Sunday, January 24, 2021

Bookish Mewsings: What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf

What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf
Finishing Line Press, 2021
Poetry; 23 pgs
The poems of “what mothers withhold” are songs of brokenness and hope in a mother’s voice, poems of the body in its fierceness and failings. Elizabeth Kropf’s poems revel in peeling back silence, and invite us to witness a complicated and traumatic world that is also filled with love. –Cindy Huyser, poet and editor, author of “Burning Number Five: Power Plant Poems.”

As I sit here thinking of how to put into words my thoughts about this amazing collection of poems, my daughter comes into the room and sets her favorite stuffed toy on my lap. It's a cross between a unicorn and a pig, pink and pillow-shaped. My daughter, who insists she is not a writer and hates to write, says she is going upstairs to her room to work on the story she is writing.

The main reason I jumped at the chance to read and review Elizabeth Kropf's What Mothers Withhold had everything to do with the title. It was not even the description, although that did not hurt either. Somehow I knew the poet's writing would resonate with me, and I was right.

All of Elizabeth Kropf's poems spoke to me in some way. Her expression through words, imagery, and heart came through. All the pain and love, fear and hope. I think all mothers can relate in some way or another. She writes about struggling to get pregnant, miscarriage, pregnancy and birth and that journey that we call motherhood. Her poems capture about the struggles and vulnerabilities of motherhood as well as the deep love felt. Kropf bares her soul in these poems, and at times I felt like she was sharing my own thoughts and feelings.

The opening poem, "chocolate chip cookies with Madeline L'Engle" is by far one of my favorites in the collection. A mother's love wishing to ease the pain and heartache for not just her child, but the hardships of others too. 
I wish to give them milk, cookies, blankets around their shoulders as they listen to Madeline L'Engle, who will whisper to them plants and dolphins and all the forces aligned to keep them safe ["chocolate chip cookies with Madeline L'Engle" by Elizabeth Kopf]
Then there was "heel-click" which captures the joy of a moment. How often did the household chores go undone because I was wrapped up in watching my daughter play. The poem reminded of the time I was folding laundry, and for everything I folded, my daughter, then a toddler, would unfold it, building a mountain of towels and clothes she could jump in. I did not mind. Her smile and laughter were worth it. 

My own daughter is at an age where she has one and a half feet in childhood and half a foot stepping onto the other side. She is still so young and innocent. And yet wisdom is dawning in her eyes, the kind that comes with getting older and beginning to soak in the realities around her. As mothers we want so much want to protect our children, and we try to. To a point. There comes a time when we have to let go, however, give them their independence, all the while hoping it will not happen too quickly. Several poems in the collection touch on different aspects of this: what we do to protect our children, the anxiety and fears a mother feels during the transition into independence, balancing how much and how little we tell them in an effort to protect and prepare them, and maybe even what mistakes or slights today will land our kids in the therapist's office. 

as mothers have always withheld splinters of pain
unwilling to prick innocent skin
until the moment the child is ready to hold truth tenderly
accept blood trickle from sharp edges ~ ["what mothers withhold" by Elizabeth Kopf]


first rip in a veil that will continue to tear
as tragedies are harder  conceal
what will remain of her tender spirit when the last realms of protection are removed
how can we save her? ["Austin bombs: March 2018" by Elizabeth Kopf]

Children grow up so fast:
she takes the year 2016 off the tassel before we get home.
I blink, and it is 2038 ["'I am a promise. I promise to help all of the rabbits'" by Elizabeth Kopf]

I often say that reading poetry is a personal experience, resonating differently with each reader. As an emotional reader, I tend to put a lot of emphasis on how poetry makes me feel, and the poetry in Elizabeth Kropf's What Mothers Withhold really moved me. It not only brought back memories of when my daughter was much younger but also spoke to me where we are now, in this moment of our mother/daughter relationship. I am so glad I did not hesitate to be a part of this tour. What Mothers Withhold is worth adding to your poetry collection.

You can learn more about the poet on her website

hope you will check out what others have to say about What Mother's Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf on the Poetic Book Tours route:

Add to GoodReads:

What Mothers Withhold

Available at Finishing Line Press.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Jan. 7: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (Review)

Jan. 7: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Interview)

Jan. 12: Unconventional Quirky Bibliophile (Review)

Jan. 14: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Review)

Jan. 20: Wall-to-Wall Books (Review)

Jan 25: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (Review)

Jan. 27: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)

Feb. 11: Diary of an Eccentric (Review)

Feb. 23: Suko’s Notebook (Guest Post)

Follow the blog tour with the hashtag #WhatMothersWithhold #ElizabethKropf

Many thanks to the Poetic Book Tours and Elizabeth Kropf for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour! Thank you also for providing a copy of the book for my honest review.

© 2021, Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I am so glad this collection resonated with you. I think it is an important discussion we must have as mothers with each other and ourselves. :)

    1. Serena - I am so glad I took a chance on this collection. I really enjoyed it. I agree, I think we do not talk about these types of topics nearly enough. Many of us experience them after all. Thank you for letting me be a part of the tour!

  2. I don't typically read much poetry but this really does sound like a moving collection. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

    1. Suzanne - It's definitely one of my favorite collections.

  3. That's great that this poetry collection resonated with you. I have a few friends who are big into poetry, so I'm going to suggest this book to them. Thank you for your great review!

    1. M. - Thank you! I hope your friends will enjoy this book if they read it. :-)

  4. This collection speaks to the heart. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. I'm glad you enjoyed this collection. It sounds good.

  6. I rarely read poetry but this sounds like a wonderful read, Wendy!

    1. Melody - I loved it. I can see myself reading it again and again.

  7. That's an excellent review Wendy! I think this may be a collection you can go back to time and again as your daughter grows older.

    1. Iliana - Thank you! Yes, I think so too. It's one I will definitely revisit.

  8. This is a very beautifully written review. I'm happy that you were able to enjoy Kropf's collection of poems.

    1. E.M. - Thank you! I am so glad I got the chance to read it.

  9. This sounds like a touching collection of poetry! I enjoyed reading your thoughtful review.

    I am also on this tour, with a wonderful guest post by the author. i hope you will stop by.

    1. Suko - I will have to come by and read the poet's guest post. Thank you for your kind words!


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