2019 Marlene Mountain Memorial Contest


2019 Marlene Mountain Memorial Contest
Third Place:


bipolar mother’s monochrome smile

Judges Commentary:
Maternal mental illness is a subject that seems to be hushed up in our culture.
Especially in today’s mommy wars where mothers are pitted against each
other in seemingly every way: who has the cleanest house, who breastfed the
longest, who birthed without medication, who provides organic home cooked
meals three times a day, who stays home, who works outside the house,
whose children watch the least amount of TV … and on and on it goes. When
under all the pressure, womxn have an identity that goes far beyond the role
of “mother”. There are hopes, dreams, goals, desires and personal struggles
existing alongside all those parenting responsibilities, which is uncomfortable
for some to accept.
The thought of a mother struggling with bipolar disorder, or any mental
illness such as depression or anxiety, while trying to care for her children is
heartbreaking and more common than people realize. So much is said here in
so few words. An entire world is laid out bare of a mother doing her best to
get help but in the process is stripped of her personality, as it so often happens
with mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. Her children have
lost her and she herself.
This monoku struck a chord with both of us not only for the subject matter
but for its craftsmanship. In this piece there is room left for the reader to
decide whether the poet’s mother is bipolar or the poet is the bipolar mother,
as the senryu can be broken up (bipolar / mother’s monochrome smile) or
read as all one phrase. Although, had she used “the” at the beginning ([the]
bipolar mother’s monochrome smile), it would have solidified one meaning
and you wouldn’t get all that blank space we love in Japanese short forms.
What a difference one word can make.
A poignant and timely senryu for today as mental health awareness is
ever-increasing as is the fight to keep medical care available to all.


About Martha Magenta

Martha Magenta is an award-winning haiku poet living in Bristol, England, UK. She has a passion for herbalism, gardening, veganism, animal rights, Earth and the environment. She has worked for ActionAid, and Friends of the Earth. Her poetry, haiku, haibun, senryu, and tanka have appeared in many journals, magazines, and anthologies. She was awarded first, second and third prizes and Honourable Mentions in contests for haiku, tanka and haibun in 2017 - 2019. She is listed on The European Top 100 haiku authors, 2017 and 2018. She collects her published work on a blog: https://marthamagenta.com/
This entry was posted in haiku, senryu and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s