McMullan notes that when she couldn’t read or write following her father’s death, she realized that what she needed was a collection of essays written by women about their fathers. When she couldn’t find one, she reached out to writers who she and her father had gotten to know, or had admired, and asked them to contribute one.
The poems here consider fatherhood and the power of memory to ignite joy and pain at once. For many parents, this is a powerful truism, that our experiences run through fits of joy and suffering repeatedly and in many forms.
Henion’s journey begins when she gives birth to her son, Archer, and enters a phase of arduous disruption, lack of sleep and the parenting blasé that follows, complete with no-cry sleep solutions and a culture of judgment that she wasn’t prepared for.
Cynthia Marie Hoffman’s extraordinary second poetry collection gives voice to a chorus of unusual voices: ectopic twins, a lamb’s wool strap on a gurney, a mother’s liver, a sketch of a homunculus, a male physician who must deliver a dead child. Part spell book, part study in the body and birth, it inhabits a strange landscape of pregnancy, childbirth and obstetrics from medieval midwifery’s superstitious practices to today’s scheduled C-sections.
In many ways, Cassie Premo Steele’s new book recognizes the twin impulses here that many mother-writers share—the need for order and help, and the need to do well and be well. For literary mamas, these needs relate not only to our families but to our creative lives when we see fit to acknowledge them.