my hands/ dry folds of skin/ hold pass cook/ scrub organize/ mother to daughter/ daughter to mother/ your touch there/ your print left/ on the creak suck click tsk/ sound of seconds/ smoothed between us
—from “Backhand Through the Mother”
In this second collection of poetry, Backhand Through The Mother, poet Renee Norman, picks up several thematic threads from her first book, True Confessions (Inanna Publications, 2005), and weaves them into poems about mothering, aging and loss set amongst the cultural traditions of family and Judaism. Relationships between mothers and daughters are celebrated, deconstructed, and mourned, as the poems resonate with the slippage of time and the emptiness of hands once full and busy. From babyhood to adolescence to young adulthood, Norman writes about the poignancy of motherhood, set against her own aging and the illness, death, and widowhood of aging parents. She also writes hopefully and with some humour as she navigates her daughters’ growing pains, middle-age, her Jewish background, and the legacies our parents leave us.
“Renee Norman’s new book of poems, Backhand Through the Mother, engages the reader in evocative and provocative questions about the connections between memory and family, childhood and adulthood, past and present, feminism and motherhood, about the heart’s ecology that connects all of us in blood and imagination. In every poem Renee conjures a vivid sense of the mystery and wonder in the ordinary by inviting the reader to attend wisely and affectionately to the profound daily experiences that weave the fabric of our sturdy lives. Above all, Renee’s poetry sings with resilient hopefulness, honesty, and humour for living poetically in the world.”
—CARL LEGGO, poet and author of Growing Up Perpendicular on the Side of a Hill, View from My Mother’s House and most recently, Come-by-Chance.