Cheryl Moskowitz

Cheryl Moskowitz’s Maternal Impression was published in March 2021. In this recording, Cheryl reads all the poems from Maternal Impression –


cheryl“Every time I have heard Cheryl Moskowitz read “The Donner Party”, strange things have happened – a bell has rung with no-one at the door, candles have guttered in a church setting, and shivers always run down my spine. Moskowitz’s poetry summons spirits and spills beyond the words on the page into a mystical space where we are all connected in body and mind. These are poems that once read or heard, leave their mark. Mesmeric, soul-feeding, uneasy, I come back to them again and again for reassurance, admonishment, and recognition of what it is to hang onto the maternal in our collective journey. Maternal Impression is a call to arms – maternal arms – and all that implies in the Anthropocene. It has a beating heart that needs to be heard, felt, and heeded.” – Lisa Kelly

“Reading Maternal Impression is to have the feeling of walking on nails with bare feet, with the assurance of trust. I go tenderly where these fine poems take me, knowing they will advance my pleasure, my empowerment.” – Daljit Nagra 

Cheryl Moskowitz was born in Chicago and raised in Denver, Colorado. She came to the UK when she was 11. Poet, novelist and translator, she writes for adults and children and translates the work of Ethiopian writer, Bewketu Seyoum. Her first poetry collection The Girl is Smiling (Circle Time Press) was included in the Sunday Telegraph’s review of ‘Best New Poetry’ and her novel Wyoming Trail (Granta) was lauded as ‘deeply moving’ (Scotland on Sunday), ‘an extraordinary, powerful novel’ (The Express) and ‘a fearless plunge into the deep pool of family’ (The Observer). Formerly an actor and a playwright, she is trained in psychodynamic counselling and dramatherapy.

In 2013 she was selected as one of the Poetry Trust’s inaugural Aldeburgh Eight and was on the 2019-20 Poetry Business Writing School with Peter and Ann Sansom. She is an editor at Magma Poetry and was a long time member on the organising committee for the European Psychoanalytic Film Festival (Epff) at the Institute of Psychoanalysis. Her poems have appeared in The Poetry Review, The New European, Finished Creatures, The Rialto, Magma, The Saint Ann’s Review and The Manhattan Review amongst others; she has won prizes in the Bridport, Troubadour, Kent & Sussex and Hippocrates poetry competitions; and was a 2018 Moth Poetry Prize finalist. Her poem, ‘Hotel Grief’ was commended in the 2019 National Poetry Competition.

Maternal Impression (ATG) is her first collection published in pamphlet form. With her husband, composer Alastair Gavin she runs the All Saints Sessions an innovative poetry and electronics performance series in North London.

Two sample poems –

Daughter in Garden

It’s the last Sunday in August. I can just see her
standing outside with her back against the wall
facing away. She is poised as if waiting for something
but there is nothing, only summer stillness.

It is early. No one else is up. I hadn’t heard her
unlocking the back door, but she must have.
She looks intent, so intent it hurts to think of
what she wants and how much she wants it.

The view from here is beautiful in this light.
I can see the church spire from the window
and the roof of her school. She’s been away from
both for weeks. The bells will ring again soon.

A pigeon rises suddenly from the branches
of the pear tree. There was no blossom, so there
will be no fruit this year. My daughter takes a step
forward, away from the wall. She raises her arms.

It is as if she is preparing to rise and take flight
like the bird. She points one toe out in front of her –
a ballerina – and propels herself forward onto the lawn.
The whole summer has led to this. A perfect cartwheel.

Hotel Grief

Inside was like a tunnel – a long one at that –
the whole stretch of summer advanced it.
We were caught in its shadows while outside
the sun blazed, Mediterranean.
A vacation nonetheless, this is where
we wanted to be. Nowhere else existed.
We made the hospital our villa, languished
in the day room on blue plastic chairs,
treated ourselves to machine coffee
and vanilla ice cream in a tub
from the crêpe place across the road.
We knew we were special guests –
everything clung with a kind of specialness
and we wore the same clothes for days,
smelling of antiseptic just as if we’d
done nothing but lounge by the pool
doused in sunscreen and insect repellent.
No flies in here, and like the best holidays
day merged into night and night into day
while the heat wrapped us in its stillness
and there was nothing to do but be together.
There was a kind of bliss in her dying,
should I be ashamed of saying that?
The closeness that awfulness brings.
And I will miss that huddling, that being
together. The shrinking of the world outside
to a single fold-out bed at the foot of hers
where she lay tucked under a flat cotton
sheet crisp as an autumn morning.
The nurses danced their silent floor show
and the buzzing of the nebuliser
took the place of midnight chirping crickets
and all too soon it was over.
Even for the living the end of summer
is a kind of death so ours was a double
mourning and now I find I’m missing the hum
of 2am voices, the chattering of night staff,
the rattle of trolleys promising comfort
like room service in faraway hotels.
I could stay here again if I had to.

Commended in the 2019 National Poetry Competition