To speak about family trauma is not enough. My job as a memoirist was to do more than simply dump a lot of anguish in the reader’s lap; my job was to stay with it and muck with the tangled emotions, to do the hard work of making sense of those events both for the child in the book and for the reader.
I also believe motherhood is an inherently creative activity that lends itself to creative output. Mothers are always improvising. Finding ways to meet the needs of one or multiple children requires a lot of creativity. So, to me, motherhood and writing are naturally linked.
Holly Rizzuto Palker
Some days you lean in toward your family while other days the writing pulls extra weight. And there are deadline weeks when I know my magazine work won’t leave me much good energy for anything else. It’s a constant shifting, and I’ve never held myself up as an example of doing it well—but I do try very, very hard, which I think is the best that any of us can do.
For me, writing has allowed me to unpack some of the assumptions I made about who I was and what children are supposed to be and how this all works. Without writing, I think I would have been a different, probably much less happy, person, because writing allowed me to forgive myself when I made mistakes and to explore the kind of parenting person I wanted to be.
My very first poems wanted nothing more than to rub my father’s face in the truth of his shortcomings, and so that’s what they did. I wrote piece after brutal piece that strung real and imaginary fathers up according to images and metaphors and allegories for how he went wrong. But I was crafting a language for condemnation and erasure and resentment when what I needed was a language for survival, if not recovery.
I’m not sure how poetry influences my parenting, but parenting has certainly influenced my poetry. Just recently—after a reading—a woman came up to me and said: “That was the most endearing poem about poop that I have ever heard.” Only a new parent writes endearing poems about poop.
We publish profiles of writers who are mothers, writers who write about motherhood, and writers who have something to say to mothers. This includes well-known, living mama writers, of course, but also off-beat, lesser-known, not-so-obvious mama writers. Read more here.