Review by Sara Epstein
In her debut collection, Jordemoder: Poems of a Midwife, Ingrid Andersson takes us on a journey through her life as a Swedish daughter who becomes a midwife, mother, invandrare (immigrant), and shares reflections about home. Andersson lives in Madison, Wisconsin. She has practiced as a home-birth nurse midwife for over 20 years. She has studied poetry and literature in four languages, as well as anthropology, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and has appeared in Ars Medica, Eastern Iowa Review, Mom Egg Review, Midwest Review, Minerva Rising, Plant-Human Quarterly and elsewhere.
These poems deliver; they are raw and tender, graphic and precise. Her language is clear, not convoluted, even if life, giving birth, and being a mother or daughter is messy and complex.
Her debt of gratitude and close watching of her mother come through in the poem “Autodidact (found poem).” After revealing that her mother studied only through the eighth grade, she finds her mother’s voice:
Today, I find lines on recycled paper:
If I could write poems, I’d write one with questions.
Who makes cranial vises for experiments on cats?
Who makes tasers for goading humans to prison
or animals to slaughter?
Who makes scalpels for cutting
genitals of baby boys?
I sit at my mother’s table and sip
reheated coffee, replenishing gall
that graduates lose.
In the section “MOTHER,” Andersson offers a list poem “Neighborhood Violence That Nobody Talks About (as I drive my son to school one rainy morning)” with its short sentences, hauntingly familiar. Two of the lines: “My son’s locked school.”… “a golf course beside an unswimmable city lake.”
“On Becoming a Midwife” shows us the shifting of her outlook in the course of her career: “In the beginning, I replied (as a daughter might): my work is to make mothers happy.” Later in the poem, she proclaims with beautiful word play:
It is to labor under the name that Linnaeus
gave us: homo sapiens- wise human,
and feel a whelm of gratitude for every
caring intelligence: oceans of bodies, bodies
of oceans overwhelmed.
and finally concludes that her midwife breast fills with many things, including:
With poems, poems that plumb
the sweet-salt-metal mess
to climax, over and over, howling love.
Andersson takes us on a Proustian experience in “Still Life” when she goes to IKEA in Chicago and has a Swedish cardamom bun which takes her back to her childhood and her mother:
Here I am, fifty-three,
in an old-world konditori
and might as well be ten – aswirl
with cardamom, and catching my breath
As the reader will catch their breath, over and over, in this earthy and rich collection.
Jordemoder: Poems of a Midwife by Ingrid Andersson
Holy Cow Press 2022
Sara Epstein is a clinical psychologist from Winchester, Massachusetts, who writes poetry and songs, especially about light and dark places. Her poems have recently appeared in Mocking Heart Review, Poetry Quarterly, Amethyst Review, Constellate Magazine, Buddhist Poetry Review, Mom Egg Review, Chest Journal, Literary Mama, Indolent Books (poems in the afterglow), and two anthologies: Sacred Waters, and Coming of Age.