As a poet, I always felt embarrassed about writing about my children. It seemed self-indulgent and I feared being sentimental. But then what could be more poetic than one’s children? To not see poetry in their being bespeaks a terrible lack. In Gifts: Poems for Parents (Sumach Press, 2002), editor and poet Rhea Tregebov, addresses that lack with a slim but powerful selection of poems about children written by contemporary Canadian poet-parents. “I think that as a poet, I began writing about being a parent not so much to correct misapprehensions or to vindicate my choices as to excavate my own terrors and pleasures.” Tregebov says in her introduction to Gifts. The “terrors” and “pleasures” of parenthood are on full display here wrought in finely crafted poems by the likes of such poet parents as Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, and Rhea Tregebov herself. There are poems of fear — night terrors, noises outside, wolves and monsters; and there are poems of wonder and awe; and poems, too, of frustration and anxiety. If I were to be asked the question of who I was as a parent, I would like to answer the way John Steffler does in his poem “Hollis Street, Halifax” where
those with children at the ends
of their arms, [are] small versions of themselves brightly
inflating as they drain down,
as though they’d opened a vein in their wrists and
out poured blood taking the shape of a child
pulling them by the hand:
Parents are those, the poet says,”going invisible, sucked up the straws/of six year old arms, diving/inside small skins,/starting over again, small.” That starting over again, the re-seeing that comes with being a parent is something that Gifts attempts to bring to the reader. Look Mommy, Tregebov seems to say with this collection, poems especially for you.
Today’s Poetry Friday host is The Miss Rumphius Effect.