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Review of Child of My Child: Poems and Stories for Grandparents

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Child of My Child explores the grandparenting experience through poems and essays for grandparents.

2010 anthology offers poems and essays for grandparents.

Photo © Gelles-Cole Literary Enterprises

The Bottom Line

What do writers do when an event transforms their lives? They write about it, of course, and their words illuminate the experience for others.

Child of My Child: Poems and Stories for Grandparents brings together the work of over sixty writers and illuminates many corners of the grandparenting experience, bringing pleasure to the rest of us. We're the ones who, in the midst of a life-changing event, search for books on the subject.

Pros

  • Writing of excellent quality
  • Variety of grandparenting experiences represented
  • Well-designed
  • Impeccably edited

Cons

  • Short on prose selections

Description

  • Edited by Sandi Gelles-Cole and Kenneth Salzmann
  • 89 pages, plus notes about the authors
  • Published by Gelles-Cole Literary Enterprises
  • Full-color cover
  • List price $14.95

Guide Review - Review of Child of My Child: Poems and Stories for Grandparents

For a long time those looking for poetry and stories about grandparenting had to settle for works that were saccharine and schmaltz. Thankfully, a new generation is focusing on the grandparenting experience. The result is a lot of honest emotion minus the sentimentality. "You won't find greeting card verse in Child of My Child: Poems and Stories for Grandparents," the website promises. Sure enough, there's nary a Hallmark verse in sight.

There also isn't much in the prose department. A dozen or so short pieces share space with over fifty poems, leading me to wonder why the editors opted to include the prose pieces at all. I did have to laugh out loud at "Little Miss Entropy," by Werner Hengst, an essay depicting the chaos that a toddler grandchild brings to his household. "Smiling cherubically and softly cooing to herself, she attacks her work with the energy of a piece-worker who has a quota to meet." Any grandparent who has fished Cheerios from the sofa cushions and Legos from the loo knows what he's talking about.

As much as I enjoyed the essay by Hengst, the real strength of this book is the poetry. It's powerful stuff. The experience of welcoming a grandchild gets major play, as it should. Very few grandparents expect the tsunami of emotion engendered by the arrival of that first grandchild, as Helen Bar-Lev records:

Tiny enchantress
Who could have imagined
You'd snuggle so securely
Into that unsuspecting compartment
Of my heart, vacant and aching for you
All these years.

There are poems about all the complicated relationships that result in grandparenting--the grandchild that one didn't know about, the grandchild that one ends up raising, the tangled relationships that death and divorce and remarriage create. Meredith Escudier evokes the poignancy of having grandchildren at a distance:

This was my dream and although
in real life, he was faraway,
beyond my touch, living at bay
I visited him through longing
A vivid voyage, a chosen foray.

Inevitably, the experience of having grandchildren also awakens memories and emotions associated with one's own parenting days. Darcy Cummings writes about remembering her daughter's birth as the daughter goes through labor:. . . nimble amphibian, she slid
from my body like water. But this labor,
this letting go and bringing back,
like a crude gutting, leaves me gasping, banked.

Becoming a grandparent also means re-examining the territory of one's own childhood and the grandparents who populated it, as Larry Rubin does in "The Grandparents":

. . . They spoke a kind of language
I could never understand, and patted
My fat limbs and made me kiss them
Between the wrinkles.

Grandparents also wrestle with the realization of their own mortality, as Clinton B. Campbell movingly does in "The Letter She Finds After My Death."

To read Child of My Child is to come to a deeper realization of the meaning of being a grandparent, and a parent, and a child. Maybe at some level that's what all literature is about.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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