Monday, July 26, 2021

TBR: The Good Poetic Mother: A Daughter’s Memoir by Irene Hoge Smith

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.



Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?


 After a bad marriage and worse divorce, my mother left me and my three sisters with our D.C. bureaucrat father and escaped to Los Angeles, Charles Bukowski (with whom she had a fifth daughter) and a re-invented life as the respected Southern California poet known as francEyE.  The book is about my life before and after she left, and the long and complicated quest to find out what happened and why, and who my mother really was.


What boundaries did you break in the writing of this memoir? Where does that sort of courage come from?


I wrote the story that my mother could not bring herself to include even in her own late-life memoir—the two decades when she was married to my father and had her first four daughters. That required a kind of dogged determination to break a multigenerational cycle of forgetting and repeating in order to create a comprehensible narrative where none had existed before.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice? 


When someone tells you something’s not working, listen to them. When they tell you what to do about it, listen to yourself. 


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


Having spent too many years trying to convince myself I didn’t need or care about my mother, I was surprised to discover how much I had loved her.


How did you find the title of your book?


I got my title from my mother’s lover Charles Bukowski, when I was fifteen years old. His break-out book It Catches My Heart in Its Hands was released in 1963, and although I hadn’t seen my mother in almost two years I received a copy of the gorgeous book with this inscription by the author:  “To Irene Smith / Of the good poetic mother.” It took me another lifetime to be able to appreciate his book, and to write my own.


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


There is a “food” associated with the book, but I can’t recommend it.  In our final year together, my mother was trying to take care of me and my sisters (with not enough money from my father) when she discovered something called “MultiPurpose Food,” a cheap food supplement developed for overseas aid and domestic fallout shelters.  My sisters and I loathed the stuff, and thought we should someday write a book called Mama and the MPF

The Meals for Millions Foundation and Multi-Purpose Food: Work with Soyfoods







READ AN EXCERPT, "Anxious Attachment”:




DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.