Before reading The Mom Egg, one might question why, if thousands of successful contemporary writers are also mothers, do we need an annual literary publication which “publishes work by mothers about everything, and by everyone about mothers and motherhood.”
The first answer is that Editor Marjorie Tesser compiles a magazine that’s both as good as any middle-range literary magazine on the market and better than many anthologies. Sure, it’s inspiring to see the good work of so many mothers gathered together, but it’s inspiring to read good literary work, period.
The latest issue marks the magazine’s tenth anniversary. It focuses on “The Body.” Some of the pieces are loving, like Leah Mooney’s “First Frost” about helping her daughter back to bed during “that season / where everything clings // to the last, burrowed, // tea colored hours.” Some pieces have bite, like Lois Marie Harrod’s “The Real Spine of the Milky Way”—written in the shape of a tornado about a witchcraft-performing sister—and Claudia Van Gerven’s “Sun Bonnet Sue Pushes Up Daisies,” about a dead woman who “loves the shape of / the grave.” Most of the poems are written in free verse. Some are by fathers or grandmothers.
Nina Schuyler has a fine fiction piece called “Mother” about a boy who feels ignored and puts on his mother’s clothes and lipstick to feel close to her. The story tells an emotional truth about cross-dressing that probably couldn’t be told as well in nonfiction.
This brings us to the second answer: fine creative work like this belongs in the larger conversations about private life and women’s issues. Donna Coffey has a poem about helping an eighteen-year-old daughter give birth to a child she must give away for adoption. Nancy Vona writes of how an outbreak of lice among her friends’ children reminds “us that we are both human and animal, whether we like it or not.” Susan Rukeyser discusses how having a miscarriage tested her belief in a women’s right to choice and how now she knows “a woman’s power results from choice but also voice: speaking aloud our bloody secrets.” Reading these bloody secrets could be valuable not just to regular readers but to journalists, bloggers, and others looking for new anecdotes to cite when writing about complicated topics.
The one regrettable thing about this issue is its artistic design. The cover might be too hippy-ish to reach a broader audience. Although there are some good photographs scattered throughout the magazine, the main illustrations seem to be clip-art. It’s all well-chosen, but looks amateur and brings down the overall power of the magazine. It would be better if The Mom Egg commissioned artists to make small illustrations instead. Professional-looking packaging might give this excellent magazine the hope of being taken seriously by more than just literary, liberal moms.