In this collection, Judith Arcana brings together her long-standing feminist activism, especially for reproductive health and abortion rights, and her gifts as a poet. Although Arcana's activism dates back to the early seventies, most of the poems in the book were written between 1998 and 2004. They draw from "the lives of women and girls I know or have simply encountered" (xi).

The collection is divided into four sections: "Separating argument from fact," "Information rarely offered," "Don't tell me you didn't know this," and "Here, in the heart of the country." Spoken in first, second, or third person, these poems evoke the myriad individual situations in which women of childbearing age become pregnant, and the trajectories their lives may take as a result.

The title of the collection derives from one of its poems ("What if your mother") and the related, immediately preceding poem, "My father tells me something, 1973" (6-7). Arguing back to those who confront her with, "What if your mother had an abortion? . . . they mean me," the speaker/poet answers, "then I say she did . . . . "What if, what if. / What's the point of asking this phony question?"

From the preceding poem, the reader has learned, along with the speaker listening to her father in 1973, that the poet's mother had an abortion in the Depression era, early in marriage. With this juxtaposition of poems we are introduced early in the book to the complexity of the issues surrounding pregnancy, parenthood, and abortion and to the timeline of a continuing national and personal debate. This complexity is the subject of the collection.


Chicory Blue Press describes itself as "a feminist literary press" and Judith Arcana draws partially on her experiences in 1970-1972 as a "Jane" -- the name given to women who were members of the Abortion Counseling Service of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. So the book is openly political. It is not, however a polemic, but rather an in-depth exploration of social, economic, and personal issues that lead to pregnancy and to the decisions that are made concerning the pregnancy (some in haste, some deliberate), and the ramifications of those decisions.

The power of these poems comes from the way they are written--the dramatic monologues and second person monologues in which the speakers are unmarried or married pregnant girls/women, women who cannot have children, girls/women who have given up their babies for adoption, sexual partners, parents, abortion activists/providers (at a time when abortion was illegal in most states). The poems explore a wide range of attitudes and emotions surrounding pregnancy; they are well worth dwelling over and re-reading.


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Chicory Blue Press

Place Published

Goshen, Conn.



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