The Poetess Returns
Back in the day, the Poetess took questions and dispensed advice on poetry-related troubles for the magazine Peotry, also known as “The Humor Issue”*. Unfortunately (the Poetess sniffs), although you can see most of the issue here, you cannot—for reasons unknown, and despite the Poetess's prayers to the gods of the realm of JSTOR—gain access to that advice column online (the PoFo’s invitation to “Browse All Issues Back to 1912” notwithstanding).
However, since having a kid, the Poetess has expanded her purview to answer questions about the places where children and poetry—like a monster in a bad movie about science experiments gone awry—intersect. A sampling follows:
Now that I’m pregnant with my first child, friends and strangers put their hands on my belly and say things like “you’re a poet, don’t worry, having a baby is like writing a book.” Is this even true?
I love being a mom but my husband (we met when were both creative writing MFA students) complains I’m shortchanging myself and my talents because my attachment-parenting techniques—holding the children 24-7, co-sleeping, breastfeeding still going strong with Wystan, 7, Minaloy, 4, and the twins Walt and Emily, 2—have made some of our favorite adult activities impossible. He says “you never want to ______ anymore.” He doesn’t use the word “write” but I’m pretty sure that’s what he means.
Mother Addicted Relentlessly To Young Rascals
Why do mothers think they’re so special? Anybody can pop a child out. Writing a book of poems is much harder.
Dear Po-Mo, Martyr and Null:
Treat the poem as the child and the child as the poem. Failed babies should not be thrown away. Instead, tuck them in a drawer or save them on a memory stick—who knows when you’ll want to dig them out, pull them apart and work them up again? Finished babies should be given classic or clever names, stamped diagnostically-approved by the Pediatric Industrial Complex Committee on Random Developmental Milestones, and multiply-submitted to kindergartens for publication. Meanwhile, poems should be burped, diapered and placed on their backs to sleep, however much they may scream and try to turn over. Corporal punishment is not recommended but if you must spank the poem, never do so in anger. The community remains divided on whether or not a daily vitamin is useful, but those Baby Tennyson Teach-Your-Poem-to-Rhyme-Before-it-Can-Scan and Baby Avant Teach-Your-Poem-to-Experiment-Before-It-Has-Even-Skimmed-Paterson DVDs have been thoroughly discredited and may be returned for store credit. And remember, you can’t finish a child or book without making lots of mistakes. Confidential to Mr. Martyr: Nagging will get you nowhere, in bed or out. Try champagne, oysters and mopping the damn floor for a change.
* (Poetry, July-August 2006)
Daisy Fried is the author of Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice (2013), My Brother is Getting Arrested Again (2006) and She Didn’t Mean to Do It (2000), all from University of Pittsburgh Press. She was awarded the Editors' Prize for Feature Article from Poetry magazine in 2009.