I read The Mother/Child Papers in one sitting. Perhaps it was so accessible because I was sitting by the Atlantic Ocean, at the same time of year as the book begins, in early May, but decades later. I like serendipity. With the added momentum of the springtime surf, words appeared in waves of understanding.
The Mother/Child Papers is a genesis, starting at the beginning, mother and child, the one the other, and in that labor, where everything alive has been, we are all together. The Mother/Child Papers remembers, and we do too and say, “Ah, yes.”
It’s hard, if not impossible, to write about existence; it’s ephemeral, and like looking at God, you just can’t live and do it. But The Mother/Child Papers gets us about as close as we can get without going Poof! On Life’s shimmering rack, Ostriker hangs a time and place, a delivery room, the invasion of Cambodia, labor pains, the massacre at Kent State, and children she wants to let grow, and find pleasure, but keep safe.
In the Vimeo below the poet reads the first two sections of the book, “Cambodia” and “Mother/Child.” Enjoy.
You can purchase The Mother/Child Papers here:
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The Mother/Child Papers is published by University of Pittsburgh Press. You can check it out here:
Brava/bravo to University of Pittsburgh Press for reissuing Ostriker’s seminal work in the gradual accretion of powerful poetry by women about their bodies, their inner lives, their societal positions. Her feminist affirmation of motherhood comes against the backdrop of protests against the Vietnam War, the murders at Kent State, and the New York Times’s revelation of The Pentagon Papers. Nowhere in late twentieth-century belles lettres has the personal inserted itself so meaningfully into the political.
Alicia Ostriker has published 19 collections of poetry, and been twice nominated for the National Book Award, and has twice received the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, among other honors. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Yale Review, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The Atlantic, Prairie Schooner, and other journals, and has been translated into numerous languages including Hebrew and Arabic. Her most recent collections of poems are Waiting for the Light and The Volcano and After: Selected and New Poems 2002-2019. She was New York State Poet Laureate for 2018-2021 and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2015-2020. She lives with her husband in New York City.