Motherhood & Words

Thank you all so much for your wonderful haiku! It has been such a relief to be able to step out of my book-induced stress haze and read your poetry! Thank you for your words!

Now I’m turning it over to the talented and fabulous Caroline Grant, Editor-in-Chief of Literary Mama, co-editor of Mama PhD and the judge of this year’s Mother Words’ Haiku Contest. Welcome, Caroline!! 


Mother Words Haiku contest: surprise!
When I was in third or fourth grade, my schoolteacher introduced us to Matsuo Basho’s haiku. We were all asked to choose one to illustrate, so I picked one about daffodils and copied it out in fancy script, surrounding the letters with flowers and a purplish Mt. Fuji looming in the background. I thought then, and thought for years afterward, that haiku had to be serious, had to be about the natural world, and — if I’d been honest with you — had to be dull.
I love that Kate hosts an annual Mother Words haiku contest because I can appreciate haiku now in a way I wasn’t able to when I was ten. It’s the perfect form for mothers, really. We spend so much time with our children, playing with and observing them, but in some profound ways we’re also left quite alone with our own thoughts (because after the first ten dozen games of Candyland, who’s really paying attention anymore?) We could let our minds wander to grocery lists and the movies we want to see — and of course often we do — but with this nudge from Kate, we can let our minds wander in a more creative way, distilling our days down to their essence, finding a way to make these moments funny or poignant, finding a way to translate these solitary moments into something universal. So I applaud all of the writers who entered the contest; you made it so hard for me, I wrote a haiku about it:
This morning’s challenge:
Judging a haiku contest
Hard to pick just one.
I’m drawn first to the funny ones, which happened to fall into two categories: toilet-related and not. For instance, Ironmom’s, which made me laugh out loud:
OK, diapers, sure.
But this is ridiculous.
There’s poop everywhere!
Or Suze’s haiku, called Sammy’s Take on Toilet Training, which took me right back to those days when my son would lurk behind the couch:
Oh! I’m not hiding.
I DON’T need to poop right now,
Stace-c and I share the same reaction to a diaper haz-mat situation:
Treasured baby wear,
After blowout, your new home
Is in garbage can.
Then in the funny but non-toilet related category we have Mary, who cracks me up with a title longer than the haiku:
“When Your 18 Year Old Shares the Blessed News at His High School Lunch Table”
A new baby now
So you and Dad still do it
My lunch crowd’s grossed out
Or Andrea’s:
Total silence from
Ultrasound technician, then,
“Did they suspect twins?”
Speaking of twins, Stace-c offers another:
Safety gates be damned!
Twins can open anything
Teamwork starts at birth.
Moving away from humor, I loved the haiku that made me nod (or wince) in recognition, like Patty’s:
Words snap from my mouth:
“Because I said so, that’s why!”
who have I become?
And Claire’s:
Who would have thought it?
Grocery shopping alone.
This old chore’s a gift.
And kqchristopherson’s:
Just one more minute
Please can I have attention?
Yes, my trying love
A couple writers contributed bittersweet haiku, like “Sluiter Nation,” who wrote:
depression sneaks in
warm and soft my baby boy
i don’t deserve him
And Pia:
My deep fear, Autism.
Isn’t as bad as I dreamed
My little man glows
And Merle targets childhood’s powerful emotions:
Daily five-year-old’s rage
leaves dead and wounded feelings.
Remorseful kisses.
As the editor of Mama, PhD (one of the prizes in this contest) of course I have to give props to Lara, whose haiku is titled Motherhood Surprise:
Redefine passion!
Ambassador skills advance
my new PhD
Some of my favorites capture a moment of family life, like this beautiful one, vivid as a photograph, from Francesca, titled “Lemonade Stand”:
Lunchtime, balmy day
Lemonade, rice krispy treats
Fifty cents a pop
Carrie submitted a set of four haiku that moves chronologically through her family’s transformation, and I particularly loved the second for its evocation of a time now passed in my family:
Attempt at homeschool
Toddlers, naked, too much fun
Roll in olive oil
But ultimately, my favorite is one that’s neither funny nor poignant but simply gets at the heart of what has been one surprise in motherhood for me: setting aside (sometimes far aside) a clean house and tidy spaces to join my children where they are, creatively, and finding such happiness there:
Give me board books strewn
and dripping, bright paint projects—
mess!—a sign of joy.
I love the spirited language, the alliteration, and the vivid details in this haiku, and most of all the deep pleasure it conveys. If Emily Dickinson wrote motherhood haiku, I think she would have written like this. So congratulations to Sarah, and thank you for inspiring me to get out the art supplies with my kids today.
Congratulations to all of you! Sarah, I’ll e-mail your Amazon gift card and send your address to Caroline for the book!!
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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Andrea on May 26, 2011 at 9:53 am

    What a great collection of haiku…congratulations, Sarah!

  2. cath c on May 28, 2011 at 9:46 am

    ah, i missed it this year, but all of the above are wonderful! as a mother with a spread of 13 years between first and last kids, i really appreciated the long titled one!

    congrats to sarah!

  3. K on May 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

    These are terrific! Each haiku is so unique. Thanks for sharing these and congratulations to Sarah!