How to Be a Woman and a Mother in America: Kendra DeColo’s I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World

Kendra DeColo’s third collection of poetry, I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World, oscillates between a mix of themes such as religion, politics, popular culture, and music in America, while exploring the ideas of childbirth and motherhood. DeColo drops some popular names such as Lana Del Rey, Tyler, The Creator, The Beatles, Ivanka Trump, Pablo Neruda, and Lou Reed as she nestles them all between the ever see-sawing ideas of motherhood, femininity, and rising political crises in America. Throughout the collection, DeColo shares both the severity and the softness of birth, emphasizing the intensity of pain and mental fixation one must go through to deliver a baby. However, what’s most fascinating is her exploration of  the way society views a woman after giving birth. DeColo shows no mercy as she switches the narrative of motherhood and birth-giving as being something private or even shameful (as it can often be looked down upon to disclose the “ugliness” of birth) to something cosmic: opening the curtain and forcing the reader to look the glory of motherhood in the eye, as well as all the natural bodily destruction that comes along with it. DeColo declares inspiring acts of femininity, motherhood, and sexuality while making it a point to showcase how these things become complicated within the archetypal standards of womanhood and misogyny in America. 

Kendra DeColo destroys the taboo of being both a sexual woman and mother by opening the collection with the poem, “I Pump Milk like a Boss.” DeColo does an almost ethereal job of mixing biblical language with the wild, almost feral, beauty of a woman pumping milk. This act happens in two locations: on the side of the road and in a bar’s bathroom stall. She discusses the incredibility of producing milk, comparing breasts to “a church organ sending up calls to god,” but also the image of pumping milk for a woman while she reads sex poetry. The poem continues with her invoking that, “this is how I want to live, milk stained, a little / bit emptied, / a little bit in love with the abundance of my body.” DeColo makes the image of milk production something to no longer hide in the shadows or under a blanket, but instead discusses it as a religious and intrinsically feminine act that should not be hushed. She ends the poem by announcing that this milk is “enough to keep me invincible.” 

Similarly, DeColo removes all shame with the following poem, “I Write Poems about Motherhood,” in which she discusses similar themes as before, but with the incorporation of another body part that is usually never discussed openly in terms of childbirth: “Tonight I can write the most motherly of lines, / for example: it’s true my asshole will never be the same.” DeColo creates this image of destruction of one’s body with the most beautiful language when  comparing the act to “a whole / inverted star a series of grievances from which another self grew, séance and seam, split off / to live parallel lives.” DeColo never disappoints with the idea of the cosmic. She states, “for a moment I left this world, a hem of blood / between us.” There is mention of travel through “apparitions” and “blue horizons” in which DeColo admits that the most motherly thing she can write is: “I would give birth a million times / over and not tell anyone about it / if I could feel that kind of way again: / one hallowed self-opened wide / enough to swallow my own body / then spit is back out onto the earth.” 

While we see DeColo explore what it means to be a mother, we can also see the exploration of what it means to be a woman in America. The political poems that are incorporated within this collection are especially heated and personal, such as the poem, “On the Cusp of 36 I Remember the Only Republican at My College Gave me Head and I didn’t Come,” as well as, “I was 35 and Driving Route 40 when I understood Why My Mother Escaped.” In these pieces, DeColo discusses the treatment of women by other men and how that has influenced her own identity and understanding of being a woman. While these are more serious, there are other political poems in which we see DeColo’s ability to create humor in the face of polarized politics in modern America. 

A brilliant example of DeColo’s humor and her quest to find an understanding of her place as a woman and a mother in America is the poem, “I hope Hillary is Having Good Sex,”  which references Hillary Clinton after the 2016 U.S. Election against Donald Trump. DeColo addresses what seems like a futile topic:the hatred towards women that existed amongst both men and women throughout the 2016 election. I wish I could quote the whole poem because it is just so irresistible in the way it addresses sexism, political social commentary, humor, and allows Hillary Clinton to be an openly sexual being who has “multiple side pieces / each a different build and scent / and when they ask / To see her closet full of immaculate suits / she lets them touch just the hem.” 

Kendra DeColo’s mastery of language gives her the ability to border the sheer beauty of the feminine body with the destruction of childbirth, all while addressing themes of sexuality and politics within this collection of poetry. These poems are interesting, cosmic, rejuvenating, and offer feelings of collective consciousness. While DeColo discusses birth as an act of divinity and includes familiar tropes in her motherhood poems, she also invites the reader in by pushing open the box of taboos about birth that have been hidden away from society, such as producing milk, having sex while being on one’s period, participating in sex after having a child, and addressing the physical tears and scars that come from childbirth — all while being both tender and excitingly raunchy. All of these discussions within Kendra DeColo’s newest collection, I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World, feel like modern anarchy coming off of a hot tongue, and I simply could not look away.