Seven poems to slip inside your Mother's Day card (and one to avoid)
Rossetti dedicated a whole collection of poems to her mother, and started them off with a touching sonnet about the timeless nature of familial love. This one is best for mothers who like tradition, art, and being reassured that they spent enough time on your education.
The poem ends:
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honoured name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.
2. Infant Joy – William Blake
Has your wife or partner recently had a baby? You do know you have to give her a Mother's Day present "from the baby", right? It's the law. William Blake's poem has a simple purity to it that captures the joy of new birth.
I have no name
I am but two days old, –
What shall I call thee?
I happy am
Joy is my name, –
Sweet joy befall thee!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee;
Thou dost smile.
I sing the while
Sweet joy befall thee.
On the other hand, if you yourself have recently become a mother, nothing quite suits the confusion and joy of having a newborn like Sylvia Plath's Morning Song. Plath captures overwhelming new motherhood perfectly.
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
A poem about what Larkin has in common with his mother: an unease on warm days, and a love of cooler weather. Good for reminding yourself what you have inherited from your own mother. A love of poetry, perhaps?
And I her son, though summer-born
And summer-loving, none the less
Am easier when the leaves are gone
Too often summer days appear
Emblems of perfect happiness I can't confront. . .
Children all flown the nest? The Poet Laureate's The Light Gatherer is an evocative poem about remembering the magic of your children. It opens:
When you were small, your cupped palms
each held a candleworth under the skin, enough light to begin,
and as you grew,
light gathered in you. . .
Grandmothers are not to be forgotten on Mother's Day.
Wendy Cope's poem about her connection with her Nanna is a beautiful reminder of the maternal relationship stretching across generations.
...at evensong on Day 19
the choir sings Nanna's psalm.
At last, I pay attention
to the words she chose.
Even grown ups miss the days when their mothers could rock them to sleep at night. Allen's poem is all about the bond between mother and child that remains strong even in adulthood, good for reminding your mother that she will always be important to you.
Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Mum not a poetry fan? The most famous lines that Philip Larkin ever wrote will strike a chord if you've recently had a family row - or if you just want to forget the whole day.
They f--- you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.