Since finishing Amanda Moore’s debut collection Requeening, I’ve been trying to remember if I’ve read another book that hit me on so many different emotional registers. Part of it is the honesty with which Moore approaches some subjects it hasn’t traditionally been considered proper or polite to write about—like the challenges of nursing, or how parenting can occasionally be a nightmare. There’s also the metaphor of the collapsing beehive, and how that maps on to my own larger concerns about climate change and societal disruption. Then there are the poems about her own health, her cancer and its aftermath, and also the death of someone who’s never specifically named but who, from every indication in the poems, was incredibly important to Moore. There’s also a poem about killing a chicken, one about caring for her husband after he broke his leg, poems about killing insects which are not bees, and one about the collapse of her own hive. This book contains multitudes, is what I’m trying to say.
Before I tell you more, a quick reminder that in order to receive your early copy of Requeening, read along with the Poetry Book Club, and participate in our exclusive chat with Amanda Moore, you’ll need to subscribe by September 15!
Best of all, Moore approaches all of these subjects with language that is by turns delicate and direct. Look at these lines from “Palinode,” for example.
I barely remember those days but that they were terrible, sweaty, her body against mine and I rocked and cooed and begged and whispered our secret language, her scent clinging to me, a mayfly.
I don’t long for diaper bags, so many things I carry as I limped through the world, hobbled but prepared for anything.
I can no longer hear the echo: her shrieks from the backseat as I drove to daycare, which drove me to pull over and sob.
The palinode is a poem that retracts a view the poet had claimed in an earlier poem. While I don’t know Moore’s earlier work well enough to know if she specifically has a poem about the glories of motherhood, I think this poem works as a counter to the expectation that parents, especially mothers, are supposed to be constantly in bliss while doing the work of parenting.
This poem takes place on an airplane, and if you’ve ever seen the faces people make at mothers in particular when their babies are doing what babies do when they’re uncomfortable, then you’ll feel Moore’s sympathy for the mother and her own lack of desire to ever return to such a moment. “I barely remember” is one of the strongest turns of phrase here, because it’s both true (thanks, lack of sleep and heightened anxiety!) and because it pushes against the expectation that every moment with an infant is precious. Some of them aren’t. Some of them are straight crap, and it’s fine to acknowledge, and even to celebrate, that reality.
Even the form pushes back. The long lines are the antithesis of the sappy, greeting-card-esque rhyming, end-stopped couplets or quatrains that I associate with traditional poems about motherhood and angels and bucolic scenes where babies never cry or shit their diapers or do anything but sleep peacefully for an entire night. Okay, I’ve probably hammered on this too long, but my point is this: Amanda Moore writes about these subjects with honesty and grace and skill, and the resulting poems are wonderful to read.
I look forward to reading and discussing this collection first with our Poetry Book Club members, and then together with poet Amanda Moore. If you subscribe to the Rumpus Poetry Book Club by September 15, you’ll receive your early copy of Requeening, and will be invited to take part in our exclusive online chat with Amanda Moore in early November. I hope you’ll join us!