I’m taking a poetry class which is, by and large, wonderful. Several students in the class regularly bring in poems that seriously impress me, and the teacher is so brilliant and cool it’s quite intimidating.
Yesterday evening I workshopped a poem that contained, among other things, speculation abouty my ability to kill a rabid raccoon with my bare hands, and also the following lines:
I thought of this as what I’d gained
from motherhood: this ferocity, this volume,
It was a decent poem, a fourth (or so) draft of something I’d been hammering at off and on for several months, and it finally had the shape I wanted. People made sounds when I read it, and said extra-nice things afterward, before we got into a helpful discussion of tweaks that could make it stronger.
A man started off the critiques: “I love this poem. I don’t think I’d change a thing, except there’s one word I don’t like: rage.”
I asked him how come.
“Well, rage.” He looked around the room as though expecting automatic agreement. “Maybe it’s because it comes so close to motherhood. It just doesn’t seem quite right.”
Two other moms were in the class that day, and we made eye contact, rolled our eyes a little, and laughed quietly. Motherhood and rage? He didn’t think of them as utterly compatible? Really? “I think it is exactly right, one of them said.”
Another man suggested, “maybe this mother rage?”
We three moms shook our heads. Nope. This rage.
It was kind of fun to blow their minds. The class wrote comments on my poem and passed them back to me. I read the disbelieving dude’s comment late last night: “I’ll never see you (or any mother?) the same again.”