Jenn Givhan (poetry ’15) talks to Angela Narciso Torres (poetry ’09) about overhauling the word “mother,” ideas of empathy poetics, and her new poem, “Lila,” in New England Review 40.2.
Behind the Byline
Angela Narciso Torres: In a recent interview, you talked about developing your own “poetics of motherhood”—something you explore in your first book, Landscape with Headless Mama, and beyond. In “Lila,” the characters are a mother and a daughter coming of age. While the mother is more of a “supporting character,” she is clearly a huge part of this daughter’s identity—her nurturing, her superstitions and religious beliefs, even her loving chiding at the end—providing a kind of protective shell for the daughter to push against as she comes into her own. How has your own daughterhood, and, more recently, your motherhood changed or influenced your poetics?
Jenn Givhan: I’m struggling to find time to answer these questions (let alone work on any of my writing projects) this summer, as both kids have been home with me all day (I teach online classes from home as an adjunct), and it seems the older they get, the more attention they need. Perhaps there’s something about motherhood poetics encompassed within this dilemma, within the chaos of my fuzz-addled and exhausted mother brain.
In Landscape with Headless Mama, readers might expect that the mother figure is primarily my mom, and that I am primarily the daughter, but this is not the case. Throughout the entire collection there exists blurring of voices and perspectives, and I think that blurring between mother/daughter is what most encapsulates my poetics