“I hurt all over,/ I am so loved” are the last two lines of my first book. I wrote the book at the beginning of my marriage and titled it “Mystery School.” I thought of the poems as diving into the profound mystery of a woman’s experience as wife, mother, bearer of both life and death. It was easy to think, as I was writing the poems, that the sadness I felt haunting my young family was the loss of my first pregnancy and the loss of my family of origin. It’s only years later, with the manuscript still unpublished, that I wrote a comic to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and I understand “the problem” causing the deep dissatisfaction running under and through the poems I wrote as a young wife and mother. One of the poems, “Still Life of a Carpet Moth,” ends on this image of neglected and thwarted potential, “the shriveled sapling/ our landlords planted/ before they left.” I offer this introduction, and the retitling of my book “Mystique School,” as an offering of hard-won clarity for the reader. In “Mystery School,” I thought the love of family would reveal to me the meaning at the center of my life, and it is only years later that I realize to my great frustration that love is only almost enough. I believed that if I had love an d a family I would be fulfilled. I didn’t realize, or accept, the point of Friedan’s book, that in devoting myself solely to my family I was ignoring the “work in which [I could] grow as part of society.” I still believe that the love of my husband and children has strengthened me and given me a deeper understanding and love for the human. But love is not the sum of my potential.
Circe, by Wright Baker "One day you simply appeared in your stupid boat," "Circe/ Mud Poems," Margaret Atwood, from You Are Happy I was alerted to this poem series by Estella Lauter's great chapter, "Margaret Atwood: Remythologizing Circe" from Women as Mythmakers. If you have the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, there is an excerpt in Vol. 2. And here is some interesting discussion of the text as well.