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Poetry and adoption

By Alan Gilbert

In my previous post, I was trying to wander from a poetics of exile to a discussion of adoption, but I didn’t quite make it. I guess that’s appropriate for a “poetics of non-arrival” (Judith Butler’s phrase re: Kafka). But I do want to bring some attention here to a new blog started by Eileen Tabios and devoted to the relationship between poetry and adoption.

POETS ON ADOPTION launched late last week, and currently features seventeen writers with varying relationships to the subject: from being adopted, to adopting children, to having adopted relatives, to giving up a child for adoption. The site also includes a call for participation, and will continue to add new content.

The format for each post involves three components:
“What is your adoption experience?
How has the adoption experience affected your poetry?
Please share a sample poem(s) addressing (in part) adoption.”

Some writers, such as Dana Collins and Michele Leavitt, describe reuniting with their biological families, while Nick Carbò says he has no interest in doing so. Many of the entries place the experience of adoption within frameworks of ethnicity and class. Christina Pacosz unsentimentally writes, “Now I see clearly that most adoptions are moving from one class to another. From a lack of resources/finances to more abundance and opportunity. This has nothing, necessarily, to do with love.” A number of contributors talk about nation. Marcella Durand discusses what it’s like as a white parent to have adopted an African American child: “Maybe because our story is also political in that we are a transracial family, but with a twist, in that my son, while a domestic adoption, has a birthmother from other colonized and colonizing countries and, because of my connection to the colonizing country, she chose us.”

Along with Pacosz, Sharon Mesmer contributes the longest post—a haunting and vivid narrative about her adopted sister who may or may not have been molested by their father. The piece provides an insight into her work I’d never had before. Susan Schultz provides the most theoretical framework for discussing the relationship between poetry and adoption—and in the process outlines a poetics of adoption: “Just as no poem is utterly original, so no poem is not without its adopted language.” This circles back to Kafka, and the difficulties inherent—or perhaps it’s better to say ex-herent—in positing a language of origin in his work.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, April 5th, 2011 by Alan Gilbert.