Shortlisted for The Minnesota Book Awards 2006. Poems in The Mother’s Tongue move in images of the living world that include plants and creatures both native and non-native to American landscapes. These poems move via persona and personal lyric through expressions of ambivalence about choosing the life of the body – of womanhood and motherhood – through the strange realm of pregnancy into the netherworld of the post-partum period and out into the world again, into the enlarged world, the world at war, the world of work and words. Finally these poems move to enter the world of women as transformed within the love of language – of recovered Ojibwe language and English renewed as first language in the mouths of infants. These are poems that urge women to discover the power of their own tongues as they teach speech – the sweet, salty, sour and bitter desires – the taste on the mother’s tongue.
‘Funny sexy, rowdy, and surprising, these poems pretty much cover the entire human existence, but I especially like the poems about the Honey-bun delivery vans, post-partum blues, and justified hatred of wind-up toy makers. How can you not love a hate poem about wind-up toy makers? What kind of crazy person writes a hate poem about wind-up toy makers? Heid is exactly that kind of poet. She is original. Buy this book now.’ —Sherman Alexie
‘With The Mother's Tongue Heid Erdrich has come into her creative power. The poems are a powerful treatise on the transformative state of mothering. These lines at the heart of the collection will haunt anyone who has held a son in her arms in rough political times:
“I have fed my son on sorrow,/I have made him food for war.”’ —Joy Harjo
‘Heid’s poetry is a perfect fusion of music and painting, power and subtlety, emotion and intelligence. She takes us to a new world.’ —Wang Ping