Interview about Waiting to Unfold at Love, InshAllah

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My thanks are due to the editors at Love, InshAllah who have published an interview with me along with some very kind words about Waiting to Unfold!

Love, InshAllah is the blog associated with the book by the same name, Love, InshAllah: the Secret Love Lives of Muslim Women, an excellent collection of essays which I am delighted to have on my bookshelf. Here's an excerpt from the interview, which just went live:

LA: In Waiting To Unfold, you write about pregnancy, the birth of your son, and parenting during that first year. One day, he will go back and read this. Do you envision this moment and his response?

RB: It’s strange and wonderful to think of our son someday being old enough to read these poems. I hope that when he reads them, he sees them as a labor of love — and I hope he sees that even when I was struggling with postpartum depression, my love for him was always present and always real.

The title comes from one of the poems in the book — “Belief,” which speaks about my belief in redemption: belief that spring would comes after that long winter, and that the antidepressants would restore to me the laughter and the sense of self I remembered from my life before. That phrase, waiting to unfold, felt to me like a metaphor for so many things: the embryo curled inside the uterus, a plant curled inside a seed, my heart...

You can read the whole piece here: The Poetry of Motherhood: Waiting to Unfold. Thank you, Love, InshAllah editors!

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Waiting to Unfold costs $13.95 (US, CAN) / £9.10 / €10.66 and is available at Phoenicia Publishing and on Amazon (and Amazon UK and Amazon Europe) -- though publisher and author earn more if you buy it directly from Phoenicia. Still: buy it wherever works for you.


Waiting to Unfold is part of the Ask Moxie Summer Readalong

I've been reading Ask Moxie for years -- certainly since our son was a newborn, if not before. I can't tell you how many times I turned to Moxie for calm, understanding wisdom and perspective when I was struggling during that first year. (Thank God for her archived posts about infants and sleep!) So I'm thoroughly chuffed to be able to announce that Waiting to Unfold is one of her picks for her summer readalong!

Here's what she says about the book:

May: Waiting To Unfold by Rachel Barenblat. This book is two cycles, one of pregnancy, and one of the first year after her child's birth. The poems have that same "Oh! I'd forgotten about how beautiful/hard/sad/quiet/fierce that was" quality that all true stories about the first year of parenthood do, and made me laugh and tear up a little and feel nostalgic and sad for new mothers everywhere. Rachel blogs at Velveteen Rabbi. Discussion post will go up May 29.

The other books she's chosen for the summer look fabulous too: Tulips, Water, Ash by Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet; American Sublime by Elizabeth Alexander; and Far From Luck by Charles O'Hay. I've just picked up all three, and look forward to discussing them with other Ask Moxie readers.

You can find her post about it here: Ask Moxie: Summer Readalong.

Thank you so much, Magda! For your fabulous parenting blog, and your work in the world, and for introducing your readers to my new book of motherhood poems.

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Waiting to Unfold costs $13.95 (US, CAN) / £9.10 / €10.66 and is available at Phoenicia Publishing and on Amazon (and Amazon UK and Amazon Europe) -- though publisher and author earn more if you buy it directly from Phoenicia. Still: buy it wherever works for you, I'm just happy that people want to read it!


Praise for Waiting to Unfold - from Beth Adams

Beth Adams, who is a dear and longtime friend and is also my publisher at Phoenicia, has shared an incredibly generous and gracious post about Waiting to Unfold on her blog The Cassandra Pages. Here's part of that post:

These are poems about pregnancy, birth and early parenthood, but again, she doesn't take the expected route. The poems, written as letters to her unborn son and then as a sort of poetic journal of the first year of his life, take an unflinching look at the difficulties as well as the joys of motherhood. I'm not a parent myself, but I've often observed that parents, and mothers especially, are under tremendous pressure to feel and to say that everything is rosy, even perfect, when in fact the experience is often quite mixed. A lot of women who give birth find themselves finally admitted to the secret club of motherhood, where it's almost as if they have to sign a pledge not to reveal the darker side.

Rachel had a miscarriage before she gave birth to her son; that experience and that unborn child are not forgotten, but woven into her poems about this subsequent pregnancy as he writes of her worries as well as her anticipation. And after the birth, she experiences and is treated for post-partum depression, eventually emerging from that cloud. The majority of the poems are celebratory, joyful, funny, and above all, honest. Like all of Rachel's work, I found them very accessible, and -- like the author herself -- imbued with a deep spirituality that's always present but never overbearing.

She also writes about how we met, and about other creative projects on which we've been blessed to collaborate. Read the whole thing: Waiting to Unfold at The Cassandra Pages.

Waiting to Unfold: $13.95 (US, CAN); £9.10 UK; €10.66 EUROPE. Buy it on Amazon, or at the publisher's website (author and publisher earn substantially more if you go through the Phoenicia page, but do what's best for you!)

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The perfect Mother's Day gift...

WaitingToUnfold-smallThe ever-reliable Mother's Day Central tells me that in the United States, Mother's Day is May 12. Turns out that's also true in a lot of other places, among them Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, the Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. (There's a full list of nations at that Mother's Day Central link, as well as a list of other places and their dates. Paraguay and Poland both celebrate Mother's Day later in May. In Mongolia, it's June 1. Belarus, not until the fall. Things I never knew.)

If you're looking for a Mother's Day gift, kindly allow me to humbly suggest my new collection of poems, Waiting to Unfold. Of Waiting to Unfold, Naomi Shihab Nye says, "These rich poems will carry you into the great timeless miracle and mystery of unfolding littleness, nonstop maternal alertness, beauty and exhaustion and amazing, exquisite tenderness, oh yes."

Also, if you buy a copy, you'll be making my Mother's Day sweeter -- and in a way you're also giving a Mother's Day gift to my mom, because when my book reaches new readers, she gets to kvell too! (Okay, in all seriousness: more people buying this book will bring a smile both to my face and to my mom's, but I also think this collection of early-motherhood poems would be a meaningful Mother's Day gift for any mother, grandmother, or person who's played a maternal role in your life.)

The book costs a mere $13.95 (US, CAN); £9.10 (UK); €10.66 (Europe.) It's available on Amazon's various permutations, though I'd appreciate it if you'd consider purchasing it directly from Phoenicia's online store. Thanks for supporting independent publishing. (And if your mom digs the poems, please let me know!)


Announcing Waiting to Unfold, new from Phoenicia!

I could not be more delighted to announce this news:

Waiting to Unfold has been published by Phoenicia Publishing, and its launch date is today!

it costs a mere $13.95 (US, CAN) / £9.10 / €10.66 and is available at Phoenicia Publishing and on Amazon (and Amazon UK and Amazon Europe) -- though twice as much goes to publisher and author if you buy it directly from Phoenicia.

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Waiting to Unfold offers an unflinching and honest look at the challenges and blessings of early parenthood.

Poet and rabbi Rachel Barenblat wrote one poem during each week of her son's first year of life, chronicling the wonder and the delight along with the pain of learning to nurse, the exhaustion of sleep deprivation, and the dark descent into -- and eventual ascent out of -- postpartum depression.

Barenblat brings her rabbinic training and deep spirituality to bear on this quintessential human experience. She also resists sentimentality or rosy soft-focus. While some of these are poems of wonder, others were written in the trenches.

These poems resist and refute the notion that anyone who doesn't savor every instant of exalted motherhood deserves stigma and shame. And they uncover the sweetness folded in with the bitter.

By turns serious and funny, aching and transcendent, these poems take an unflinching look at one woman's experience of becoming a mother.

These rich poems will carry you into the great timeless miracle and mystery of unfolding littleness, nonstop maternal alertness, beauty and exhaustion and amazing, exquisite tenderness, oh yes. -- Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Fuel and The Words Under the Words

The intense observation of the poet and the intense observation of the mother unite in a celebration of what is new and newborn, what is intensely felt and cherished and what is lost and mourned. Rachel Barenblat's poems are easy to enter into, and they carry both the uniqueness of her persona as poet and serious Jew and the universality of love that has made us all. There's a subversive wit here too, -- a changing table that's also a throne of glory, or the baby chewing on his mother's tefillin -- that speaks to a newly emerging sensibility about what is reverent and what is holy. It's in the everyday as our best American poets have taught us, and as Rachel Barenblat teaches us in a new way too. -- Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus and the lowercase jew

In these remarkable poems Rachel Barenblat traverses the world of first-time parenthood with insight, generosity, rare courage. She shares first innocent awe, then unexpected darkness as a winter of the soul claims squatter's rights in the nursery, and finally, aching, yearning, growing toward hope, a relearning of holy presence in small things. We ascend and plummet on the rollercoaster with her, terror in the pit of the stomach, knuckles white, and then -- unparalleled joy. "Daily I expand how much I can love/ your toes, your cough, your raised eyebrow... Each day your glee polishes my rough edges/ and I shine[.]" New parents will be astonished that someone has found words for their deepest secrets, parents long past these early months will gratefully nod -- yes, I remember, this is true. -- Merle Feld, author of A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition and Finding Words

The book was designed by publisher Beth Adams; the cover art is a detail from "Creation," a mixed-media collage by the wonderful Mary Bullington.

Every book's launch feels a bit like a birth, but this one perhaps more than most. I'll have more to say later about the book and how it came into being, but for now, please join me in popping the cork on some virtual champagne.

And I hope you'll buy a copy for yourself -- for your mom (Mother's Day is coming soon in a lot of countries, including mine) -- for every pregnant woman you know -- for every parent you know, whether their kids are babies or senior citizens  -- for anyone you know who has struggled with depression  -- for anyone you know who loves poetry -- and for anyone you know who's interested in the implausible and amazing transformations entailed in a baby's first year of life, and a woman's first year of becoming something new.

(Phoenicia also published 70 faces in 2011. And they've published many other fantastic books of poetry, many of which I've reviewed here over the years. Support independent publishing! Buy copies for your friends!)


Merle Feld on Waiting to Unfold

I've just gotten another quote for the back of Waiting to Unfold, the poetry collection I'm blessed to have coming out later this spring from Phoenicia. I suspect the quote will be abbreviated for the book cover, but I wanted to share it here in full, because it's just so gracious and so lovely.

 

In these remarkable poems Rachel Barenblat traverses the world of first-time parenthood with insight, generosity, rare courage.  She shares first innocent awe, then unexpected darkness as a winter of the soul claims squatter's rights in the nursery, and finally, aching, yearning, growing toward hope, a relearning of holy presence in small things.  We ascend and plummet on the rollercoaster with her, terror in the pit of the stomach, knuckles white, and then – unparalleled joy.  "Daily I expand how much I can love/ your toes, your cough, your raised eyebrow… Each day your glee polishes my rough edges/ and I shine…"  New parents will be astonished that someone has found words for their deepest secrets, parents long past these early months will gratefully nod – yes, I remember, this is true. 

-- Merle Feld, author of A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition (SUNY Press, revised 2007) and Finding Words (URJ Press 2011)

 

I'm delighted that Merle -- whose work I have long admired -- has such kind things to say about my forthcoming book. Thank you, Merle! I'm particularly moved to hear Merle say that "new parents will be astonished that someone has found words for their deepest secrets" -- that's exactly how I felt when I was reading Heid E. Erdrich's The Mother's Tongue (specifically the series of poems called "Milk Sour") when I was new to motherhood and was struggling to name my welter of emotions.

I can't wait to be able to share this collection with all of y'all. Stay tuned for more.