Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Still Grading. . . And Single Motherhood (More of Interview w/ LDC)

In a strange round of synchronicity, one of my favorite new poetsSuzanne Frischkorn, posts a bit from Diane Middlebrook's (another fine poet) biography of Anne Sexton about Adrienne Rich (Diving Into the Wreck) & Sylvia Plath on motherhood for the writer. I just had to answer this question yesterday. I've been thinking of it ever since -- a bit of guilt for not going on and on about how great my kid is, and instead going off in this direction. The thought of Anne, Sylvia & Adrienne discussing it -- boggles my mind a bit, in a reassuring kinda a way. I hope all you M. . . (well, you know what you are) take a bit of reassurance from these answers. This is for you. Thanks, Suzanne.

10. There are some poems written to a son in this book. How does motherhood affect your craft?

It was listening to a lecture given by the fiction writer, Helena Maria Viramontes, at UC Irvine years ago, that got me to thinking how so often a woman's Muse takes the form of her children; whereas for a man, the Muse typically takes the form of a young and strikingly beautiful woman, usually with long flowing hair. (silent laughter) For me, it is the awareness of my own mortality which affects my craft -- certainly supplies the big waves that rock my boat. Motherhood will put you there, especially single motherhood: My Greatest Fear -- realized.

"Oh my little secret weapon, self
made slayer. . ."

Single motherhood, to me, meant poverty and no less than the death of the self. I thought I would never write again, at least, not well. But I had already given her up once before, my Muse. What I wasn't prepared for was that overwhelming ever-present fear for my child, a paper in the throat that never goes away. It rubs off in a concern for my own physical well-being, especially as I embarked upon this journey at 40, much older than most moms. The sense that there is no one to care for my child if something should happen to me -- this rubs off in my attitude about my writing and the books. I have to write them now. I have to finish them. I have to get the poems on and off the page -- as there is no one to care for them should something happen to me.

Of course, none of this was said by Helena, but what she said was right, that for many women, our children are our Muses, embodied. I think we do some of our best writing after motherhood, those of us who can, because we can and we have to; just look at Cherrie Moraga, Ana Castillo, Helena, Alma Villanueva, and others. For different reasons. But there is a need to leave something solid and lasting, and worthy of the time it takes in the creation.

And, motherhood makes me organized. I don't know how that affects my craft, particularly since for me, in a traditional role, my working day is fragmented into scheduled and unscheduled interruptions. Like now. My son just came home from school. I have a form to sign and homework to go over. I have a snack to prepare, and dinner to plan. I also have five other books of poetry I'm patting into balls in my head. I'm more organized about finding a time to type, to organize and put them out. And I know where the stamps are.


Blogger Suzanne said...

Ah, yes! I became much more efficient about things when I knew I only had a certain window to do them in...That conversation (that continues) I found great comfort in eavesdropping in on it btw...Lorna, I was a single mother for eight years (a very young one) it was the most exhausting rewarding time, as is this time now, again, although not single, yet with two tiny ones. Thank you.

10/5/06 17:06  
Blogger LitByFire said...

Having my son taught me how to love. I miss him terribly now that he's in college. But I want him to be there. And the changes are still with me.

11/5/06 04:35  

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