Book Review: I Carry My Mother
Some of my favorite high school memories are from the poetry class I took in my senior year. It was a pretty small class, maybe fifteen or twenty of us total. I had always loved poetry before I took the class, both reading and writing it, but my teacher Ms. Rath’s class gave me an in-depth look into the art form. We studied many different poets, from Emily Dickinson to Margaret Atwood, while attempting to write in the same forms they used. And now, many years later, I can still recognize those styles and often can name the poet just by writing a few lines of their work.
As I read Lesléa Newman’s new collection of poetry, I Carry My Mother, all I could think about was that class. Not only was I recognizing many of the poetry forms she used (pantoums, sestinas, among many others), but I found myself naming the poets that served as her inspiration. It felt like I was back in high school, studying some of the most famous poets throughout history. These homages to Elizabeth Bishop, Dr. Suess, and many more endeared Newman’s poetry to me; it made it all seem familiar to me, as if I’d read them years ago instead of for the first time.
I Carry My Mother is not only a tribute to the works of famous poets but, more importantly, to Newman’s mother, who passed away three years ago. The poems show her mother both as Newman wants her to be remembered as well as how Newman saw her as she was dying in her hospital bed. Her writing is also a vivid portrait of Newman’s coping and mourning and suffering, both before and after her mother’s death. I Carry My Mother is a brief and poignant collection of poetry written by a woman who struggled to be the daughter that her mother wanted her to be, and what it means to be a daughter after your mother is gone.