Red Hen Roundup: Motherhood

Red Hen Press
8 min readMay 8, 2023

By Lizzy Young

Mother’s Day is coming up! Fortunately for you, Red Hen has published many fantastic authors and their thoughts on motherhood. Look no further than this list for a Mother’s Day gift to thank a mom in your life.

pink cover with a sketch of a little girl wearing a short dress with white spots looking at a mirror in her hand. dark blue text says the title over the girls head, the author’s name under her feet, and “Poems of Motherhood” in slightly smaller text to the left of her feet

I Wore This Dress Today for You, Mom by Kim Dower

A rich, complex, heartbreaking, and funny anthology of poems on motherhood — being one and having one.

Kim Dower’s poetry has been described by the Los Angeles Times as “sensual and evocative . . . seamlessly combining humor and heartache,” and by O Magazine as “unexpected and sublime.” Acclaimed for combining the accessible and profound, her poems about motherhood are some of her most moving and disarmingly candid. I Wore This Dress Today for You, Mom is an anthology of her poems on being a mother — childbirth to empty nest — as well as being a daughter with all the teenaged messiness, drama and conflict, to finally caring for one’s mother suffering from dementia. Culled from her four collections as well as a selection of new work, these poems, heartbreaking, funny, surprising, and touching, explore the quirky, unexpected observations, and bittersweet moments mothers and daughters share. These evocative poems do not glorify mothers, but rather look under the hood of motherhood and explore the deep crevices and emotions of these impenetrable relationships: the love, despair, joy, humor and gratitude that fills our lives.

Order Dower’s thoughts on motherhood here!

A sepia image featuring an illustrated woman in flight, wearing a long white dress that dissolves into a flock of birds. Black text states “Flutter, Kick, Poems by Anna V.Q. Ross.” A laurel designation announces this book as a Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award Winner.

Flutter, Kick by Anna V.Q. Ross

Anna V. Q. Ross plumbs motherhood, migration, childhood, and the cycles of violence and renewal that recur in each. These are poems of math homework and police sirens, where a fox pops out of a fairy tale to dig up the back yard, NPR News spirals the evening carpool into memories of girlhood and trauma, and a city gas leak conjures xenophobic backlash against refugees. In poems of reclamation and warning, Flutter, Kick brings us to the center of our world — a place where “in those days, we were fast and best, but didn’t know it” — with a compassion learned of anger, memory, and joy.

Order at this link!

Cover shows a woman from the torso up looking upwards. The woman is wearing a tanktop. Behind her are green maple leaves.

Breaking Into Air by Emily Wall

What’s been whispered in the aisles of grocery stores, and over glasses of wine between women, is now brought forward into the bright air of poems: this is the story of how I gave birth. Moments of fear, stories of deep loss, gratitude for those who help, surprise at one’s own body: the women telling these stories share honestly what it’s like to be at the center of one of the most powerful human experiences.

Poet Emily Wall began collecting birth stories after the birth of her third child, Lucy. She realized that women were always quietly sharing their stories — in living rooms with a mug of tea, or whispered at the preschool playground. She saw the intensity with which women listened to each other’s stories. They were shared, remembered, retold, but not collected, not treated as the art form they are. Wall began asking for, and collecting birth stories: women sent her emails, handed her their journals, and recorded their own voices. She collected stories from a lesbian couple, a story from an indigenous father who is fighting for his language, and a story from a grandmother. Some of the stories are about difficult and painful births: a woman who had a miscarriage, a woman unable to get pregnant. And some of the stories are beautiful: a birth in water that happened exactly as the mother dreamed it would. Wall has taken these stories and shaped them into poems, and then into this collection, offering the reader a look into the story that women, for centuries, have been quietly sharing with each other.

Grab a copy of Wall’s collection for yourself and your mom here.

A vintage graphic of a woman in a yellow apron with a wolf merged with her and black script that reads Animal Wife stories by Lara Ehrlich.

Animal Wife by Lara Ehrlich

Animal Wife is composed of fifteen stories unified by girls and women seeking liberation from family responsibilities, from societal expectations, from their own minds. They address the complexities of transitioning from innocence to experience and take on the anxiety of motherhood. The majority of the stories are set in an off-kilter version of our world, where the fantastical can exist side by side with — and reveal the absurdities of — the mundane. They often include monsters, mothers, and monstrous mothers.

Ehrlich’s short story collection is available here!

A photograph of a white sand beach with a woman standing on the left covering herself with a large piece of fabric and blue script towards the right that reads Tea by the Sea a Novel by Donna Hemans.

Tea by the Sea by Donna Hemans

A baby taken from her mother at birth, an Episcopal priest with a daughter whose face he cannot bear to see, a mother weary of searching for her lost child: Tea by the Sea is their story — that of a family uniting and unraveling. To find the daughter taken from her, Plum Valentine must find the child’s father who walked out of a hospital with the day-old baby girl without explanation. Seventeen years later, weary of her unfruitful search, Plum sees an article in a community newspaper with a photo of the man for whom she has spent half her life searching. He has become an Episcopal priest. Her plan: confront him and walk away with the daughter he took from her. From Brooklyn to the island of Jamaica, Tea by the Sea traces Plum’s circuitous route to finding her daughter and how Plum’s and the priest’s love came apart.

Support local bookstores and order Hemans’ novel here!

A starry sky as the background with a design of a boy sitting in wheelchair that dissolves towards the bottom into math equations and blue scrip that reads Like Wings, Your Hands a novel by Elizabeth Earley.

Like Wings, Your Hands by Elizabeth Earley

Kalina, born in Bulgaria and now living in Boston, has always been a spiritual seeker. Her fourteen-year-old son, Marko, who has spina bifida and is partially paralyzed, shares her curiosity about larger metaphysical questions, but also has his own unique perspective on life: Marko perceives numbers as having colors, shapes, and textures — and they’re linked to emotions: embarrassment, for example, is fourteen; satisfaction is sixty-seven.

Kalina is determined to respect her son’s dignity and privacy as he embarks on the new terrain of adolescence, complicated as it is by his continued physical dependence on her care. She has other issues to wrestle with as well, including coming to understand her own life choices and her strained relationship with her father. Meanwhile, Marko, already expert at deep meditation, discovers a technique that allows him to experience a sense of boundlessness and also gain surprising insights into himself, his mother, and the grandfather he’s never met.

Order Earley’s beautiful novel at this link.

A cream background with a woman’s face in black and white that turns into birds flying away towards the top, and black script that reads Every Atom poems by Erin Coughlin Hollowell.

Every Atom by Erin Coughlin Hollowell

Across distance, the speaker of these poems wrestles with the way her mother’s loss of memory changes the narrative between them. By interrogating the past, fissures in language, and the vagaries of identity, the speaker comes to a recognition that we are all more alike in our humanity than we are different.

Order Hollowell’s collection here.

A photograph of a beach at sunset and a boys face at the center with white script that reads Glorious Boy a novel by Aimee Liu.

Glorious Boy by Aimee Lu

What will it take to save Ty? This is the question that haunts Claire and Shep Durant in the wake of their four-year-old’s disappearance. Until this moment, Port Blair’s British surgeon and his young wife, a promising anthropologist, have led a charmed life in the colonial backwaters of India’s Andaman Islands — thanks in part to Naila, a local girl who shares their mysteriously mute son’s silent language. But with the war closing in and mandatory evacuation underway, the Durants don’t realize until too late that Naila and Ty have vanished. While Claire sails for Calcutta, Shep stays to search for the children. Days later, the Japanese invade the Andamans, cutting off all communication. Fueled by guilt and anguish, Claire uses her unique knowledge of the islands’ tribes to make herself indispensable to an all-male reconnaissance team headed back behind enemy lines. Her secret plan: rescue Shep and Ty. Through the brutal odyssey that follows, she’ll discover truths about sacrifice that both shatter and transcend her understanding of devotion.

Grab a copy of Aimee’s incredibly written novel here.

A white woman in a red dress sits on a chair. A white dove in her hand covers her face, while the other hand is on fire. The text reads: “What Small Sound poems by Francesca Bell.”

What Small Sound by Francesca Bell

Francesca Bell’s second collection of poems, What Small Sound, interrogates what it means to be a mother in a country where there are five times as many guns as children; female in a country where a woman is raped every two minutes; and citizen of a world teeming with iniquities and peril. In poems rich in metaphor and music and unflinching in their gaze, Bell offers us an exacting view of the audiologist’s booth and the locked ward as she grapples with the gradual loss of her own hearing and the mental illness spreading its dark wings over her family. This is a book of plentiful sorrows but also of small and sturdy comforts, a book that chronicles the private, lonely life of the body as well as its tender generosities. What Small Sound wrestles with some of the broadest, most complicated issues of our time and also with the most fundamental issue of all: love. How it shelters and anchors us. How it breaks us and, ultimately, how it pieces us back together.

Hot off the presses, Francesca Bell’s latest poetry collection was published May 9! Available now!

Give your mom flowers, and preorder this collection so she can enjoy a Mother’s Day gift in October!

A photograph of black and white hands holding a violet flower. Below the photograph is the text: “Floriography Child: A memoir in poems: Lisa C. Krueger”

Floriography Child by Lisa C. Krueger

Written in memoir form through the language of flowers, this book of poems examines a daughter’s chronic illness in order to consider the vastness of human connection.

Floriography Child is a book about salvation: what gives people strength in the face of adversity, not just to endure, but to move through and beyond our myriad human sufferings. Through poems, micro-essays, and visual art, Floriography Child addresses fundamental questions about purpose, connection, and resilience. Written in memoir form, this book examines the mother-daughter relationship and its intimacies in the context of a daughter’s developing chronic illness. How to bear another’s suffering — how to find sustenance in a world fraught with uncertainty and pain — is addressed through the language of flowers and the natural world. Ultimately, this book asks us to consider how each of us, whatever our path, is connected.

Preorder it now!

We loved highlighting some of our incredible titles about motherhood, and hope that you were able to find the perfect Mother’s Day gift!

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Red Hen Press

Nonprofit independent literary publisher aiming to amplify unheard and underrepresented voices and improve literacy in schools. www.redhen.org