Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Writing Prompt: Literary Reflections

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For each issue of Literary Mama, Literary Reflections shares a writing prompt, inviting our readers to respond. Our editors provide feedback on the responses we receive, and we post our favorites on the blog. This month's writing prompt is inspired by Dara Barnat's essay "Poetry or Prose: Writing and Motherhood."


Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

Dara Barnat begins her essay with a confession: She has not written a poem since her son Max was born. As a poet for many years before becoming a mother, she tries to understand the reasons for her inability to return to her work. There are the profound changes in her physical body. Then there is the loss of control over time and schedule. She wishes she could just accept this state of affairs and take the advice she gives her students—to see a dormant period as necessary for the renewed work that will follow.

However, Barnat knows she cannot not write. "I can't help but be aware of the space, somewhere in my core, which cannot be filled by anything except poetry." But having Max has changed everything. She writes:

I realized that I will probably never return to the writing, or the writing practice, that existed before him. That daily practice, with nothing but hours in front of me. Having Max was like emerging from a mikveh, a ritual bath. His birth has (re)made my life. I can't be the poet, or the person, I was before him. My writing, too, deserved a mikveh, to emerge anew.

Barnat marks the rupture between her past and present by making a similar shift in her writing. She begins writing prose, which she finds comes easier in the small snatches of time she now has to write. Prose, she says, gives her a new freedom to "step into this identity that is writing as a mother."

Can you think of an event in your life that caused you to make a shift in your writing? What happened that created the before and after? How did your writing emerge changed or different afterwards?


Read Barnat's essay and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by November 2, 2018, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note "October Prompt" in your subject line. Please do not attach the essay but paste the response in the body of the email.


Susan Bruns Rowe lives in Boise, Idaho, and has two children in college. She has an MFA in creative writing from Boise State University and teaches writing workshops for The Cabin and The Osher Institute. Her writing has appeared in BrevityCreative Nonfiction, The American Oxonian, and the book, Fighting the World’s Fight: Rhodes Scholars in Oxford and Beyond.

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