ISBN: 978-1-59948-661-1, ~64 pages, $14
Release Date: December, 2017
Release Date: December, 2017
Deena November has edited two anthologies and has been published by Houghton Mifflin Co. and numerous other presses and journals including Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, Women Write Resistance, Keyhole Magazine, Mom Egg Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Her chapbook Dick Wad was published by Hyacinth Girl Press in 2012. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Carlow University where she then taught in the English and Women’s Studies programs. Deena teaches Creative Writing, Literature and Communications at Robert Morris University and The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online. She curates the Staghorn Poetry Series. Deena enjoys strolling through the gardens of Phipps with her toddlers and baby.
Mean Mama by Deena November tells the truth about motherhood, stripping away the pretty, expected, and sandblasting centuries of lies. She says: There is no returning to before… your body will never look or feel the same. She says… you imagine driving both you and her into a truck or steep guardrail and off a cliff. With unforgettable detail and hard-rock narrative, November rips a path for love, leaving us … bloody, vulnerable, and high. ~Jan Beatty, Jackknife: New and Selected Poems, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017
In Deena November’s debut book, Mean Mama, the poet gives us a gritty, scathingly funny and poignant view of post-modern motherhood. In Jewish-American culture, the “Woman of Valor” is the ideal, and November takes a blowtorch to those expectations. I admire the courage, humor, and unsparing detail as the poet shares the messy reality of “feeling guilty about everything” and the rocky path to self-acceptance. Highly recommended, especially for young mothers and for those who love them. ~Joan E. Bauer (author of The Almost Sound of Drowning)
The opening poem “Birthing” houses lines like “It will never be a small hole again,” and from this blunt, honest start its clear Mean Mama isn’t going to be a typical book about motherhood. These poems get to the raw, bloody mess, the dead-tired stink of motherhood. Deena November has created a speaker who knows she is different than the women who cover up when breastfeeding, the women who would never turn never their backs at the playground, the women who would never utter the words “Mezuzah” and “cock” in the same sentence—she defiantly moves through their world. ~Jennifer Jackson Berry, author of The Feeder
Motherhood can be lonely business and we rarely talk honestly about that. This is why I am so grateful for Deena November! In her raw and wonderful debut collection Mean Mama, November makes motherhood, in all its relentless beauty and terror, less lonely. November’s voice is a friend who’s not afraid to tell the hard truths. There’s much love here, but there’s also weeping and guilt and fury and meltdowns and humor and terror and isolation and confusion and too many sleepless nights to count. With Mean Mama, November takes her place alongside poets like Annie Mennebroker and Beth Ann Fennelly as a fierce and fearless witness to the intricate and joyful and sometimes devastating experience of motherhood. She is a glorious confidante for any mother, any parent, who has ever felt they’re in this alone. – Lori Jakiela, author of Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe
There will be blood, the Scottish nurse shouts to get the room full of rounded bellies and scared quiet men smiling nervously to her attention. She’s tasked with teaching you to birth and care for the small stranger you should love. Women have been giving birth forever. She says, That’s how we all got here. It’s too late to walk out. At your appointment you’re lying on a vinyl table, your feet resting in awkward stirrups. The doctor instructs, Open your legs wider…wider. Relax your knees. Two months later a baby’s soggy coned head is crowning out your hole. The hole you were always told was nice and tight and now the doctor is reporting 10 cm. It will never be the same. It will never be a small hole again, you think. The trauma of another human traveling through and breaking free will never hush after the whoosh of your water breaking. You kept asking, what if my water breaks but I don’t realize? In hindsight, stupid you, it’s an indistinguishable gush you’ve stored up in the fall, winter and now its spring, spilling out onto a white towel on an elevated hospital bed and there is no returning to before, you can’t just walk home. There is no returning to before, there is no returning, and your body will never look or feel the same. The doctor holds up this red scrunched up baby that will not cry and the nurse runs her to the warming bed. The doctor proudly shows you, your placenta, a veiny wet blooded alien and the short umbilical cord that attached you to a small, now crying prize and your first impulse is to shove it all back inside but you will never go back to just you again. After you stand for the first time and look back at the bed (the nurse said don’t look) but you can’t stop staring at the bed of blood soaked sheets and clots. And there is no way that could all be your blood. No one can ever prepare you for this.
When you are seven months pregnant
and haven’t slept in two days
you wake up to a life
kicking your ribs up and outward
from within your own body.
Conveniently, you have to pee
and there are five ungraded papers
tucked between your bulging belly
and your large veiny thighs.
The tiled floor is covered
by forty or more term papers
with illegible blue handwritten comments
instead of clean white margins.
You must carry your ridiculous self to bed
your arms bracing the dark hallway walls
like you are in the bowels
of some rocking shitty ship.
Back when Sandy was skinny
she ate lima beans and rice in front of the computer,
dropped grains between G and H keys,
had sweaty sex more than once
every night in her single bed.
Drank more, drank all the time, puked.
Her eyes became red, infected, almost blind.
But she quit the drink-
and-smoke life, the
Now uninsured, dark pixie hair
and skinny leg jeans,
9 weeks pregnant, unmarried,
not caring who knows.
Throwing up a big bowl