“Time is a Mother” by Ocean Vuong; ‘dr. Rosie helps the animals’ by Jennifer Welborn and Rozillia MH

time is a mother
by Ocean Vuong; Penguin Press

Ocean Vuong has forged a remarkable literary career since her first collection of poetry, “Night Sky With Exit Wounds”, won numerous awards in 2016 and 2017, including a Whiting Award and the British TS Eliot Prize. Vuong, who lives in Florence, followed that up with 2019’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” a bestselling semi-autobiographical novel that also won multiple accolades and was shortlisted for a National Book Award.

In her latest work, the poetry collection “Time is a Mother”, Vuong looks back on the death of her mother, Rose, from cancer a few years ago and tries to come to terms with the grief that enveloped much of her life. his life. because. Like her first two books, ‘Time Is A Mother’ is a journey through memory, loss and pain – but it’s also about going beyond and eventually investing in her writing a new way.

And like in those first two books, in “Time Is a Mother,” Vuong considers the unique circumstances that brought him to this point in time. He was born in Vietnam and came to the United States when he was 2 years old, then was raised in a rough neighborhood of Hartford, Connecticut by his mother, grandmother and two aunts. Her mother was of mixed race, the result of an affair during the Vietnam War between her maternal grandmother and an American soldier.

It’s a context that Vuong, associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, alluded to in an earlier poem: “So no bombs = no family = no me.”

In “La nuit est une mère”, he recounts a certain carelessness to which he is sometimes pushed when faced with the illness and death of his mother. In “American Legend”, the narrator, driving with his father in a car “big enough / that we never touch it”, deliberately takes a turn too fast for him to have a brief moment of intimacy with his old man when the car turns over:

“Maybe / I wanted to finally feel him / against me – & / it worked…he slammed / against me & / we hugged for the first time / in decades. It was perfect / & wrong, like silver / on fire.

“Beautiful Short Loser,” a five-page poem constructed in 47 short, separate lines, begins with an indelible image: “Step back, I’m a loser on a winning streak. // I put your wedding dress inside out, playing air guitar in these streets. But the poem also suggests that the narrator embraces who he is, regardless of pain and loss: “I’m done talking, officer, I’m dancing in the rain in a wedding dress and it makes sense.”

Vuong uses a number of forms in her new collection, from prose poems to free verse to a seemingly dry list in “Amazon History Of A Nail Salon Worker” (her mother was a longtime manicurist).

Yet this list reveals so much more, tracking her mother’s purchases over 21 months as her cancer worsened: from Advil to maximum-strength pain-relieving heating pads, from nail care products to clothing. from chemo, ramen noodles to a walker, an ash urn and a memorial plaque.

There is also this article, a few months before the end: “Birthday card – “Son, we will always be together”, Snoopy design

“Time is a Mother” goes beyond the death of Vuong’s mother. Having been raised almost entirely by women, the poet has already explored the toxic masculinity of his adopted country, and “Old Glory,” laced with macho phrases and cliches, speaks to this issue as well, the lines seeming to spring from the page as bullets: “Go in there / guns, mate. You crashed / at the show. No, it was an explosion. No, / a massacre. Total excess. We tore them a new one.

And the poignant opening of “Dear Rose,” a lengthy elegy to his mother, recalls elements of “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” in which Vuong also addressed his mother directly: “Let me start over now / that you’re gone mom / if you’re reading this then you survived / your life in this one if / you’re reading this / then the bullet doesn’t know us / yet…”

Ocean Vuong will read and discuss ‘Time is a Mother’ on May 19 at 7 p.m. at First Churches in Northampton, at an event sponsored by Broadside Bookshop.

Dr Rosie helps animals
By Jennifer Welborn;
illustrated by Rozillia MH

A few years ago, Jennifer Welborn, a science teacher at Amherst Regional Middle School, was writing a children’s book and looking for an illustrator. She found one in her class: a young woman named Mahdia Rozillia Hunt, who worked there as a paraprofessional and impressed Welborn with her drawing.

Now, Welborn and Hunt — the latter uses the name Rozillia MH for her work — have joined forces on “Dr. Rosie Helps Animals”, the story of a young African-American girl who, inspired by her mother’s work as a veterinarian, learns to help a wide range of creatures herself, such as a giraffe with a headache. throat and a polar bear with a fever.

The story, Welborn told the Gazette in a 2020 interview, was designed in part to help promote the idea of ​​women pursuing work in science, technology, engineering, and science. mathematics (STEM). Another inspiration was the work of her husband, Dr. Carlos Gradil, a wildlife veterinarian.

And for Rozillia MH, a self-taught artist, making the main character of the tale look like her was a welcome mission.

“I was a huge Harry Potter fan – the books were my absolute world,” she told the Gazette. But “one thing I noticed was that I had read all these fantasy books and none of the main characters represented me, even though they were fantastic. I still love them to this day, but I don’t feel like they represented me or other girls of color.

In the story, Rosie spends time at her mother’s office when things aren’t too busy, watching and learning while her mother takes care of the dogs and other pets; his mother at one point explains how she uses aloe and even a little honey to soothe a cut on a dog’s ear.

After Rosie asks her mother some more questions, she tries her hand at helping other animals: treating a rabbit’s red ear with aloe, putting a little salt water in an elephant’s trunk to relieve its choking and donning scuba gear to care for an octopus with a bump on its head (Rosie treats it with a hot water compress).

You’ll have to read further to see how Rosie pulls off these awesome remedies. Welborn says the book was partly inspired by seeing a real baby giraffe with a neck bandage that was being successfully treated at a veterinary center.

Proceeds from book sales will go to the Dr. Jodie G. Blackwell Scholarship Fund, which is set up to provide scholarships for African American veterinary students.

Additionally, there will be a book launch for “Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals” on April 30 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mill River Recreation Area in North Amherst; various activities are on the agenda, including signings, a reading and eating cake.

Steve Pfarrer can be contacted at [email protected]

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