Domestic Poetry by
(21 Stories)

Prompted By Parenthood

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I am a poet. With a long and irregular career that includes teaching for 15 years with California Poets in the Schools and a 2-year term as Poet Laureate for a suburb in northern California. I haven’t managed to publish a lot of poems over the years, but I’ve written every day about half of the time since college. (I’m a poet, that makes perfect sense.) I’ve written poems about boyfriends and lovers, cats, ex-husbands, my parents, Maine, my neighbors and friends. By far, most of my poems are about my kids.

For me, being a parent is almost indistinguishable from being a poet.

The kid poems are not all about parenting, but many many are. They are about fear. About pride and joy and baseball. There are poems about high chairs and swim practice and walking in the neighborhood with kids and yelling (me and them). Graduation poems recently.

Domestic poetry used to get a bad rap, and then some critics called it confessional poetry, and then that got a bad rap. I don’t care about raps so much (pun intended); for me domestic poetry is about private matters (no public odes to heroes or tragic epics) and relationships in a family. And of course knitting, soap, socks, veggies, pie, and chairs.

This prompt, Parenting, got me thinking that, for me, being a parent is almost indistinguishable from being a poet. When I first stepped onto poetry’s path, I didn’t think I’d get here. But from the first minute I became a parent – even before my first child was born – I knew poetry would keep me sane, help me laugh and let me cry, and be part of the way I would communicate to my children what I care about. I hope it’s working for them as well as it’s worked for me.

This poem was posted as a draft on the Cupertino Poet Laureate blog and then published in Tangents, a publication of the Stanford Masters in Liberal Arts program.


You are born
and the forsythia is confused again in Georgia
pushing out its yellow lips
against December-short days.

You are born
and the calla lilies rise in California
on green limbs
among the frost-stunted ferns,
white cups for sky.

You are born
and twenty-one years fly with their crows,
the hail storm of that night melting again
every morning
against your warm head.

Once, I held your spine in my hand,
straight beyond my making,
the spheres that had been buoyant in me

Now you are white and yellow
and waving with your own light,
daughter, at the lip
of an ocean
you will taste
in your own right.

for Stella
December 30, 2013


Profile photo of Jennifer Swanton Brown Jennifer Swanton Brown
Poet. Nurse. Teacher. Mom. Daughter. Sister. Knitter. Swimmer. Contemplative in training. Follow "A Twirly Life" (

Characterizations: moving


  1. John Zussman says:

    I love this poem, and the concept that parenthood and poetry are intertwined in your life. Each gives an aura of mystery to the other.

  2. rosie says:

    very good, I had a gentle smile on my face as you wrote about yourself and poetry and I could strongly identify with what you had to say. Enjoyed the post.

  3. rosie says:

    I have read this twice now, and each time I am glad I did.

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