Waking My Mother: Lost and Found

When someone dies, we say to the surviving family members, “I’m sorry for your loss.” And we mean it. But there are other ways than death to lose someone dear—or someone who should be dear.

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell explores these varieties of loss in her latest poetry collection, Waking My Mother. The poems reflect on her mother’s dementia and dying; on her mother’s relation to Angela and her siblings when they were kids; on the emotional complexities of living, after her mother’s death, with memories of a mother she wasn’t loved by.

Yes, this is the tough stuff that O’Donnell takes on in these poems. And she takes it on with grace.

One of the hardest things to take on—perhaps the hardest to read about—is her memory of her mother’s succession of lovers after their father died.

Other girls’ mothers

sold Avon, Bee-line, Tupperware.

 

My mother took lovers.

Young ones. Dark ones. True ones.

[Read more...]

Genius(es) Wanted

Guest Post
By Santiago Ramos

Where do literary geniuses come from? Or should the question be: Where does literary genius come from? Does genius live only in certain persons or can even a mediocre writer get a humble share? These questions are agitating certain sectors of American letters.

“No more appeals to the inexplicable nature of genius,” observe the editors in a recent issue of n + 1. “Poets now are music makers, not mythmakers,” laments Mark Edmundson, in a recent essay for Harper’s.

The n + 1 editorial is titled “Too Much Sociology,” and wrestles with the ambiguous legacy of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who, in thick books with commanding titles like Distinction and The Rules of Art, developed a “sociology of taste” that attempted to map out the ways in which class and social standing determine artistic taste and creation.

His project was meant to be subversive, not merely descriptive; Bourdieu was a Marxist. And yet, decades hence, it seems as if those very same capitalist bourgeois forces that Bourdieu wished to subvert have adapted to his critique and even harnessed its power. [Read more...]

A Baby Smaller Than Roosevelt’s Eye

Guest Post
By Lindsey DeLoach Jones

For most new parents, the first glimpse of the life they’ve created is a grainy ultrasound printout, when the baby resembles—if not a human being—at least a gummy bear.

In my daughter’s first photograph, three inches by five and black-and-white, she is microscopic in size. She is a five-day-old blastocyst, smaller—as one website puts it—than Roosevelt’s eye on the face of a US dime. She looks like a flaky-crusted apple pie.

Our sneak peek is not what I would call lucky; my husband and I sloughed through years of infertility before consenting to the medical interventions that made it possible for my daughter to grow in a dish for five days before being ushered to my warm insides. [Read more...]

Why We Make Art

“Who you actually are is far bigger than the narrative you construct about who you are,” writes Jon Kabat-Zinn in Mindfulness for Beginners.

At this moment—end of semester, grades in, annual faculty record due, next year’s budget due, meetings to schedule, e-mails to respond to, office to clean, and the thousand and one things to do at home that have been ignored for months but there’s little time before I load the car and my son and I back out of the driveway, aim the car toward onto I-40W, Asheville to L.A.—I am feeling small, worn, reduced if not defeated.

And at this moment, 106 words into the unknown of this essay now two days late: doubt. Doubting my intelligence, talent, strength.

I know this story: I’ve been reading it for decades. Though who “I” was when the story of doubt, my doubt, was first written, I’m not, at this moment, sure, who else but “me” could have written the first draft? [Read more...]

A Theology of Singleness, Part 2

Guest Post

By J. M. Samuelson

Continued from yesterday

Alan Jacobs recently made a wise observation: “there are certain kinds of ‘growing up’ that don’t happen until you get married—that simply getting older doesn’t do for you.”

I’d like to point to some parallel category of knowledge specific to singleness, but I don’t know if I can. Marriage seems to reconstitute one’s experience of time in a way that singleness simply cannot.

Man is the doubtful creature: every avenue of life prompts its own order of doubts and questions. Have I merely aged with time, or do I exhibit a pattern of real growth made possible precisely by the strange road my life has taken? [Read more...]


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