the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Mother’s Milk Books

on May 4, 2017

I am delighted that my poem ‘After’ has been commended in the 2016 Mother’s Milk Writing Prize. In an email from the publisher, Dr Teika Bellamy, the following feedback from the  judge, Becky Cherriman, was shared:

After: a short poem that centres around one unexpected image of a new mother sucking her thumb. I like the ambiguity conjured by the poem’s title and the question in the penultimate line.

I’ve pasted the poem below. Do you agree with the judge?


Rolling on my side, the mattress gives.

With my chin against my knees,

I knot my ankles:

try holding myself together.

A trolley rattling with cups echoes

through air thick with disinfectant.

Unclenching my jaw, my parted lips

ache: they’re a target for my thumb.

With the pad, I trace the roof-ridges

of my mouth, make a vacuum

with my tongue and wonder:

where is the babe?

who is the mum?

6 responses to “Mother’s Milk Books

  1. Penny Rogers says:

    I have hesitated to reply because I didn’t want to risk over-interpreting this very moving poem and spoiling the ambiguity, but you did ask so here goes. To me the penultimate line is one of loss; the loss of childhood (I think the mother is very young) and the loss of the baby in some way. Well done Gail.

  2. Congratulations, Gail! I agree with the judge. For me, the sense of being in the foetal position, of the ‘vacuum’ created, the loss – all tended me towards a certain interpretation of the poem, but the ‘who is the mum’ line opened up all possibilities again. Sometimes I’ve heard poets say they want there to be only one possible ‘meaning’ of a poem but here I feel there is some ambiguity which leaves room for the reader to imagine and explore the possibilities.

  3. peggyaylett says:

    Really like it’s ambiguity

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