The poems on this list take the reader through the ups and downs of motherhood, as well as the experiences children have with their loving, and sometimes troubled, mothers. Motherhood is something that everyone can relate to, be it with their own mother, or by raising a child as a mother. There are a lot of thoughts around motherhood. However, at it’s core, some of the rawest emotions can be illustrated through the art of poetry.
Best Poems about Motherhood
- 1 The Way My Mother Speaks by Carol Ann Duffy
- 2 A Sunday Morning Tragedy by Thomas Hardy
- 3 Mother to Son by Langston Hughes
- 4 My First Weeks by Sharon Olds
- 5 The Housewife by Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman
- 6 To My Daughter On Being Separated from Her on Her Marriage by Anne Hunter
- 7 To My Mother by Edgar Allan Poe
- 8 Mother’s Song by Shirley Lim
- 9 The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me by Eavan Boland
- 10 Transfiguration by Louisa May Alcott
The first piece on this list abou motherhood is an ingenious reimagining of the way that phrases, in particular those most familiar to us, enter into our vocabulary. The speaker in ‘The Way My Mother Speaks’ is haunted by the words of her mother. These disconnected, ephemeral lines repeat themselves within the text of the poem. This effect creates a distinct emotional connection to that particular arrangement of words. They become for the speaker, who deeply loves and misses her mother, a mantra to soothe in her times of greatest need.
In ‘A Sunday Morning Tragedy’ Hardy tells the tragic story of a mother and daughter after the daughter falls pregnant and is abandoned by her lover. The poem begins with the speaker, a mother, describing how wonderful it was to have a beautiful daughter. The joy soon receded though when it became clear how popular the girl was going to be with men. She eventually got pregnant. In an effort to help her daughter, and herself, the mother sought out a shepherd who gave her an herb that would cause the daughter to miscarry. The daughter falls deathly ill because of it.
At the same time, it is revealed that the lover has changed his mind and declared that he’s going to marry the mother’s daughter. After learning the news of this marriage, the mother, as well as the lover and all his friends, discover that the daughter has died. The mother blames herself completely for this tragic turn of events.
This poem relating motherhood was first published in December of 1922 in the magazine, Crisis. It was also included in Langston Hughes’ collection, The Weary Blues, published four years later. Within the text, Hughes uses the metaphor of a staircase to depict the difficulties and dangers one will face in life. The major themes are determination and wisdom.
The poem contains a mother’s warning to her son about the stairs one is forced to climb throughout life. He must watch out for broken boards, splinters, and tacks. These things are there in order to throw him off. Additionally, she explains that although he might get exhausted or desperate, he is never to turn around or sit down. She is still trudging up the stairs and he can too.
‘My First Weeks’ begins at the beginning with the narrator in the womb. She describes her own birth—what it was like to come into the “cold illuminated air” and breathe. The speaker is handled in the hospital, “washed off, wrapped,” and nurses from her mother. She describes the pleasure that comes from the warmth of her mother’s skin, and the milk she provides as well as the intense desire for more, and the denial of that pleasure as she is put on a feeding schedule. The speaker refers to nursing as “heaven” something that she is always going to have, something to remember “behind those nights / of tap water.” She has “known heaven” and will always remember it. The backbone of this piece is a number of images described so well they become visually engaging, and the universality of human experience.
In this poem, Gilman describes the day to day life of a housewife and the circular, unchanging elements of that life. The poem begins with the speaker motioning around her to the most important, and only, elements of her world. She has the house, her children, and her husband, her “lord” that is in charge of all she is. She is bonded to the home. Her chains are the oldest in existence. Her children and husband are always there to re-solidify them if she ever feels like she could escape.
In the final stanza she states that above all else the most important goal a housewife can hope for is to cover the Earth in children.
This poem describes a mother’s regret at missing her daughter’s wedding. The speaker describes how her life is charged, and driven, by her love for her daughter. This love is to her as important as her own soul. The speaker and her daughter have been separated for an extended period of time and it is only the thought of possibly seeing her daughter again in the future that sustains the speaker.
In the final six lines, the speaker addresses the main subject of the piece, her daughter’s marriage. She truly hopes that the man her daughter married is as good as her daughter is, and that he deserves her.
This piece is a devotional sonnet in which Poe describes his feelings for his own mother and the mother of his wife. It is a perfect piece that speaks about the importance of female caretakers. He spends portions of this piece discussing the importance of the word “mother” and how it came from the angels. His appreciation for mothers stretches from his foster mother, to the mother of his wife. She created his adored Virginia, and therefore she too must be revered.
‘Mother’s Song’ is a touching poem that speaks on themes of love and motherhood. It depicts ageing milestones in a man’s life. The poem takes the reader through a series of images that imagine a baby in various stages of his future life. He grows, becoming a young, energetic boy. Soon though he’s getting older and growing more distant from his mother. Eventually, he’s playing at “groom” and getting crowsfeet and silver hair.
This poem is a fictional story of the origins of a black fan in pre-war Paris. The poem begins with the speaker setting out the most basic details. The fan, which she now possess, once belonged to her mother. IT was the first gift he, presumably the poet’s father, gave to the mother. Over the next lines the speaker, who is likely Boland herself, creates a detailed history of how the fan was acquired. She goes into its material properties as well as its construction. ‘The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me’ concludes with a new image, that of a blackbird.
In this poem relating to motherhood, Alcott describes her emotions surrounding the death of her much-loved mother, Abigail, at the age of eighty. The poem begins with the speaker relaying the basic features of her mother’s life. She was old when she died, and her death came as a relief to all the family members. In the next stanzas, the speaker takes the time to describe Abigail Alcott and how she did everything she could to make the best life possible for her children. This included completing deeds which were both mundane and “heroic.”
‘Transfiguration’ concludes with the speaker asking that all those listening seek to live the kind of life that she is now— one that is “royal.” Death should be proud it is able to take one’s soul when that time comes.