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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > April 2019 > Life stages

Life stages

Three new collections address birth, decay, and our tenuous relationship with the natural world

After Birth

Elizabeth Ross

Palimpsest Press

Braille Rainbow

Mike Barnes


What We Carry

Susan Glickman

Signal Editions

AS THE TITLE indicates, After Birth focuses on the complicated feelings a woman experiences both during and after childbirth, and it also comprises intergenerational concerns, such as a mother taking her children to visit her own aging parents. Ross has a facility for wonderful twists that capture the vagaries of real life with all its joys and disappointments. The first poem, “One in a Series,” describes the speaker’s feelings in extremely difficult labour. It sets the tone, and what a tone it is: “I wanted to shit the bed, / wanted the honesty of it, // not the pain chart’s smiley-to-sad face portraiture.”

Once the baby arrives, the pain and fear do not disappear. They simply shift focus into childrearing. Ross thrusts the reader into ordinary life and its bodily functions. In “Weaning,” for example, “Snot glows in your left nostril, / you wheeze, eyes red with tears.” Or in “Lice,” the mother cleans her daughter’s head after getting a note from the school: “I’m the best / mother, picking you clean, / but can’t bring myself to squish them.”

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About Quill & Quire

Poetry and process: A roundtable with Karen Solie, Doyali Islam, and Matthew Walsh; Bringing kids into the FOLD; Libraries take on the Big Five