SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MOTHERHOOD POETRY


"Arab Motherhood" by Georges Sabbagh, c. 1920. Public domain image.

“Arab Motherhood” by Georges Sabbagh, c. 1920. Public domain image.



Editor’s Note: In honor of Mother’s Day, I have gathered together some of my favorite poems that I’ve featured on this series over the years that consider motherhood from a plethora of perspectives, for motherhood is such a multi-faceted experience. From the perspective of the child: memories of mothers, good mothers, bad mothers, absent mothers, mothers we have lost. From the perspective of the mother, of the would-be-mother, of the once-was mother: pregnancy and childbirth, love and fear of and for our children, the kind of mother we are or are not, the kind of mother we want to be, the children we never had, the children we have lost.

Today’s selection is in honor of motherhood itself and its many faces, in honor of that imperative person without whom none of us would exist and who–for better or worse–so deeply affects who we come to be.

Today’s post is dedicated to my own mother, who has always been one of my most dedicated readers and faithful supporters, who has shaped my being from zygote through womanhood, and whose legacy as mother takes on its newest incarnation on this, my first Mother’s Day as a mother.


Mother, I’m trying
to write
a poem to you

which is how most
poems to mothers must
begin—or, What I’ve wanted
to say, Mother
…but we
as children of mothers,
even when mothers ourselves,

cannot bear our poems
to them.

–Erin Belieu,
“Another Poem for Mothers”



MOTHERHOOD POETRY
FROM THE SATURDAY POETRY SERIES ARCHIVES:

“Elegy for a Mother, Still Living” by Elana Bell

“Cultiver Son Potager / Growing Vegetables” by Dara Barnat; translated by Sabine Huynh

“Prayers Like Shoes” by Ruth Forman

“We Speak of August” by Valentina Gnup

State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies by Alexis Rhone Fancher

“A Poem for Women Who Don’t Want Children” by Chanel Brenner

“Baby” by Jaimie Gusman

“Psalm to Be Read While My Daughter Considers Mary” by Nicole Rollender

Hemisphere by Ellen Hagan

“Labor Pantoum” by Leslie Contreras Schwartz

“Depression” by Terri Kirby Erickson

“Dinner for the Dying” by Jen Lambert

Decency by Marcela Sulak

Little Spells by Jennifer K. Sweeney

“The Invention of Amniocentesis” by Jen Karetnick

“The Sadness of Young Mothers” by Richard D’Abate

“Mom’s Cocks” by Jenna Le

“The Balance” by Danusha Laméris

“The Committee Weighs In” by Andrea Cohen

“Mother-In-Law” by Nicole Stellon O’Donnell

“Change of Address” by Ruth Deborah Rey



Want to read more Mother’s Day poems?
Mother’s Day poetry from the Academy of American Poets
Poetry about mothers from the Academy of American Poets

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DES LIENS INVISIBLES, TENDUS / TAUT, INVISIBLE THREADS


Liens


From DES LIENS INVISIBLES, TENDUS / TAUT, INVISIBLE THREADS
Poems by Dara Barnat; Translations by Sabine Huynh:


A BRILLIANT FISH

We must choose each other
again and again.

The feeling is a brilliant fish
you catch a thousand times.

We must carry each other
like smooth stones
in the palms of our hands –

a familiar feel,
a roundness.


UN POISSON MOIRÉ

Un poisson moiré
Se choisir l’un l’autre, s’y reprendre
à plusieurs fois.

Cet émoi ressenti face à un poisson moiré
qu’on pourrait attraper des milliers de fois.

Transportons-nous
tels des galets lisses
dans le creux de la paume –

toucher familier,
rondeur.



GROWING VEGETABLES

Her wide hips remind me
that I was born,
because in photos at twenty
they are still narrow
and slim.

Bending over
and planting roses
she gathers immense joy
from the dirty pebbles
and the new petals.

I hold her basket
like a daughter should
and almost pretend
to smile and be grateful
for the fresh, ripened tomatoes.

Is it with age
that happiness can be found
in growing mint
and drinking ice water
that has collected tiny bugs?

My mother shares soap
with a man who is not my father
but a good man,
waiting inside
to make our sauce.

The basket is now full
and since her joy
takes up the whole garden
there is no room
for my joy.

But she says daughter,
you will have your own life,
and your own garden,
just pray for rain,
and grow your vegetables.


CULTIVER SON POTAGER

Ses hanches généreuses
me rappellent ma naissance
– dans des photos d’elle à vingt ans
elles sont encore étroites
elle est encore mince.

Penchée
sur les roses mises en terre
elle recueille une joie immense
des cailloux sales
et des jeunes pétales.

Je lui tiens son panier
telle une fille dévouée
et réussis presque
à sourire de gratitude
pour ces tomates mûres.

Est-ce avec l’âge
que l’on trouve du bonheur
à faire pousser de la menthe
à boire de l’eau glacée
où surnagent des petites bêtes?

Ma mère partage son savon
avec un homme qui n’est pas
mon père, un homme bon,
il attend à l’intérieur
de préparer notre sauce.

Le panier est plein
la joie de ma mère
remplit le jardin
plus de place
pour la mienne.

Alors elle me dit : tu sais ma fille,
tu auras ta propre vie
et ton propre jardin,
prie pour qu’il pleuve
et cultive ton potager.



PRAYER I DO NOT KNOW

No one is here, just me,
alone. I close

my eyes and try
to remember your face,

its light, your
fingers, their light

touch, your laugh,
the lightness. I recite a prayer

that is my own:
May we live

a thousand years together
in another life.


PRIÈRE OBSCURE

Comment prier
pour toi ? Personne

ici, moi
seule. Je ferme

les yeux, tente de voir
ton visage,

sa lumière, tes doigts,
l’affleurement,

ton rire,
la légèreté. Je récite une prière

qui est mienne:
Puissions-nous vivre

mille ans ensemble
dans une autre vie.


Today’s poems are from Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads, published by Recours au poème éditeurs (2014), and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads is a bilingual collection of poems by the American poet Dara Barnat, translated to French by Sabine Huynh. Dara Barnat explores migration (between New York, where she was raised, and Tel Aviv, her adopted city), the experience of being an English-language poet in Tel Aviv, intimate familial relationships, her father’s long illness and passing, as well as secrets, history, and memory. Loss is certainly at the core of the poems; although she succeeds in guiding her readers to comfort, even joy, with wisdom she has learned from enduring grief. In the last poem of the book, the speaker addresses her father in the afterlife, and they are both happy to be “alive.” This exhilarating vision demonstrates how Walt Whitman informs the poet’s elegies. She imagines herself walking down the street with Whitman. It is also not surprising to encounter Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost, since the power of Dara Barnat’s poetry resides in its capacity to observe our solitude with grace and honesty.


Dara Barnat was born in 1979. Her poetry appears widely in journals in the United States and Israel. She is the author of the chapbook Headwind Migration (2009), as well as poetry translations and scholarly essays. Dara holds a Ph.D. from the School of Cultural Studies at Tel Aviv University. Her dissertation explored Walt Whitman’s influence on Jewish American poetics. She teaches poetry and creative writing.


Sabine Huynh was born in 1972. She holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), has authored poetry and prose books (novel, short stories, academic book, literary essay, diary), and has edited an anthology of modern French poetry, which were published by Galaade Editions, Voix d’encre, La Porte, éditions publie.net, Recours au poème éditeurs, E-Fractions Editions, among other French publishers. She writes in English and French, translates daily, occasionally teaches creative writing classes, and regularly contributes to the French literary journals Terre à ciel, Terres de femmes, and Recours au poème. Her website: http://www.sabinehuynh.com


Editor’s Note: The opening poem in Dara Barnat’s debut collection begins, “Please know that taut, / invisible threads / tethered us / to those years.” Threads that bind the speaker to mother and home, to father and illness, to time, to what comes into being and what inevitably slips away. And so Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads invites us into a deeply personal yet resonant world of life and death, love and loss, relationship and the human experience.

Nestled within the honest, reflective, beautiful lyric of these poems are the moments poetry was made for: “maybe / we should part now, because oceans / dry up in time, / even the whitest bones / turn to ash.” Equally powerful are so many of the poems’ closing stanzas and end-lines: “daughter, / you will have your own life, / and your own garden, / just pray for rain, and grow your vegetables;” “May we live // a thousand years together / in another life.”

Throughout the book we are welcomed into a private, sacred space. Into kitchens and gardens, hospitals and homelands. We are invited to bake bread and receive intimate moments like sacrament. Crossing the wide span between memory and horizon, Taut, Invisible Threads is like a migrating bird that “fights the seasons, / and lands wherever / there are seeds, / water, and soft earth, // until it arrives.”

I wish that I were well-versed in French and thereby able to comment on the translations by Sabine Huynh housed within this moving bilingual collection. Falling far short of that wish, I can only say that I have had the pleasure of hearing the translator read some of her poetry translations aloud in French, and it was a transformative experience. Her voice is emboldened by its quiet humility, and the passion she has for translation is well-known amongst the numerous writers who seek to have their work translated by this gifted writer and translator.

I have had the pleasure of featuring both Dara Barnat and Sabine Huynh on this series, and am thrilled to see these two incredibly talented writers and translators brought together in one stunning collection. This book—and this collaboration—is a gift to the poetry world that should be read, shared, and celebrated.


Want to see more by Dara Barnat?
Buy Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads from Recours au poème éditeurs
Dara Barnat’s Official Website
Dara Barnat’s Official Blog
“At Least Forward Now” in Haaretz

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SABINE HUYNH

Sabine-HUYNH-fiche Photo by Anne Collongues.


FAREWELL CHILDHOOD
By Sabine Huynh

It’s hard not to think
of a place where dogs met
their fate on railway tracks
or in unkempt backyards
where a father with chapped lips planted
tulips around a dying cherry tree
where a mother’s screams scared
dust and kids into dark corners
where children watched T.V.
in the garage – why in the garage? –
where they played with a wheelbarrow
inside, and paper cut-outs
outside, yet they lived in town
it’s hard to ignore
a fact like that

I can only think of it here
facing the sunny Golan heights
with hummingbirds punctuating
my glum memories with gaiety
and cows’ mooing filling up
the deep valley of the past
a flying ant above my head
a white falcon perched on my thumb

if I thought of it there
where it all happened
I’d turn into that
silent child again
and never come back
but I’m here now
I have opened the windows
to let the landscape in
and the childhood out.

(Today’s poem originally appeared in Cyclamens and Swords and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Sabine Huynh is a Vietnamese-born poet, novelist and translator. Raised in France, she has lived in England, The United States, Canada, and Israel. She writes in both French and English. Her poetry and her poetic translations have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies. She is the author of a poetry anthology, a novel, a collection of short stories, five poetry collections (four in French: two were published, two await pending publication; and one in English, not published yet), and she has translated four poetry collections (from Israel, Canada, and England).

Editor’s Note: In today’s post Sabine Huynh manipulates everyday language to transport us to a vivid past. There is a darkness beneath the light of the poem, and questions remain unanswered—buried—as the poet wants them to. But readers and the poet alike are given permission to let go of haunted memories, to make the life we want for ourselves when Huynh opens the windows for us all, “to let the landscape in / and the childhood out.”

Want to read more by and about Sabine Huynh?
Sabine Huynh’s Official Website
The Ilanot Review
Reiter’s Block
Additional poems in Cyclamens and Swords
Sabine Huynh’s English-to-French translations of an SPS favorite, Dara Barnat