Ave Maters

May the gentle, unrecorded saints
in their unmapped progressions make
a dial around the minutes of my hand
and help me write.
Black stars,
they draw me through their sieves,
through their forgotten histories,
seeing the world from inside out:
mum matter, anti-matter moms—
the flipside of

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Ave Maters”?

“Ave Maters” has been used as the frontispiece for an anthology of feminist verse by the Feminist Caucus of the League of Canadian Poets. It is a light-hearted but not unserious romp with the objections that feminists have been making for generations: that our sense of history and of what is worth writing about has been pretty much limited to the Fathers (the patriarchy/ the Rulers.) Instead of saying “Ave Caesar” (Hail Caesar) the poem says “Ave Maters,” (Hail Mothers)—which does of ourse remind us of the one mother we do hail, Mary, but even she has been, with our other mothers, largely regarded as the support of the major heroes of history, not as leaders, authors, or performers. Only in the last half century have historians begun to look at, record, and “map” the lives of theunregarded women of the past. (“Minutes” refers to both time, which passes, and to records, which can be made and kept.)

Again, only recently did we become aware of the invisible black stars, powerful entities which do not act the way traditional sources of power (sun, stars) do—they do not illuminate, they absorb. Since the mothers have not been observed, recorded, or able to speak for themselves, they are “mum” (silent) as well as Mums (Moms.) As mothers and as black stars of course they matter, but they can be seen as the opposite of the fathers, and the suns (sons); so mothers are perhaps anti-matter. (The flipside is the opposite side.) “Om,” in Hinduism and Buddhism is a sacred syllable of assent, said to represent the divine, and not unlike Amen. It is repeated as a prayer and as an aid to meditation. Of course, repeated, ‘Om Om” begins to sound like “Mom Mom”

What poetic techniques did you use in “Ave Maters”?

I do not find it useful to talk about “technique” in a poem; I am more comfortable with the word “style”—e.g. is this poem written in a relaxed conversational style, or in a meditative and very personal style, or in a joking style, or in a musical or in a chanting style, etc.

This poem “Ave Maters” originally appeared in Shaping Texts. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 119 (Winter 1988): 7-7.

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