Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Poetry of Pregnancy

When I deliver a baby, my first thought is not to count fingers and toes or to check for family resemblance. Usually, I am much more selfish than that. My first thought is, Hooray! I'm not pregnant anymore! I have heard moms talk of how they love to be pregnant; how they even feel sexier than usual, or how they feel vivacious and energetic. I wish I could claim that I handle pregnancy with as much aplomb. I can't.

I feel huge, uncomfortable, overheated, and about as attractive as an over ripe pear. Mentally, I am simultaneously out of focus and prone to obsession. I could make a list of strange obsessions I have experienced while pregnant, but it would be far too telling and inexplicable. If you are acquainted with my blog, you can probably guess a few of them.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the woes of pregnancy that I forget the wonder of it. As always, I turn to literature to remind me that life is, in fact, profound and that there is nothing more profound and meaningful than its perpetuation.

I would love to compose a poem about the pregnancy experience, but I have broken the one cardinal rule of poetry composition: to write poetry, one must read poetry. I confess that I simply haven't picked up a book of poems in quite a long time and so, I must rely on what already exists.

My husband has disliked Sylvia Plath since he had to read her poem, "Daddy" in a college English course. I agree that "Daddy" is a little bitter for my tastes as well, but, when I read "Metaphors," Sylvia is my friend once again:


I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples.
Boarded the train there's no getting off.

Ironically, sometimes it is the male poet who is able to see past the physicality of pregnancy and to take it to a more transcendent level. This by contemporary poet Bill Kloefkorn, State Poet of Nebraska is about as gorgeous a thing as has ever been written:


Here is the story I might have heard,
More likely dreamed: the woman
after the first trimester

required by village covenant
to compose a lullaby,
to sing it daily then

to the gathering child, only
from memory and in deliberate

the man not permitted to listen
until the infant had been delivered
and pronounced both whole and

welcome. And this ritual
I'd go to church to live with,
solace in the belief

that not so very far away
always a woman sits singing her own

to that small creation breathing
as if a delicate fish inside her,
always not so far away

a confluence of word and of music
flowing somehow into the ear
of the unborn,

there to do whatever the inexplicable does
to sustain us,
my mother meanwhile who couldn't

carry a tune in a washtub
singing as she carried the washtub
outside to empty the rinsewater,

that same tub later
filled with the well-wrung
family wash, each item on the line

moving in the breeze
like a quaint crustacean,
each movement singing.

And finally this excerpt from my favorite Dylan Thomas poem.

from Fern Hill

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden.
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On the fields of praise.

Perhaps it is time for me to consider something other than the centimeters and percentages of childbirth and to ponder and enjoy the small universe of my womb; to appreciate that kicking writhing creature whose creation like all great creations starts, "In the beginning. . ."


mim said...

I love it. Such a good blog entry!

Carroll said...

I never worry that you are not conscious and appreciative of the sacred condition you are in. Also, as you know, often the best things are very hard.
Thank you, Marie. I loved the poetry.

Lindy said...

I hate being pregnant, and I don't even get sick! This last time I had no energy at all and thought that was just who i had become...thankfully right after birth I started charging into renovations and motherhood with renewed vigor. I certainly don't have postpartum depression, but I think I had partum depression.

Robin said...

Hi Marie,
This is Robin - Keriann's cousin. I'm blogstalking your family tonight (Keriann was just here visiting and now I miss her). Anywaaaay - another excellent Sylvia Plath poem, about her pregnancy is "You're". It's EXCELLENT!

Marie said...



Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo's mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark, as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools' Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.

laura said...

can't wait for you to blog again, sister.

laura said...

i am so sad that you had to abandon this blog. miss you sister.