community outreach are (mostly) honorable ways to make a living, and Mary Calzonetti enjoyed all of them during a career spanning 28 years. More rewarding were her roles as wife, mom and stepmom. No promotion equaled the one she finally gave herself, to report to her adolescent daughters. No professional achievement compared to the thrill of watching them explore the playing field, the pool, the classroom…and sisterhood.
“A Leaf Drifts Down” is from a collection of linked stories, a work in progress. I had planned to have these stories revolve strictly around one Manhattan couple, around their changing relationship and autistic son, but over the years, the collection has shifted and expanded. The stories aren’t just about Martin and Stephanie anymore: they revolve around neighbors, friends, coworkers and–probably unsurprisingly–around their mothers.
“Aunt Ruth’s Purse” is a story about one woman’s frustrated pursuit of motherhood considered against the memory of her cousin’s untimely death several years earlier. My motivation was the exploration of loss and acceptance in motherhood and what we can all learn from the women who have come before us. Being a mother is to commit to both the dream and the danger of loving someone fiercely and having little say in the outcome.
I wasn’t prepared for how extremely moving motherhood could be, and how it would connect me to my own mother’s experience. This poem is part of a larger collection written during pregnancy and in the months after my son was born. Like writing, parenthood is a constant search for the appropriate ways to grow, express oneself, and revise.
Daisy Alpert Florin
I’m a writer and teacher living in Connecticut with my husband and three children. I spend a lot of time thinking about my identity as a woman and a mother and how the two intersect (as well as where they don’t). I did finally cook all 187 pounds of meat and haven’t had a steak since.
In Carousel, I reflect on the children I never got the chance to love, because I lost them through miscarriage.
While growing up on a dairy farm in rural Cornville, Maine, in 1974 I became pregnant at fourteen, my mother disappeared, and my father abandoned me. Later, he sold our house, leaving me homeless. My memoir, Sing Me a Lullaby, details my journey through high school while living alone with my infant daughter, Stephanie. We grew up together, and I learned that a child is a cause for celebration, not shame.
The word Mother evokes nurture, sustenance, comfort, love, caring, commitment, tenderness. Rooted in the linguistic sound of mmmm, goodness, we imagine Mother as a compassionate Goddess who supports us in all we yearn for. Yet, in reality Mother is an enigma, complex, imperfect, charged with emotion. She is the woman who gives life and guides us, for better or worse. In the Eyes of Mother, we see dreams realized and not, the vicissitudes of time, the courage and pain of aging, forgiveness and reflections of self.
Laura Story Johnson
For Laura Story Johnson, motherhood is a physical embodiment of the human connection. Writing “Searching for Silence” was a chance to tell a mother’s story and, she hopes, a way to spread Aubrey’s glitter a little further. Her nonfiction, which has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, explores her world after becoming a mother: she often writes on the connection/detachment between the self and the other, being and place, the private and the public, feminism and mothering. www.laurastoryjohnson.com
Each year approximately 130,000 women surrender a child to adoption in the U.S. We’re rarely offered a glimpse into their deeply personal, sometimes tragic, but always loving stories. “Relinquish” attempts to give voice to a segment of those forgotten mothers. Although “Relinquish” is fiction, it’s based on personal experience of losing my son under similar circumstances and addresses issues relevant to many women.
I believe I am just a link in the chain of Jewish mothers. I believe I bear the collective consciousness of those who came before me, connecting to their dreams, their successes, their fears and their losses. I believe it is my duty to remember them.
I wrote “Skydiving” to explore how a mother might deal with the death of her daughter. Each jump was meant to reflect on the daughter’s life and symbolize an attempt to move from grief to recovery. The story since evolved into a meditation on boundaries—of a woman’s role as mother, of personal identity and the cost one pays to heal.
Chloe Yelena Miller
Chloe Yelena Miller’s poetry chapbook, Unrest, was published by Finishing Line Press (2013). These poems are from Carried, a manuscript-in-progress, which addresses a miscarriage. She learned to speak Italian at Smith College as an undergraduate and spent four years living in Florence, Italy. She currently lives and teaches in Washington, D.C., with her husband and infant son. Visit her writing blog: http://chloeyelenamiller.blogspot.com
Julia M. Paul
My mother is 92 years old and still kicking up her heels – as much as her hips allow! She looks in the mirror and is startled by the wrinkles. I look in the mirror and see myself becoming her in so many ways, as much as I resisted this inevitability in my teenage years. She is my role model and inspires much of my poetry. She brags, “My daughter is a poet and a lawyer – in that order!”
Alice Campbell Romano
At 17, Alice Campbell Romano was a finalist in an Atlantic Monthly poetry competition. After a decent college interval, Alice ran away to Rome where she became a respected translator and script doctor. Sharpening dialog, she says, is good training for a poet. Even better is early experience with music and tone: her mother’s beautiful voice as she read stories and sang for the joy of it remains Alice’s gold standard, survives death.
Rachel teaches high school English and Speech in Oregon while working toward her MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College. She writes essays and poetry. Recent publications include Connotations Press, Foliate Oak, Torches N Pitchforks, and The Pitkin Review. As a mother of three, she constantly realizes that in addition to sacrifice, patience, worry and pride, mothering requires surrender
Following in my mother’s footsteps, I, became a late blooming writer. Also like her, I had my first child after a year of marriage, and have spent most of my life as a mother. Now the grandmother of three, my greatest hope is that as the lives of my progeny unfold, they will all explore their talents to the fullest and find contentment in their accomplishments.
A Professor of Flute at Central Michigan University, I recently rediscovered a love of poetry, studying with Robert Fanning and Jeffrey Bean. I have poems in Central Review, The Flute View, and Ars Medica: Journal of Medicine, Arts, and Humanities. The Kailey’s Moon photo my husband took when our daughter was born hung over our fireplace for years. When my son was little, he wanted to know where was the moon he came from.