Author: Rachel Hunt Steenblik
Illustrator: Ashley Mae Hoiland
Press: BCC Press
Published: July 2017
Many a nursing mother knows the long, still moments where she can get lost in her thoughts but her hands and heart are so full that she cannot record them. Rachel solves that problem with tiny poems quickly recorded in those still moments. I don't picture Rachel as another poet solitarily sitting in front of a typewriter, I envision her in those moments so familiar to me. I used to love those times, not just because of the power of oxytocin, cuddles and motherbaby love but because I felt my mind growing and expanding during those years when I had time to really sit and think. Each poem reads like a nursing session where a snippet of an idea or memory of a conversation with a friend, or scripture or topic of study rolls around the tired mind of a mother whose heart is full of love and yearning. Out of the sometimes sleep muddled morass comes frequently witty, always earnest thoughts that she then could shape into poems.
Throughout the volume, I was amused time and again by little snippets of familiar children’s books, songs and stories. ‘Are You My Mother?’ by PD Eastman gets an allusion as well as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. These are the waking moments where a mother’s mind wanders and connects the prosaic moments of early childhood with big ideas and concepts deeply held within a mother’s heart which contains her earnest wishes not only for her children, but also for herself and all women the world over.
Mother’s Milk is a reflection and a query into who is Heavenly Mother. When God is conceived of as female, who is she? What is she like? How does she talk. Rachel shows us She is witty, She is clever, She is there in the small moments and in the life defining moments, always loving us. The volume also reads like a book of prayer for mothers, daughters and believers in the divine feminine. Many of the tiny poems contain entreaties to God, to know Her and be known by Her, as well as a prayer that She will not just be known by the one or the few but that news of Her love will fill the earth and transform religion and by extension society too.
In this volume, Rachel reveals herself to not only be a scholar and religious historian but also a modern Mormon Mystic who may be making history of her own with these poems. Rachel was part of the team that published A Mother There as well as co-editor of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. This represents her debut as a feminist theologian and poet and I could not be more in love with this collection.
I know that I personally will cling to this book as a reminder of early motherhood with my babies; it will continue to be a way to help me connect again with those times that are now gone in my children’s lives. While deeply personal, it’s vision of transformative faith extends much further than my memories and to a global awareness and power of faith in the female divine.
It is my hope that this book will transcend the boxes of modern religion and make it’s way into the hands and hearts of Christians, agnostics and spiritual people the world over even if for them it is an exercise in imaginative and literary religious studies. For some of Rachel’s readers, this book represents our faith and our hope for a future where Mother God and Father God rule and reign as equal partners in the eternities, thereby providing a model to emulate for the rest of us.