This week as many people think about mothers and motherhood (Mother’s Day in the U.S. is Sunday, May 13) I wanted to feature mothers who are writers. I asked a few mother/authors to share a few thoughts on how those two parts of their lives work together. The first Q&A below is with Glenis Redmond, a poet and extraordinary woman I met when I still lived in South Carolina. She writes and teaches poetry around the country.
1) I am a poet mama
2) I am on the road performing and teaching poetry six to seven months out of the year.
3) Art/poetry is part of our faith
Fortunately I had help and did not do it all alone; the girl’s paternal grandmother, Sara Sherer was an active grandparent and took care of Amber and Celeste, while I traveled. During Q&A’s people would ask me how I could leave my children. I never saw it as leaving them. I went to work, so that we could have the necessities in life. So, they could also see what is like to see a woman, their mama, live her dream, so consequently they would live their own.
My poetic walk in life, I believe has influenced my daughters; Celeste is a visual artist who creates amazing work about her bi-racial heritage and Amber (Maya Amber) is named after Maya Angelou and is a powerful poet in her own right. We are a tight-knit family, we have our moments of tension, like most families, but mostly, we understand each other literally and spiritually. We are soul mates. Usually it is two against one though, because as twins, they are more mated to one another. Yet, they are the two people on the planet that I like spending most of my time, because they are stellar individuals, as well as thoughtful and kind.
What is the most creative thing you’ve done to create writing time? I carved out space for my writing time. When the girls were young. I set aside Thursday as my poetry day. They were in school, but I made that commitment to myself. I took that time seriously; therefore everyone around me did too. Every other year, I also went away for three weeks to the Vermont Studio Center or the Atlantic Center for the Arts to concentrate on my growth as a writer. Throughout motherhood, (my whole life really) I also kept a journal. The most creative thing I did was to create venues and spaces for others to write and perform. I created the first poetry slam in Greenville, South Carolina.
How has being a parent informed your writing? When I became pregnant with Amber and Celeste, my creativity sprung back to life. It was as if carrying them reminded me of my creative life force. Many of my early poems began as lullabies that I would sing to the girls at bedtime. I use to sing a song, “Magical is My Mother” when Amber and Celeste were babies. I am sure “Mama’s Magic” which was created seven years later was inspired by that nighttime song.
Do you write specifically for your children? Yes, I have written poems for them and about them. It is totally organic. One act mixes into the other: parenting and poetry. They feel one in the same. The girls have accused me of writing novels in their birthday cards. I can’t help it. My love over flows, I have so much to say.
In other words do/did you write stories, poems for them? Yes, from the time that they were infants until now. Therefore, the content and subject matter has shifted over the years. I write about my celebration and struggles as a poet-mama.
What stories or books about mothers (or featuring mothers) are among your favorites? My favorite book in regard to this subject is Alice Walker’s In Search of Mother’s Garden. It helped me as both a parent and writer. It made me realize that I am connected to a line of black women since the beginning of time that have done what it takes/took to raise children in the best way that they/we know how.
I am blessed and fortunate to poetically raise my daughters. That book also handed me Zora Neale Hurston. Up to then, I had not known of her. Though Zora was not a mother, she was a fierce woman making her way in her world with much talent, pluck and style. She carved a way and I am doing my best to carve my own way in the world. I hope Amber and Celeste will one day think that I have given them what they need to make their own way out in the world as fierce women.
“Little Blue Eye Glasses” a poem by Louise Erdrich made a powerful impact on me as a mother.
Little Blue Eye Glasses
Little blue eyeglasses,
I give you the honored task
of assisting my youngest daughter
in her work, which is to see not only
general shapes but specific details
and minute variations in the color and texture
of objects ranging from immense
(Ocean. Sky.) To very tiny.
(Invertebrate hidden at the edge of carpet)
Little blue eyeglasses,
I charge you with the solemn responsibility
of depth perception. Guide her steps
through dim corridors
and allow her to charge down
the staircase into my arms
without injury. Above all,
little blue eyeglasses,
train her eyes upon the truth
and let her eyes rest in the truth
and help her see within the truth the strength
to bear the truth.
What are you looking forward to this year as a mother and as a writer? Most definitely to see my daughters continue to blossom into beautiful young adults – flower in their own unique talents. I hope to see them stand their ground as confident fierce blooms letting no one block their growth toward the light of their own futures.
Since they are still in college and very busy too, I look forward to our time spent together. Because at this stage in life it is all voluntary on their part. I’m just blessed that they still choose to spend time with me. I look forward to hearing what they have to say. Celeste called me a few weeks a go to tell me she is working a quilt for an art project. Amber and I worked on one of her amazing poems that she sent out for publication a few months back. These creative acts please me. I know their souls are well and they are on their own creative paths.