The Joy of Being & Making Humans (Poetry Book Review:: Calenday)

lauren-halderman-calenday-book-coverI read these poems over and over as my two-year-old daughter jumps on my back, bouncing – riding me like a horse. I can feel the absurdity of trying to read poetry as she nays behind me and sprinkles fairy dust on my head.

Then I finally give in
when she pulls at my hair and
I’ve had enough
and I turn to look at her
with a lecture on how
it’s not okay to pull hair.

I catch a glimmer in her eyes
the imaginary world
of wild horses and fairies is still moving
and somehow
it all begins to make sense.

Lauren Haldermann’s poems are not about me. But somehow they are.

The poems in her most recent book, Calenday, are exactly about me and about this precise moment.

She opens up with tenderness in her first two poems, “Mortal Friends” and “Criminals,” as she writes about interactions with toddlers and a baby’s early days.

Then I’m suspended somewhere between a wonderful child-like playfulness and the quiet insanity that can often accompany motherhood as Haldermann moves on to the other-worldliness of these relationships.

She writes,

While the smaller human sleeps,
Observe its forehead:

a glow-cord reaches to connect
to the mom-skull. This is how the pair

will integrate sleep patterns.

Haldermann’s poems are expansive. Some are about motherhood: about how it, too, swallows you up with its expansiveness then spits you out on the shoulders of a strange road.

In “11/24,” she writes

I am your mom. I step up. I attach a papier-mâché wolf head to my
head, I tie fur to my back; I am your mom now,

you can pull yourself up by my teeth.

Her poems are also about loss and magic and navigating the distances between birth and death. She beautifully captures the sacred and the mundane in a collection that reads more like a calendar of spiritual evolution.

Poems title like “5/22” and “11/24” might be dates from journal entries. Or they might be some sort of galactic countdown as the earth reminds us to return over and over again.

learn to fall
into your body over & over again, like you did the first time

when you were an alien.

Haldemann writes with an openness that invites the reader in. In “Courage Courage Courage” she asks, Does it take courage just to be alive?

But even as she tackles big questions about grief, loss, and parenting, she remains imminently approachable and relatable. Haldermann’s poems remind you, yes it might feel strange where we are. But we are, indeed, here – right where we are.

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