Mam Reviews – A new poetry book celebrating mums.

I’ve had the privilege of being invited to review a new welsh language book, which will be published by Barddas and launched in time for Mother’s Day 2019.  The book is called Mam: Cerddi gan Famau, Cerddi am Famau (Mam: Poems by Mothers, Poems about Mothers) and it does what it says on the cover! This lovely publication includes 41 poems which celebrate mothers.

Beyond the simple and enticing cover, mother and editor Mari George explains in the prologue that she is surprised that there are no other Welsh language poetry books which celebrate us Mams, and I agree, as we have such a strong tradition of writing poems and songs for mothers in Wales. A big thankyou to Alaw Mai Edwards form Barddas for spotting this all-important gap in the market and for helping to bring this title to life.

The contributors are an interesting mix of poets of all ages and from all corners of Wales. I was really pleased to see that it isn’t just female poets too, as I have really enjoyed the contributions of the male poets and their images of their mothers as these strong and fantastic role models. Their openness and their true love for their mothers has been a joy to read.

From pregnancy to maternity leave, from grieving to paying a tribute to mam, all these experiences and more can be found in this book. The poems are arranged so that they take you on a journey, with each section opening with a line or quote. It was that all important and rather stressful task of choosing a name for your child, that inspired Gwennan Evans’ to write ‘Wrth Enwi Ein Mab’ (Naming our Son). I found myself laughing out loud as I read this, and here reference to the welsh book of children’s names by Heini Gruffudd, a book which includes many bizarre names! It reminded me of reading that book and jokingly mentioning to my husband that Gwylan (Seagull) would be a nice name for a boy!

In her poem ‘Anadl’, Mari George reminds us of that amazing and unique feeling you get once you become a parent. That one thing you can’t really put your finger on and you can’t really describe, you just know you’ve felt it and that it is a real privilege.

I am a massive fan of Mererid Hopwood, and I was pleased to see that she, like many of the other contributors, have contributed more than one poem. All of her poems in this book gave me goosepimples. In her poem ‘Bore Oes’ she talks about that moment of becoming a a mother. This made me think about the circle of life, and the fact that time goes way too quick and we have to savour every second of it. Our little children will soon grow up, fly the nest and hopefully experience the joy of becoming a parent.

All parents know that once we have children we also have a lot of mess…and piles of shoes for different activities and occasions. In her poem Esgidiau (Shoes), Elin Meek reminds us that we need to make the most of this mess and these shoes, as one day soon we will miss this chaos and all these fun and messy activities with our kids. I must remember this when I’m about to shout at my daughter for the hundredth time about the fact that she has her own shoe cupboard and that her wellies and trainers belong there, and not slap bang in the middle of the hallway!

This book really does take you on a journey, it reminds of us of our early days with the kids and gives us an insight into what’s to come, even if we don’t want those days to come! It’s also reminded me of the true responsibility we have as mothers, and has made me realise how much influence I have on my daughter.

In his poem Mam by Robin Llwyd ab Owain, he looks back on his childhood and explains that his mother was so much more than just a ‘Mam’. I cried as I read this! In ‘Cer Di’ (You Go), Mererid Hopwood explains that love is letting your child go, and even by typing these words now, I find it hard to battle with the tears as I know this day will come way too soon.

Despite the tears, I have really enjoyed reading this fantastic collection of poems. The only negative feedback I have is that I would have liked more of the humorous poems and more poems about the reality of raising children in Wales today. It would have brought a lighter note amongst all the emotional poems, but that may be an excuse for a second book? I would certainly welcome this.

Before I bring this review to a close, I must say that I really enjoyed looking at all the old photos in the book too. They remind me of the generations of mothers who have given birth to babies and brought up children over the years, and that the loving relationship between a mother and child is indefinitely.

Mari George notes in the introduction that this is an ideal gift for Mother’s Day, but I disagree as I think it makes and ideal gift all year round, and for £9.95 it’s very reasonable for a gift to treasure. I will certainly be returning to this book as my journey through motherhood continues!

Mam: Cerddi gan Famau, Cerddi am Famau will be published by Barddas in March 2019.

By Heulwen Davies, Mam Cymru.

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