It Really Is a Book!

posted in: Every Atom, The Journey | 22

Several years ago, I was writing poems and hoping that they were heading towards a book-length work. I had plans. I had a handful of poems that fit those plans. Then one evening, I was talking with my mother on the phone and she said, “When we hang up, can you call your father and tell him to come get me? I’m ready to go home now.”

My mother was home. My father had handed her the phone. I’d just talked with him.

As I hung up the phone, it felt as if my entire world had shifted a bit on its axis. Everything was in the same position, but the earth was spinning differently. I’ll admit that I didn’t, couldn’t, imagine in the slightest what that journey was going to be like. As my father tried to take care of my mother at home, through the visiting healthcare aides, into the dementia unit at the hospital, leading ultimately to her death, the experience was like navigating a mirror-maze from 4,000 miles away.

And throughout it all, I wrote. You have to understand – my mother and I, we weren’t close, we weren’t warm, we weren’t confidantes or friends. My mother and I had a difficult relationship. I remember one afternoon when I was a teen my mother told me, “I can love you without liking you.” To be fair, my mother had a horrible childhood that would have destroyed most people. That she was even a partially functional or loving person is a miracle. For my whole life, I had thought of her as the rock from which I pushed away into the stream of my life.

What happens when that rock is gone? Who does a mother become when she forgets her children? Who are you when your mother doesn’t remember you exist?

Writing was the only way I knew to investigate these questions, to learn how to live in this world with its new tilt, its new orbit. In a little less than six months, the book of poems that I wrote about my mother, about myself, about the way one navigates in a world knocked akilter, will be released by Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press. Every Atom is comprised of poems not only about dementia, but about what identity is and how malleable it can be. I am pleased to show you the cover, because I think that the designers at Red Hen have really created something evocative and reflective of the poems, and of that time for me.

I’ll be writing more in the next six months about the book, about the process that created it, about the title and its nod to Walt Whitman, but right now, I just want to tell you that it’s real. It’s a book. I’m immensely proud of it, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Here are a few ways that you can stay in the loop:

  • If you write reviews and want an Advanced Reader Copy, please drop me a note through the email link on the Me, Here page.
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Otherwise stay tuned right here and let me know what you think about this incredible cover.

22 Responses

  1. Ruth Glenn

    Having gone through this with my mother I look forward to reading your poems. Wonderfully representative cover of the process of dementia with memories just floating away. It also captures the creative process of ideas coming into fruition.

  2. I’m sorry to hear that, Ruth. I know how hard it is, and how hard it continues to be even when they’re gone.

  3. Kathryn Carssow

    Fantastic! Congratulations! Looking forward to reading it and even more to hearing you read from it – I hope.

  4. Thank you, Kathy!

  5. Jeanne Clark

    Woot! Woot! I am thrilled to hear this news & can hardly wait until April!!!

  6. Aw, thanks, Jeanne!

  7. You just knocked me over with that rock metaphor. And with that, I can tell this collection is going to be powerful. I look forward to reading it. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  8. Susanne Ratcliffe Wilson

    I look forward to reading “Every Atom” – what an evocative cover! Can I pre-order it?

  9. Meredith

    What’s great news! I can’t wait to read it.

  10. Thank you!

  11. It is available at Amazon for pre-order, or I bet the local bookstore would do so as well!

  12. Aw thanks, Kim. I look forward to your first book!

  13. So evocative. The woman looks young and old at the same time. The image of thoughts and memories as birds that take flight has me chocked up. So happy for you. So proud to know ya. T.

  14. Lillien Waller

    So many congratulations, Erin! I can’t wait to read it. And this, so perfectly put: “What happens when that rock is gone? Who does a mother become when she forgets her children? Who are you when your mother doesn’t remember you exist?” Still pondering, and writing about, those very questions.

  15. I am so very happy for you! I look forward to this book and will look to see how/where to preorder. Your words: “You have to understand – my mother and I, we weren’t close, we weren’t warm, we weren’t confidantes or friends. My mother and I had a difficult relationship.” I could have uttered the very same line. My mom passed in February, a day before my birthday, and while I remained the “dutiful daughter,” I felt an enormous relief when she crossed over, like somehow this passing would take her to a more peaceful place. She was fire in life and her final days mirrored that angst. I know your book will touch many of us who have encountered the passing of parents both beloved and “not so much.” I hope I am on all of your lists, Erin. I receive your newsletter and I follow you on Instagram. Please let me know if I need to subscribe to an additional list where you’ll “be writing more in the next six months about the book and the process that created it.” I was a little confused by that in the newsletter. Again, brava!!

  16. Thank you, Tina. I know this subject is your own as well. I’m so lucky to have such amazing poets such as you in my life.

  17. Thank you, Lillien. One could ponder these questions for a lifetime and not find the answers.

  18. Hi Sue Ann, I just checked my newsletter list and you weren’t on it, but now you are! Our relationships with our mothers are such complicated things. Let’ stay in touch!

  19. Debra Adams

    Looking forward to reading your work. We are in the late stages of Alzheimer’s with my husband. I am sure your poems will speak to much of what has happened in my home. Congratulations on the writing.

  20. Susanna Marquette

    After a “long goodbye” (dementia-died 2012) with my mother, I look forward to your inspiration to further digest my feelings/relationship.

  21. Dear Debra,
    I am sorry to hear that you and Ken are walking this hard hard road. I will hold you in my thoughts.
    take care,
    Erin

  22. Dear Susanna,
    How multifaceted are our relationships with our mothers. I hope the book will give you a new slant from which to look.
    take care,
    Erin

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