In “Notes to a Mother God,” Christen Noel Kauffman’s brilliant new lyric essay collection, the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, the human and the animal, sound and love, are revealed as illusory. In this gorgeous act of evaporation, a fresh engagement of motherhood is illuminated, one that miraculously manages to interrogate not boundaries, but exhilarating overlaps: this book dares to examine the spaces shared by the cleaving body and the spider’s web, a whale’s eye and the birth of a daughter, the Luna moth and guilt, the giant squid and empathy, memory and the seabed, death and a dream of an orchard. Throughout, Kauffman’s sumptuous essays do the essential work of exposing the plants and animals that many of us have ignored or mistakenly deemed as merely quotidian, as innately incantatory. And here, that incantation is howled by mothers actual and ghostly, sung, essentially, to quote Kauffman, into “the crevice of your neck.” This is a beautiful and breathtaking debut, as expansive as it is intimate.
Notes to a Mother God gorgeously captures the contradictory moods and modes of new motherhood. In these exquisite pieces, Christen Noel Kauffman helps us understand the familiar and the foreign, the surprise of loneliness and the hunger for intimacy, and the magnetic tides of both desire and despair. Like motherhood itself, Notes to a Mother God is powerful, raw, and often dark, but with a marbled beauty that is as wondrous as it is undeniable.
—Randon BillingsNoble, author of Be with Me Always
Christen Noel Kauffman lives and teaches in Richmond, Indiana with her husband and two daughters. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in A Harp in the Stars: An Anthology of Lyric Essays (University of Nebraska Press), Nimrod International Journal, Tupelo Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, Willow Springs, DIAGRAM, Booth, Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, and The Normal School, among others. You can find her at christennoelkauffman.com.