The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Fannie + Freddie/The Sentimentality of Post-9/11 Pornography by Amy Sara Carroll

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fannie + freddieReview by Emily R. Blumenfeld

– Through 48 poems interlinked with photographic “image poems” and “documentations”, Amy Sara Carroll locates her experience of motherhood simultaneously in private and public space. Fannie + Freddie/The Sentimentality of Post-9/11 Pornography is infused with both maternal love and juxtapositions of the relational closeness of intimacy, sexualities, and parenting with the inequalities and exploitation in the social, political, and ecological landscapes that frame the privacy of family.

Carroll consistently offers a lyric poetry of contemporary social reality told in an intimate personal voice. The text’s structure echoes a parallel process to the links between private and public life as well as the hard work of locating the hidden subtexts that define and surround personal life and choices. Within the text, words and phrases are crossed out, written over, shift between shades of black print and sometimes are only partially visible.

The book begins with “DOCUMENTATION i” – “SUBPRIME MORTGAGES” – followed by a poem titled “OVULATION”. The book ends with “DOCUMENTATION iii” – “FORECLOSURE BUS” – and is preceded by the last two poems – EUREKA and “PROSE/CONS”. In between Carroll chronicles an erotic balancing act of choosing a partner, conception, pregnancy, birth, the catastrophic illness her son survived, creating a non-normatively-defined family – all alongside an ever-present backdrop of destructive norms, institutions, and political realities symbolized in the financial and housing crisis.

Some of the poems have previously been published in what Carroll describes in her “Acknowledgements” as “more decisive versions.” Having first read four of these poems -“Late Onset Particle Capitalism”, “Let Down”, “Thrombotic” and “Ovulation” – in the 2007 anthology Not For Mothers Only: Contemporary Poems on Child-Getting and Child-Rearing (edited by Catherine Wagner and Rebecca Wolff), I find Carroll a compelling voice in both forms.

Carroll teaches in the English Department at the University of Michigan and the book is infused with bodies of knowledge that cross literary, postcolonial, queer, and Latino studies. One of my favorite pieces draws from a photographer I love. TINA MODOTTI’S “WONDERFULL” (pages 78-81) traverses a historical and contemporary Mexico City of children breathing through asthma, independence struggles, environmental degradation, and the unknown “you” that both “lacks and exudes reference” of Modotti’s notation on the back of the untitled small photograph that is center and backdrop of Carroll’s poem.

Claudia Rankine, the extraordinary author of Plot and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, chose Carroll’s book for the Fordham University’s 2011-12 Poets Out Loud prize and wrote the Forward. As Rankine so aptly notes, “Throughout this stunningly complex and moving portrayal, the lyric resides in the intimacy of the connection of mother to son, the music lives on, in the attachment of members of a family, despite everything” (p.ix).

Fannie + Freddie/The Sentimentality of Post-9/11 Pornography
by Amy Sara Carroll
(Fordham University Press, 2013)
93 pages, paperback, $19.00

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