Pocket Universe: Poems
Author: Nancy Reddy
Publisher: LSU Press (2022)
Nancy Reddy’s Pocket Universe explores how the world becomes more wondrous and more perilous in the permanent after of parenthood. The collection begins in the public hospitals in sixteenth-century Paris―where women giving birth were as likely to die of fever as go home with healthy newborns―travels through the dizzying world of Instamommies and celebrities who effortlessly got their body “back” after baby, and ends with children singing at a bounce-house birthday party. Poems set those intimate, ostensibly domestic matters against weighty questions about human origins, our place in the universe, and the pervasive historical and present-day violence against mothers and children.
Pocket Universe traces an arc from the challenges and bodily horror of the first weeks home with a new baby, through the wonder of watching that child discover the world, and finally to the hard-won joy of motherhood.
“Nancy Reddy’s Pocket Universe is a wildly powerful and searingly honest meditation on the ways in which anxiety and wonder intersect at the nexus of motherhood. These poems unsparingly and vividly chronicle the speaker’s corporeal postpartum experiences, while simultaneously reaching backwards into history and outwards into space―invoking everything from Insta-mommies to Pliny the Elder to Queen Victoria to celestial light―to remind us of our fragility and resilience in the face of all of the dangers caregiving in the world engenders.”
“In Pocket Universe, Nancy Reddy occupies the animal body: ‘primates lick the amniotic fluid / from the dirt where the birthing mother spills it. . . .’ She drops us into the blood of it, and we primates lick and rub these gorgeous images of brutal birth over our terrible, miraculous bodies. Reddy burrows into the unspoken with the wildness of a writer, a mother.”
“Nancy Reddy picks up Diotima’s argument from Plato’s Symposium that creation and procreation allow us to partake in immortality and the Good. These many labors―painful, painstaking―are the subject of the luminous Pocket Universe. In moving, discerning poems, Reddy reveals how the most intimate domestic spaces and our bodies themselves connect to the stars; how family matters share with historical, political matters and to dark matter itself. The fact that we’re here on this planet to love and fail each other is an ‘accident of the most fantastic luck.’ With both tender and cruel examples, with pens, signs, fossils, sonograms, and telescopes, the poet shows how we are bound to each other through love, gravity, anguish, and devotion. Reddy’s affecting vision about motherhood and making art details ‘how many things there were / to be bad at’ and astonishes us with ‘the things that actually matter.’”