Andrea Potos writes of relationships — and mothers
You reach an age when you discover that, no matter how hard you’ve tried not to, you’ve become more like your parents than you thought possible. And you wonder how that happens.
Poet Andrea Potos, in her new collection Her Joy Becomes, writes about her own mother — aging, becoming ill, not there any longer. The loss leaves a gap, until she catches herself doing the things her mother did, or is surprised by that familiar facial expression, or a memory surfaces. And she realizes that her mother hasn’t really left her after all.
Sometimes, I Notice
I may have become
my mother—wearing a soft
plaid blouse she would wear,
my mouth turning its corners into a smile
at small delights:
relief of the heating pad
on my spasmed back muscle,
a plate of homemade ravioli
from my neighbor two doors down.
How to explain the wholeness
I inhabit, as if I have learned how to abide
with her lost physical form,
and she and I are together, both of us
giggling, a sound suddenly
like the tinkling of ice cubes
in the tall glass of soda she enjoyed each night.
Potos divides Her Joy Becomes into two groups of poems. The first is about her mother — sewing together (or trying to), her mother’s illness, childhood dreams, and life after loss. The second part, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to be about mothers or relationships, at least at first glance. But it is. She writes about reading someone’s childhood memoir, or basketball, or apple picking. And she’s writing about poets when she remembers her mother loved Wordsworth, or that the anniversary of her death has arrived (again). And then she remembers something else she misses about her.
These poems are an invitation of the most personal kind. They’re an invitation to step inside a person’s heart and mind, and to experience those memories with her. And the memories become very tangible, and you’re suddenly thinking of your own mother. If this is grief, it is grief of a very different kind, almost an appreciation of what someone like a parent has meant to you and done for you.
Potos is the author of 10 poetry collections. Her poems have been featured in a considerable number of print and online literary publications, and several of her books have received Outstanding Achievement Awards in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. She’s also received the William Stafford Prize in Poetry from Rosebud Magazine and the James Heart Poetry Prize from the North American Review. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
Her Joy Becomes is a collection of quiet pictures, or slightly blurred photographs. And you’ll find yourself joining Potos and wandering around those pictures, touching a surface here or a kitchen counter there, and remembering.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
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