Brooklyn + Poets + Moms!
The doorbell rings. Amanda’s here, with Beckett (4) and Scarlett (3 months). We lug the kids and their attendant gear up three flights of stairs. As soon as we’re all settled inside, the apartment feels smaller and things get hectic. The boys—Beckett and my son, Caleb (2)—play with Legos, tussling a bit over who gets what colors. Mandy and I try to catch up, in-between mediating. After each interruption, one of us asks, “What were we talking about?” Sometimes we retrieve the conversational thread, sometimes we don’t.
Then everyone else who’s coming arrives together: Lynn, Idra and Caitlin. Lynn’s daughters, Ada and Stella, aren’t here today, and neither is Caitlin’s daughter, Kaya. This means we have a surplus of boys, and it shows. They run up and down the narrow hall connecting the main rooms, each one with a ball in hand. Beckett trips and slams face-first into the couch. Amanda comforts him while the rest of us look sympathetically on.
In the momentary calm that follows, we decide to start. Lynn goes first. She reads her poem, “Landscape with Smut and Pavement,” in a soft voice that’s at odds with the background noise of kids talking and babies crying. When she finishes, Caleb, who’s on my lap, says, “Again?”
We discuss the poem’s last two lines: “I was smut / but the rest was burnished.” I suggest switching the order, so she’ll end with “I was smut.” Idra suggests: “I was smut. The rest / was burnished” since “but” is implied. Sounds stronger. Lazaro, Idra’s youngest son, starts crying piteously. Idra thinks it’s a “pre-poop wail.” We all talk about poop for a while.
Beckett announces that he’s ready to share the poem he’s composed in honor of the day: “Mom-Po Poem.” It goes:
Doo doo da da Has a pink pinkie Pink pink pink Has a pinkie Over the hill Who runs over with my sister
He finishes to a round of applause. In the quiet that follows, we press on with the workshop: Caitlin is up next. There’s more kid drama, of course, but somehow we get through everyone’s poems by around 5. Then coats and bags are gathered and children are ushered down the stairs. We say our goodbyes and make tentative plans for “next time.”
I’ve never been one to happily join groups or identify myself as a group member—at age six, I quit the Brownies after one day, and in college, even though I joined a sorority, I did so grumpily, at my mother’s urging. Now, in adulthood, I’ve found a new “sorority,” one that suits me much better: the Brooklyn Poet-Moms. Originally we spring from the Poet-Moms list-serv curated by Arielle Greenberg. Since there’s a high concentration of poet-moms in Brooklyn (shocking!), we started meeting occasionally at a local coffeehouse. Not to workshop, just to hang out. This gradually evolved into monthly workshops at different people’s houses, and though it’s always generally chaotic, it’s also always productive—we spend the two hours commenting on each other’s work in-between snacking, chasing after kids, and talking about mom stuff. If someone has a birthday, we celebrate it with a cake. If someone has a new baby, we ooh and ahh over it.
As a parent of a young child, you get used to having disappointing playdates on a pretty regular basis. While the kids are having a ball, running around the playground together or fighting over toy trains in a living room, you and the other mom (or dad, though it’s usually a mom), meanwhile, are having stilted conversation about the weather, your weekend plans, or the price of organic milk. Yawn. I almost always prefer to be alone with my kid rather than endure this type of excruciating boredom. But our Brooklyn poet-mom get-togethers are an entirely different story. The kids are happy to have so many playmates, and the moms are happy because the conversation…I won’t say “flows,” because that doesn’t happen with little ones around, but: it zigs and zags and sparks. Our meetings can be a bit too chaotic, but they’re never boring.
I feel so lucky to have found these women. We’re at different stages in our writing careers; we have different family arrangements; we have different ideas about parenting, and different ideas about poetry, too. But we have this main thing in common: we’re mothers, and we write. We write when we can, we write despite being mothers, and we write because of it. We understand each other. We enjoy each other. We celebrate each other. We share deeply personal information—inside and out of the poems—and we help each other by listening and sharing and supporting. Ours is a genuine sorority, one I’m thankful to have joined.
- Idra Novey
- Stefania Heim
- Jay DeFeo
- Amanda Field
- Caitlin McDonnell
- Lynn Melnick
- Carley Moore
- Jennifer Firestone
- Leah Souffrant
- Katy Lederer
- Loaded Bicycle
- David Lehman
- online magazines
- Lizz Wright
- Julio Serrano
- National Poetry Month 2013
- Stockholm International Poetry Festival
Laura Sims is the author of three books of poems: My god is this a man (2014), Stranger (2009) and Practice, Restraint (winner of the 2005 Alberta Prize), all from Fence Books. She received a Creative Artists Exchange Fellowship from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission in 2006, and has been a co-editor of Instance Press since...