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Poem of the Week: 'I Stop Writing the Poem' by Tess Gallagher


I stop writing the poem
to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I’m still a woman.
I’ll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I’ll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there’s a shirt, a giant shirt
In my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it’s done.

Taken from a collection of poetry about motherhood, this poem considers the role of a woman. Both a poet and a mother, the speaker performs her wifely duties, setting aside her poetry for later. However as she does this, she finds herself aware that she is being watched by her daughter, learning from her, following her example. This poem therefore explores the impact mothers have on their children, and forces the reader to consider the duty, therefore, for women to act in certain ways. The speaker does not resent doing laundry, even implying she chooses to do it out of her feminine ‘tenderness’, but there is still a sense of duty. The poem ending is almost sinister- will history repeat? Will the daughter grow up to set her own dreams, literary or otherwise, aside in favour of being a housewife? The moment is sweet, a mother passing down skills and the quality of tenderness down to her daughter, but cannot be read from a feminist perspective without a tinge of concern, causing this poem to linger on in the mind long after it is read.

This week's poem taken from Writing Motherhood: A Creative Anthology, available to purchase from our website here.

Blog entry by Clemmie Joly

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