Book of Mother is an exploration of mother/son relationship and of language and consciousness (as these are entered and left). This book is an intimate encounter with dementia as lived experience. Words are an important way into the world and when we begin to lose them we find ourselves with fewer tools and fewer familiar signs to go by. Phrases lost and tip-of-the-tongue half-forgettings – loose threads like these belong to the everyday business of knowing who we are. They are also the nuts and bolts of Kit Kelen’s poetry.
This beautifully sustained poetic sequence is a virtuoso work. With his characteristic wit and generosity, Kit Kelen slips lightly between the surreal syntax and loss of meaning of dementia, the broken words of grief and charmed reminiscences of childhood. Heartachingly honest, and always linguistically surprising, a book of mother is like a magic pudding. The slices of its world that are lost are vividly returned as the book ponders the importance of remembering and being remembered, moving between present and past, dream and memory, to become both a profoundly moving celebration of his mother’s life, and the life she has given him.
– Jean Kent
“What happens when the first Other in your life, a being whose existence is so embedded in the deep reaches of your consciousness, begins to lose her own memories, and is eventually erased from this embodied world? How can a son capture such a kaleidoscope of meaning? Kit Kelen takes light and refracts it on the page in this beautiful and loving meditation.”
– Beth Spencer
There is great vulnerability, beauty and strength in Kit Kelen’s a book of mother. What Kelen leaves in the spaces between, in “the words under the words”, is where “the light shines through” in this intense, teary, sweet and cheeky act of deep longing and remembrance. Although he writes that “there really isn’t an order of things”, the power of this book dwells in the structures of forgetting and remembering, in writing that commits to the puzzling quality and the heartbreaking texture of memory in ways both sustained and fleeting.
– Greg McLaren