Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dear Mother: Poems on the Hot Mess of Motherhood - Bunmi Laditan

Summary:  In her first collection of poetry, Bunmi Laditan captures the honesty, rawness, sheer joy, and total chaos of motherhood.  With the compassion and wit that made her a social media sensation among mothers around the world, Laditan puts into evocative and relatable words what so many of us feel but can't quite express.  For mothers who love their children with a fiery fierceness but know what it s to feel crushed at the end of those long days, Dear Mother is like a warm hug that says, "I get it."  (Summary from book flap - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  Bunmi Laditan and I have been friends for a while on Facebook  And, of course, by 'friends' I mean that I follow her page and pretend we are besties but we've never actually spoken.  I read (and reviewed) her novel, Confessions of a Domestic Failure when it came out, and was thrilled when I finally was able to get my grubby hands on Dear Mother: Poems on the Hot Mess of Motherhood.

I had two concerns when I picked up this book from the library.  First, I don't normally go out of my way to read poetry.  It's not my preferred genre and, quite frankly, I don't always "get" it.  I don't like having to decipher things --  like, is the parrot in the poem actually a parrot or a symbolic representation of the existential crisis faced by the suburban mailman?  Hard pass. Anyway, even though I love Bunmi I was still a little nervous.  Thankfully, I needn't have worried.  Almost all of the poems are fairly brief with an easy to interpret message.

My second concern was how the book would make me feel.  Last year, I reviewed another book on motherhood that I rated poorly because, while it dropped some serious truth bombs, it came off rather negative.  I am a struggling mom of four, with a serious inner critic.  Believe me when I say, I don't need any more negativity in my life.  I need uplifting solidarity.  Y'all, Dear Mother is that book.  Over and over again, it got me on levels I didn't even know I had.  To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, I'm going to give you a glimpse into my thought process while flipping through the book: 

Ooh.  I liked that one.  I reeeeaaallly like that one.  *FLIP*
Mhmmmm. Yes. So true. *FLIP*
Wow. She totally understands. *FLIP*
Oh, man.  I think that one is my favorite!  *FLIP*
Nope. This one is definitely my fave. *FLIP*
AUUUUGH. HOW DID SHE KNOW?!   *FLIP*
New favorite!! *FLIP*
Same, girl. Same. *FLIP*
So. Spot. On. *FLIP*
AWWWWWWWWWWWWW. *FLIP*
Yes. This.  Just the other day!!  *FLIP*
BEST. POEM. EVER!!!!  *FLIP*

and Repeat,
with very few exceptions.

I personally connected with 95% of the poems in this book. That's a LOT. Like, a LOT a lot.  Some packed a huge emotional punch and were deeply personal, brimming with all the feels, while others were sarcastic, funny, flippant, or just plain truth I'd always felt deep in my bones that someone finally put into words.  Asking me to pick a favorite poem would be like asking me to pick a favorite child. You love them all for different reasons.  That having been said, I feel like a review wouldn't be complete without a few examples, so here are a few of them. Keep in mind, I'm basically flipping through and picking some that grab me:

I LOVE THIS ONE... 

The triumph of motherhood cannot be found
in the quest for perfection
It exists solely in the daily decision to ---
in the face of fatigue
in the reality that it is not yet dawn
in the knowledge that more mistakes will be made -- 
show up.

AND THIS ONE...

motherhood doesn't push you
out of your comfort zone
it takes the comfort zone
blends it with tequila
and forces you to
take shots

OR THESE TWO...

dear mother,                                                  I want you to grow
                                                                     sail, fly soar
no                                                                 but baby
they would not                                               promise me
be better off                                                   that every so often
without                                                          you'll return to the nest
you                                                                and let me look at your wings.

OR THIS ONE...

On days I don't feel loved
evenings I drown in my solitude
sure that no one's heart will ever flutter
at my presence again
you run into my arms 
and remind me
that to someone
I am everything.

OR THIS...

When I'm with them
I dream of peace
crave silence
fantasize about beaches
fruity frozen drinks
the only sound being
the sea lapping frothily against the sand
But only a few hours into my
solitude
my heart begins rumbling its hunger
and my body aches
to have their small bodies against mine
feel my lips on their buttery cheeks
What kind of madness is this

AND FINALLY...

I've never scaled Everest
or jumped out of a plane at 12,000 feet
But I have taken three kids
to the grocery store at five o'clock
so don't tell me I'm not living
dangerously.

Bwaaaahahhhahhaa! How true is that??

Honestly, I could go on sharing her poems forever but that might raise some copyright issues.  Whether Bunmi Laditan writes about the all-consuming love of parent for child, anxiety, the pain of loss, or the sheer joy, bone-tired, utter terror of it all, she manages to capture motherhood perfectly in all its forms. Her poems felt like a weary but welcome fist raised in solidarity for all the mamas out there whose fierce love could power jet engines even if they still sorta want to lock themselves in the bathroom for some much-needed alone time. 

In case it wasn't clear -- I love this book.  Like the willing-to-embarrass-myself-in-a-public-forum kind of love.  I would recommend it to any mom out there who wants to feel a little less alone and like maybe, just maybe, they are doing okay.  I know that when I finished it (me, the hot mess with the massively vocal inner critic), I finally felt like I just might be enough.  And between you and me, that is saying something.

My Rating:  5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  There are a few poems about the loss of a child that aren't graphic, but still desperately sad.  They might be triggering to someone who has suffered a similar loss, but also might be cathartic.  

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