Motherhood Literature + Art

Nestuary by Molly Sutton Kiefer

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nestuaryReview by Lynne Shapiro

I happen to like, really like, nests, eggs, and estuaries so Molly Sutton Kiefer’s book, Nestuary, instantly attracted me.  Sitting at the Mom Egg table at AWP several years ago, a woman confided in me that she wasn’t sure about publishing in a magazine about motherhood.  I replied, “Oh. I’m in it for the eggs” and paraphrased Jean Arp’s poem suggesting we “take out our eggs and lay them on the table of creation.”   Kiefer’s book takes us through the physicality of one woman’s experience with the act of creation, her becoming a mother.   Her book creates for us a watery, physical littoral zone that comes from the Latin word for shore, litoris –  suggestive of a woman’s most sensitive anatomical part.

The title,Nestuary, is a newborn word in the world, rich as any German compound word or Pokemon character name.  Honest and generous, Keifer’s book takes the reader to a place of gestation, a teeming birthing place of ideas, locus where science, medicine, mythos, history, linguistics, poetics and personal story mingle and brew.  While this book is about Kiefer’s children, their birth, and her coping with Willis-Ekbom Disease (I was thankful for the warning that this story has a happy ending) the book is also ecology of interconnectedness, and this is the book’s magic both in structure and content.

A small format book, with a gorgeous cover illustration of clustering cells, is intimate and lovely in the hand (as an egg in the nest), a beautifully wrought object, befitting the intimate physical, intellectual and emotional, journey the author invites us to join; one of “intervention and Invocation”, as Arielle Greenberg writes on the back cover. Each section, there are three, contains unexpected surprises and approaches to the subject matter.  The effect is an ever-changing aliveness, like an estuary.  One part begins, “Please indicate which option you would prefer during your birthing experience” allowing us to consider a list of choices.    Another begins, “I’m remarkably and unsurprisingly bad at being pregnant.  I collect these foibles, stones in my pocket:” followed by 6 short (paragraph-length) lyrical accounts.

Keifer’s writing is so lovely that, when I finished reading Nestuary the first time, I thought/felt I’d read a collection of prose poems.  Only later did I realize Ricochet Press categorized Nestuaryas a lyric essay.

Molly Sutton Kiefer is poetry editor of Midway Journal and runs Balancing the Tide: Motherhood and the Arts/An Interview Project.  Check out her website to learn more,

by Molly Sutton Kiefer
Ricochet Press 2014

Lynne Shapiro is a poet living in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her poems have been published inMom Egg Review and other print and on-line magazines, as well as in anthologies about mushrooms, clothing, and pain and healing.


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