Elaine Mott’s life work was almost never published. Between growing up in Brooklyn in the 40s, and battling depression and anxiety as a wife and mother, Mott penned exquisite verses that few people ever read until her son submitted her collected work to a contest.
Sharon Olds, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, said of Mott’s work, “Her voice is genuine and immediate. We hear it with the sense she is right next to us, singing directly to us.”
This genuine voice earned her the medal for the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize by publisher Casey Shay Press. Mott’s book, Splitting the Velvet Dark, will be released in conjunction with April’s National Poetry Month.
Mott occasionally submitted poems to magazines and anthologies and managed to place a few of them.
Dorothea Lasky, Poet and Professor of Columbia School of the Arts, judged this year’s finalists and lauded the collection as “a gift to us from Elaine Mott, who left behind a book to guide us through our days.”
Elaine Mott’s son Aaron Mott collected the poems and submitted them four years after her death. “Reading through her work to put together the twenty poems in this collection gave me a way to connect with her,” Aaron Mott said. “The poems were so evocative and revealed so much of her inner dialogue that it felt like having a deep conversation with her about her life.”
Mott was born in Brooklyn in 1946. She struggled with depression as she raised her son and daughter, a recurring theme in her poetry. She retired to the mountains of upstate New York with her husband of forty years until her death in 2009.
Perhaps most poignant of the previously unpublished works as we listen to a poet almost lost to time is in a verse from “Dragonflies and Green Rushes.”
It’s simpler to live this way, with my hands plunged in the warm dirt
spreading out the roots of strawberry plants
than to walk in circles around an empty room
crying out to someone who can’t hear me