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Monday, November 16, 2009

Kristin Johnson Reviews Poetry Chapbook For and About Mothers

She Wore Emerald Then: Reflections on Motherhood
By Magdalena Ball and Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Poetry Chapbook
Purchase: www.budurl.com/MotherChapbook

Reviewed by Kristin Johnson, founder of The Warrior Poet Project


What relationship is more complex or more elemental than the mother-child bond? Abraham Lincoln said, 'All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.' Toni Morrison wrote, 'Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What's that suppose to mean? In my heart it don't mean a thing.'

Both of those quotes, as well as one by Honore de Balzac at the beginning of SHE WORE EMERALD THEN, perfectly describe this collection of poems by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and Magdalena Ball---poetry that catches at your soul. Both of them reprise their poems from Ball's QUARK SOUP, Howard-Johnson's Tracings, and their joint collection, Cherished Pulse. Fans of Cherished Pulse will be pleased to learn that the poets continue to write poems that don't sound either like banal Hallmark cards or the bitter-at-dysfunctional-family jeremiads that habitually torture MFA writing workshop participants.

The two poets complement each other (with words accompanied by stunning photography by May Lattanzio). The opus covers both the grand sweep of the birth of all universal life and the private universe populated by only an adult daughter watching her mother struggle to eat dinner and remembering how her mother washed her one slip.

While Ball explores the cosmic continuum and traces us all back to the mother spark that set the stars burning, Howard-Johnson concentrates her portraiture on the deeply personal. But Ball also talks about the oxytocin haze of giving birth and her mother vomiting from cancer drugs. To quote the last poem in the collection, 'Hallmark Couldn't Possibly Get This Right.' When you read about the tough love of the universe or Ball's sienna childhood photograph or Howard-Johnson's mother forgetting her name, you want to cry and hug your mother (and your children, if you have them), because they capture the eternal tug of war between joy and sorrow in the mother-child bond."
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Kristin Johnson is a poet, author, screenwriter and founder of the Poet Warrior Project, http://poetwarriorproject.blogspot.com

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