Read Cleo Wade’s New Poem About Love and Community

Life & Love

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For It Takes a Village, ELLE’s latest package exploring the intersection of parenthood and community, poet and author Cleo Wade penned an original poem about the “group work” necessary to create “big love” in the world. Wade, whose new children’s book, May You Love and Be Loved, is out now, also spoke to ELLE.com about her experience as a mother, including moving through postpartum depression and relying on her own village. Find the poem and excerpts from that conversation below.


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How becoming a mother influenced her writing

“A big part of writing [my poetry book] Remember Love was this focus on what bell hooks asked us to do, which is define love for ourselves. That way we can know when it is present, when it is not, and when something is masquerading as it. For me, a lot of Remember Love is this meditation on what does love mean and how does it behave? And I couldn’t really even consider something being love if it isn’t safe. And I couldn’t consider a place in the world in which I felt I could be safe if I was all alone. While I wouldn’t say that Remember Love is a book that solely focuses on motherhood, it incorporates the experience of postpartum and birth, because I found so many ideas around healing and slowing down and community through writing this book and through having had kids over the past three years.

“Not just a focus on community in general, but what does beloved community look like? What does healing community look like? What does community for mental health look like? What does community for artistic expression look like? And where are the spaces where all these communities could be together as one? And then where does it benefit us to shed community? There’s a big part of Remember Love that’s about friendship breakups and this idea of releasing certain communities or parts of your immediate village in order to also have safety during moments of change, rebirth, crisis, depression, hard times, even joy.”

What “big love” means to her

“In meaningful friendships that you invest in, it’s a really big love. Especially for women, a lot of our friendships with our girlfriends outlast everything else. They’re there when your children become teens and hate your guts, and they’re there when you break up with your boyfriend or get divorced or move out from your partner or someone passes or whatever it could be. You end up having these long-lasting relationships where they have truly seen you through so many different phases of your life and loved you in every single phase. I have such value in the ‘big love’ I have with my partner, Simon, through the depth of our connection. And I also have a very ‘big love’ for my childhood best friend, Grace; we’ve been friends since Little League and have known each other through every experience. There has always been a kind of universal, spiritual nod toward each other—that no matter where you land, I’ll be there. That’s a really big and impactful love, because we know that when the call needs to be made, they’re going to answer.”

Her tools for navigating postpartum life

“It’s always important to remember that self-work becomes part of the group work. Especially postpartum, sometimes you just need to say to a friend or a family member that you trust and love: As the baby sleeps, from this time to this time, can you please watch the baby, so I can sit in the bathtub? Or I can just sit outside and get sun on my face and listen to a song that reminds me of myself for three minutes? Those micro-moments toward your own personhood, they accumulate, and they do turn into something. I always think about the actual meaning of Bob Marley’s ‘Lively Up Yourself.’ It means you go outside, you kick the soccer ball, you sit in the sun, you jump around, you drink a green juice, and you have a big sip of water.

Those micro-moments toward your own personhood, they accumulate, and they do turn into something.”

“When we think about restoration periods, yes, we can think about that kind of cocooning, huddling, nourishing, nurturing, taking in the soup, being really inward. And we have to, I think, also try to find ways in which we can weave in [the concept of] ‘lively up yourself.’ Because I know for me, going through postpartum depression with both of my kids, the moments in which I really worked toward lively-ing up myself helped me. Going in the sunshine is not going to cure your postpartum depression, but I will say that all of those parts that make the depression hard are there, and there are things you can do that help.”

How her village helped her through postpartum depression

“By being there without judgment and with extreme gentleness. To have postpartum depression is to be depressed during a very magical time of life, which I think makes us incredibly fragile. Patience with anyone who is going through a hard time is what’s really critical. When we can meet patience with honesty, with gentleness, then we can really find what that other person needs to support them through a tough time.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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