Elisabeth Horan was in the grip of postpartum depression after the birth of her second son, 'red and writhing a salamander underfoot'. In this collection, Elisabeth finds the courage to survive. Uplifting, guttural: Horan leaves her reader roaring for more.
What strikes me most at the core of Elisabeth Horan's Bad Mommy / Stay Mommy is the generosity of its voice. These poems share fears, criticisms, confessions, shortcomings, wounds, and hopes in full, honest throat because the poet trusts us to hear her. No matter how close these poems get to giving up, they face fault and self-loathing like a sandblast, coming away less diminished than polished by it. There's pain, yes, and even unraveling. But there is also redemption in this telling, and even hope. Horan's poems teem with the complexities of life. They sing even when the song hurts. Most of all, they are necessary because, as she writes, "Saying I'm sorry is not enough."
- Jack B. Bedell, author of No Brother, This Storm, Poet Laureate, State of Louisiana, 2017-2019
“I cower I cackle I burn”—and, yes, the riveting mother does just this in Elisabeth Horan’s heartbreakingly raw Bad Mommy / Stay Mommy. The notes of Sylvia Plath ring through the telling fingers of Horan’s sharp lines, deeply rooted in the body.
Horan adeptly takes us on the mental health tour, pulling no punches, describing the ride of postpartum depression after birthing her second son, “red and writhing a salamander underfoot,” unflinchingly. She bravely depicts the out-at-sea drift of antidepressants. One of the most amazing and gut-wrenching poems in the collection, “Basement Mother,” finds her brutally locking herself away: “dragging a stained placenta / Surviv[ing] on its nutrients, for years / in chains, with rats, eating shit / my own eyes, yellow slits, / my vagina locked, breasts defiled.” Bad Mommy evokes her suicides and calls them close: Plath and Woolf, naming herself as the third in the pack. Stay Mommy enters just in time and claims, though tenuous, her place and her children. This collection exists to destigmatize the space where mothers are still shamed for postpartum depression and mental illness. Through her wild and wondrous voice, Horan allows so many of us to speak. And to survive.
- Jen Rouse, poet, playwright, and visual artist.
“Bad Mommy / Stay Mommy” by Elisabeth Horan is a blazing myriad of thoughts from her severely depressed mind. Written from the depths of a twirling, stifling postpartum haze, Elisabeth’s poetry transcend the macabre. This book of poetry is visceral and it speaks for all that suffer from mental illness.
While reading these epic gems, I thought “That’s me!” But then I realized that no, it could never be me, I am not brave like Elisabeth. I am not as self-aware as Elisabeth. I have yet to redeem myself from myself, as Elisabeth has done in this collection.
Elisabeth has a true poet’s heart, a writer’s pain, and the unabashed honesty of a soul torn apart that will be reckoned with, studied, adored and admired for countless generations to come.
A must-read for lovers of works written by the likes of Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, and Joan Didion.
- Julie Anderson. Publisher of Feminine Collective
‘A Voice of a Mother’s Guilt’
This is a chapbook written by a woman, geared for women, yet eager to be read by men. If you want to get inside the mind of a new mother who has been going through post-partum, raising children, marriage, love, commitment, denial—then look no further. The poems in this collection are easy to connect to as a mother and a woman. Elisabeth Horan explains how she hates herself, especially how the world perceives her, but mostly how she sees herself as a “failure” as a mom—the guilt of being a mom and how everything you don’t do makes you feel guilty. As I was reading this book, I kept nodding my head; it is the true voice of a mother’s guilt of never feeling good enough or stable enough. Horan’s poems illustrate her self-loathing and hatred at how motherhood affected her life, family, and marriage. This collection is confessional, spiritual, and heartbreaking. It is equally, uplifting, and roaring with confessions. There are some brilliant lines throughout this book that make you go back to read over again. I find Horan’s poetic voice a much needed read that keeps you wanting more.
- Christina Strigas, author of Love & Vodka
In ‘Bad Mommy, Stay Mommy’ poet Elisabeth Horan deconstructs the shifting roles of motherhood and confesses the surprising and sometimes harrowing ways in which the call of motherhood stands between a woman and her child, between the self and the body. Haunted by the specters of emotional fracture and psychic isolation, the narrative thread holding these poems together is not a straight line, but rather a web radiating from a fixed point allowing Horan to unleash a visceral spectrum worthy of a Greco-Roman Fury. "
- Julia Beach Anderson, Poet
"Bad Mommy / Stay Mommy is an earnest, honest, culturally necessary collection. Horan’s deeply personal poetry gives voice to the countless battles fought in the dark—those who struggle with postpartum depression and mental illness, those who feel they are alone, those who feel they can’t overcome. “T / his is me beg / ging you to hear /me.”
- Brian Burmeister, author of The Things We Did, All The Things that We Do
The conflict of Elisabeth Horan’s poems originates in motherhood, and in the pressures of motherhood imposed on the speaker, who is gripped by post-partum depression after her second child is born. An under-diagnosed issue affecting many women, Horan handles this subject with authority. These poems are unafraid. They care little for consequence. The loss in the poems is of the self, but it is also the loss of expectation for mothers that these poems tackle: how one should behave after giving birth. How one should cope. How one should love a child. How one should deal with illness. These are poems, rich in image and narrative, that triumph in their honesty, and demonstrate how reconciliation can be found through language, through the vagaries of the heart.
- Chelsea Dingman, Author of Thaw (University of Georgia Press, 2017)