HOW POETRY HAS HELPED PARENTS THROUGH LOCKDOWN
Lucy Beckley explores how mothers have turned to poetry for solace and inspiration during the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Illustration by Silvia Letter.
There’s a little spot in the kitchen, where I often find myself. Sandwiched between the breakfast bar and the stovetop—it’s a tiny space, truly uncomfortable but standing there means a pause for me. It’s a sanctuary, where I am hidden from my children, the constant chatter of Zoom calls and the non-stop demands for the next snack that have become an everyday soundtrack to these long days. It’s in this little square, where I sneak moments to write poetry. I stand typing furiously into the Notes app on my phone, trying to unpick the pain, to process the trauma and still the swirling thoughts. A pause placed between the piles of dirty dishes and the shelves lined with unfulfilled wishes, a chance to immerse myself in the act of noticing and make sense of this all. Sometimes, I share these thoughts online and at other times, they remain stored in a note on my phone, another little time capsule of a moment in the pandemic.
But I am not alone in this act, in fact far from it.
Thoughts have been held captive in the corridors of our minds during this past year of stop-start confinement, and for many mothers, the usual decompression chambers of playdates, coffee dates, long commutes or chance meetings at the school gates have been glaringly, achingly absent. Motherhood, at the worst of times, can often feel like one of the most lonely of times, yet poetry has provided a much needed outlet and lifeline to mothers across the globe.
From the recent publication of Ana Sampson’s beautiful anthology, Night Feeds and Morning Songs, to the blossoming online communities of The Mum Poet Club and the Blood Moon Journal, the chorus of mothers roaring through rhymes and making sense of the world through the poetic form is growing louder and louder.
Whispering our woes through rhyming couplets, our day-to-day realities are captured across counted syllables while poetry prompts provide a welcome distraction from the drudgery, grind and repetition. Shaping and moulding words to form a picture of motherhood in 2021; from the loss of loved ones and the babies we never got to meet, to the relationships with our bodies and partners, to the everyday ordinary that becomes extraordinary through the lens of motherhood. For many mother poets, the compressed nature of poetry provides the perfect form through which to articulate the reality of parenting right now. Concise and compelling, layered with depth and feeling, it is the perfect vessel to express and carry the emotions that arise through the experiences of motherhood.
All the mother poets that I spoke to when writing this article mentioned how cathartic it has been, especially this past year, to take a moment and unravel life in the pandemic through words, it has been ‘a way to stay sane’, to ‘verbalise the opposing feelings of motherhood’, an ‘escape’ and ‘something positive to focus on’. Indeed, the pandemic has cast a harsh spotlight on the gender divide, the imbalance of caring responsibilities and the ‘mother-load’, so it really is no wonder that the call of the mothers is growing ever louder.
In the face of uncertainty and days that are drenched in monotony, the art of noticing through poetry becomes an act of certainty as we put our pens to paper or furiously tap away in our phones.
A chance to roar and rhyme our way through these long, long days.
Lucy Beckley is a writer, wanderer and wonderer. She recently moved to Lisbon from Cornwall and can often be found trailing after her children on the beach, taking a moment to find the extraordinary joy in the ordinary. She is currently working on her first poetry collection and a novel. @lucyabeckley
The Mum Poem Press was started during lockdown last year by poet Katharine Perry, The Mum Poem Press is a poetry publishing venture that explores all aspects and experiences of motherhood. Through the Mum Poet Club they support, connect and champion mothers who write or would like to try writing poetry. Every quarter they publish a zine featuring poems written by members of The Mum Poet Club and host regular open mic nights and other events. Their most recent publication was a poetry zine edited by the award winning poet, Hollie McNish, called ‘Why Mums are Amazing’. In May 2021, they will publish their first full length anthology of poetry about motherhood written by poets and mother writing today. Profits from sales of the anthology will be donated to a mental health charity for mothers.
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