To be a parent, means to give every ounce of your body, mind, and spirit to the very human being/s you brought into this world. Parents are the providers and sculptors of their children who will one day carry their legacy in all that they do. However, parenting can be a scary thing: a time consuming career away from your own career. To have children is both hard work and rewarding, as you witness your children grow up, date, get their drivers license, turn the horrifying twenty-one, and create their own identities. We can then only pray they make the right choices as they journey through life.
The question now being, how does one balance the act of writing and raising children? What does it mean to be both poet and parent? We asked three artists to respond to these questions and their stories are nothing but inspiring and heartfelt. Enjoy!
What do you do when who you are feels like a stranger? You stare at your body in the mirror and try to remember what it looked like before all the changes. You peel the strips of tape from your stomach and get a glimpse of the scar just below your bikini line for the first time. You think you’ll have something cleverer to say. You choke back tears and tell yourself, “I’m a poet,” so where are the fancy metaphors and word play to describe this feeling? The stanzas to articulate the moment you realize things will never be the same. Then you hear your child cry in the other room. Tell yourself there is no time for vanity or self pity, you suck it up and go into “mommy mode.” This is the first time you learn how to swallow yourself for his sake, but it is not the last.
Being a mother is something I always figured I would be pretty good at. When I first found out I was pregnant I had grand plans. I told myself I would go on tour. I would show everyone that being pregnant doesn’t stop you from following your dreams—and it didn’t. Being pregnant changed the types of dreams I follow now.
Just like anything, the first time is the hardest. The first time I saw my post-baby body in the mirror. The first diaper, the first feeding, the first sleepless night, all felt like my first open-mic. Sweaty palms and all, false confidence and a little voice in the back of my head that whispered, “I don’t know if I can do this.” But each day I did it. I realize that my son is the most beautiful thing I’ve created. My scar, like any heartbreak or traumatic experience is just the catalyst of something amazing for me to share with the world. Now I find myself making up songs to sing to him, writing him letters and daydreaming of what kind of man he’ll become. I’m finding ways to be creative even when I’m not compelled to write poems and learning how to be okay with that for the time being. I know he is going to inspire a totally different level of ambition and passion in the years to come.
Being a husband, a parent and an artist can feel like the most selfish act imaginable, and sometimes, it really is. It can seem so hard to disappoint complete strangers and minor acquaintances, and yet leaving my family to perform in some distant place is almost too easy. Eventually, I know they will forgive me, and that absolution is so easy to take advantage of, to think that it will always be there. But a life balance doesn’t exist if I am just taking time without asking or even talking about it with my family.
I realized that if this art was truly going to be worthwhile, I needed to share it with my family. I worked on getting a babysitter so my wife and I could go to shows together, I brought my kids to slams and my whole family to big events, I talked to them about the art I loved and eventually they started to dip their toes in it as well. I couldn’t just be an artist and a dad and husband, I needed to be an artistic dad, where the art was just an adjective. I didn’t need to write my wife love poems, I needed to live like we were in a poem. And the strangers, well… they can wait, or get mad, or move on. Maybe they’ll forgive me, but I don’t really need THEM to.
The experience of being an artist and a parent is to interact with what is most inventive about you, the most fragile about you, the most vulnerable about you, and the most hopeful about you. I didn’t know what kind of mother I would be and I didn’t know what kind of writer I would be. Both required submission and the will to dig down deep and extract the best parts of who I am. I am a mother to four wildly expressive and amazing children and most days I cannot believe they alchemized from my simple womb. Most days I cannot believe they chose me.
But they did. They did choose me. And the writing chose me. All of it feels incredibly ancestral and holy. It is the wildest joy and the deepest love. The mother is the widest door. A poet waits at the door, peers into the dark, writes down the ghosts.
I love the delicious dance between motherhood and authorship. I love that both get to happen in my handwriting. I love the poetry my children bring. And I had to figure out how to manage the mother that I am and the writer that I am. It didn’t come easily or even conveniently. I would posit that we are conditioned to think that when a woman becomes a mother, her life shifts dramatically to accommodate her children. She forgets what she was passionate about, her interests take a backseat to the needs of her children and I did those things when my children were very small. And it cost me a lot. It was necessary for me to honor the woman I was BEFORE I had the children, in order to parent the children powerfully and deliberately. Motherhood is not some walking epitaph to a dream deferred. It is, in fact, all the poetry the world needs to be good again.
Treesje Powers: Born and raised in the Inland Empire Treesje has performed for various colleges, churches, and community organization nationwide. Her poetry has been featured twice on the television series Verses & Flow, and was one of the first poets on Russell Simmons All Def Digital multi-genre YouTube channel. Treesje’s advocation to creative education and self expression is shared with the youth of southern California through her contributions to SayWordLA.org and LionLikeINC creative education programs. Treesje holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology from Spelman College, and Masters in School Psychology from Loyola Marymount University. When she is not performing spoken word, she continues to advocate for mental health, self-expression, and the education of our youth as a practicing School Psychologist in the Los Angeles County area.
Jesse Parent placed 2nd at both the 2010 and 2011 Individual World Poetry Slams, was a finalist at the 2012 Ontario International Poetry Slam and 2014 Ill List Invitational Poetry Slam, and was part of the 8th place Salt City Slam teams at the 2011 and 2012 National Poetry Slams. He has been on the 2007-2014 Salt City Slam teams, has served as SlamMaster and coach for Salt City Slam, and has served on the executive council for Poetry Slam, Inc. He has had his poetry featured on the Huffington Post, UpWorthy, TheBlaze.com, and WorldStarHipHop.com. In his personal life, he has a very tolerant wife and three adorable kids. You can find out more about Jesse at www.JesseParent.com
Dominique Christina, licensed educator and activist is the author of The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm: A Colored Girl’s Hymnal published by Penmanship Books. Dominique began participating in slam poetry in 2011, she won the National Poetry Slam Championship that year with her team Slam Nuba out of Denver. She has also been NUPIC Champ 2013, Southern Fried Champ 2013, and won the Women of the World Poetry Slam Championship in 2012 and 2014. She is presently the only person to win that award twice.Share: