Review: "The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood" Ed. Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright.

Edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright

Illustrated by Emma Wright

Publisher: The Emma Press

Price: £10 (paperback)/£5.50 (ebook)

4 / 5 stars.

Review by LJ McDowall

Apropos for this issue's themes of womanhood and motherhood, we've selected The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood for review, and what a collection this is.

Motherhood is the time when, as women, we move from being individuals to common property. We lose our individuality. For me, it was the time when I forfeited even my name, and became "Sofia's Mum." Regardless of what roles we held in our lives before motherhood, we're redefined by society -- by men, and by other women, by the medical profession, by educators -- by our reproductive functions. For many Generation X and older Millenial women, raised with different life expectations than our mothers, the shock of transition can be wonderful and fulfilling. It can also be exhausting and traumatic, leaving many women in doubt and ambivalent about their roles as mothers and desperately scrambling to redefine themselves or take control of their own narratives.

This is a collection which marks, more than any recent anthology on women's experiences, those transitions and redefinitions of narrative. Wonderfully illustrated by editor Emma Wright, his volume is beautifully presented and shows the care the Emma Press has taken in its production, always a joy to see from a small press.

The poems themselves? Outstanding. These are our stories, told in verse of startling simplicity, layering meaning and emotion. Alongside stories of joy and fulfilment run often more sombre themes of ambivalence and pain, loss of identity and a longing for fulfilment. There is (somewhat disappointingly) very little formal verse in this volume, but we were very pleased with the macabre Medea’s Farewell sonnet by Eve Lacy. The heart breaks at Where The Baby Isn’t by Hilary Gilmore, a free verse poem expressing the emptiness of restrained, everyday grief. Many of the poems balance perfectly lyricism, joy, humour, and a touch of sadness. All, on some level, speak to that ambivalence that marks our position as parents and women. They strike the common chord of what Roque Dalton called the ‘unanimous blood.’

Who will we be when we come back? the speaker asks, in Steps, a poem by Liz Berry, summing up the mood of the whole collection. Will we remember ourselves?

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