Elevate Difference

The Desires of Letters

In 1994, poet Bernadette Mayer published The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters, a collection of loosely structured and un-posted letters written over a nine-month period while she was a new mother in New York in 1979.

Now Laynie Browne, in The Desires of Letters, takes Mayer’s flowing style as muse and resonates profoundly with her own ruminations on motherhood and daily life. Author of nine collections of poetry, she uses her talents to describe the experience of motherhood and desire, which I find is often like trying to nail water to a brick. But she turns the brick to water.

When does it get easier (you ask). The answer is yes and not when. Since time has nothing to do with us now. We live in a timeless realm where the effect of difficulty is cumulative, like labor, not each event taken on its own. There is no tense one could call ‘later.’ Each tantrum or disaster formally speaking is returning home to feel an outing has been successful, no matter how humble, to buy milk for instance, if everyone is still alive.

As a writer and a mother with young children, I often find it difficult to connect to voices so far removed from the disjointed and often surreal world my children and I inhabit. But in The Desires of Letters I felt at home. Taking the writing, the experience of being a writer, then wrapping it around the children and their needs, and the day to day that translates in such a different way than it did as a singular person who was not so bundled in with other human voices.

Naomi Stadlen, in her 2004 work titled What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing said that, “Mother’s live in a universe that has not been accurately described. The right words have not been coined. Using habitual vocabulary sends us straight down the same… footpaths. …There are whole stretches of motherhood that no one has explored.”

Laynie Browne has offered a beautiful new step toward this exploration.

Written by: Jen Wilson Lloyd, October 4th 2010