Georgia Poet Laureate Chelsea Rathburn Explores Struggles Of Motherhood And Childhood In New Book Of Poems

“Still Life with Mother and Knife” was released in paperback in 2019.

Chelsea Rathburn

Chelsea Rathburn is the Poet Laureate of Georgia. She will give a virtual reading from her latest book of poems, “Still Life with Mother and Knife,” and discuss “Voicing the Unspeakable,” as part of the Decatur Book Festival this Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Her book explores the struggles of postpartum depression, the harsh realities of childhood, and Greek mythology artwork.

Interview Highlights:

About going through her postpartum depression:

“One of the saddest things was that I was afraid to talk to anybody. Because in my irrational state of mind, I felt like if I was honest about everything that was going on, then my baby would be taken away from me. That my daughter would be taken away from me,” said Rathburn.

On the book’s themes of art and the female body: 

“The book is very concerned with the visual arts and with the female body and the way that the female body is rendered in classical art, high art…museum pieces, but also with things like Playboy Magazine. When I was in college, I modeled for a sculptor; so I’ve had experiences on both sides of the canvas. I feel that sometimes I primarily write about my own life, my own experiences, but I really do love engaging with works of art as a  way to get outside of my self a little bit. I think art gives poets a new way of rendering the world,” said Rathburn.

On mixing joy with the grief in her book:

“When I was shaping the book, I did want to include some joy. *laughs* Because I know that the book goes into some very dark places. At the end, I return to my child, my daughter, and I have a poem called ‘In the shower my daughter studies my naked form’….where that poem closes on me watching my daughter when she sleeps and the feeling of being overcome by joy and gratitude. I wanted that to be an answer to show it’s possible to begin in a place as dark as some of the early postpartum poems and then come around. There’s a way through all of that,” said Rathburn.