Part I: Rage
By Joy Katz
This is the first installment of a series on the subject of poetry and motherhood.
It is not, I promise, a forum for gratuitous cute kid pix, but — by way of introduction — here is my son, Chance, age 16 months. He's central to my thoughts in this space, so I felt you should admire him. More truthfully, I hope you might, by dint of the picture, imagine how madly I love him. That way, when I talk about the link between poetry, motherhood, and rage, you won't be alarmed.
Rage being a possible portal to violence. Violence and motherhood? That's not what I mean; don't click your browser button.
Since we adopted Chance, when he was three months old, I have felt, in rare moments, an extreme kind of rage. I've never had to suppress a stronger feeling. It happened most often when I put him down to nap after a long morning and he woke up screaming a few minutes later.
It was connected with exhaustion, but why the Spear of Rage appeared isn't important. This isn't a forum for self-analysis.
The magnitude of the feeling was humbling, awe-inspiring, surely a form of the sublime Thomas Jefferson talks about*. I'm interested in the suppression of rage, in the very human act — maybe we're at our most human in these moments — of controlling such feelings, of not acting out of them. I can imagine a poem about this. A poem about rage but that also somehow rages, so the reader could feel (or I could feel, in the reading of it) a trace of the feeling I'm talking about.
I can't find any poems like this. There are great hate poems. There are poems of anger, there are angry poems, great angry poets (and many many not-great). There are poems that make mention of rage. There are poems of outrage, of course: I don't find outrage interesting at all. Perhaps dance and painting are more natural forums for the most unwieldy feelings. It's easy to imagine a rageful piece by Mark Morris (best of all, it would surely also be witty). I sense something more than outrage or anger in Kara Walker.
*I'm certain the rage is connected with the rapture of being a parent.