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Poetry Moment: 'Daughter,' by Katherine Bode-Lang

Katherine Bode-Lang
Katherine Bode-Lang

This is poetry moment on WPSU – a weekly program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Your host is poet and author Marjorie Maddox, a 2023 Monson Arts Fellow, author of 20 books, and professor of English and creative writing at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University. 

Welcome to Poetry Moment.

Mother-daughter relationships can be, well, complicated. Sometimes independence and a sense of loss arrive together. In today’s poem, “Daughter,” Katherine Bode-Lang recognizes herself in what her mother has yearned for, chosen, rejected, or mourned.

Katherine Bode-Lang moved to central Pennsylvania to attend graduate school and never left. Her book, The Reformation, won the American Poetry Review/Honickman first book prize, and she has been published in numerous journals, including Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Tupelo Quarterly. She earned her MFA in poetry at Penn State, where she is now the Director of Education and Outreach in the Office for Research Protections. She keeps an overgrown garden on two-thirds of an acre in State College with her husband and daughter.

Parental expectations on how to act and who to be influence our sense of self. In today’s poem, Katherine Bode-Lang both compares herself to and differentiates herself from her mother. In one striking image after another, the poet reveals further her complicated inheritance.

Here’s “Daughter” by Katherine Bode-Lang

- - -
I am my mother’s pier
on a windy afternoon.
I am a broken necklace clasp,
a brown dress that no longer fits;

I am the braids her mother cut
off at the ears, kept in tissue
still plaited and bowed.
I am all my mother’s no’s.

I am my mother’s straight chair,
her father’s face. I am
her first cigarette, her last boy.
I am my mother’s quiet.

I am my mother’s shoulders,
the piano she never learned
to play, her little sister stillborn.
I am her last view of the lake.

When she holds my face,
it is her mother’s sigh.

- - -
First published in The Reformation (The American Poetry Review 2014)
- - -

That was “Daughter” by Katherine Bode-Lang. Thanks for listening.

Listen for Poetry Moment with Marjorie Maddox Mondays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WPSU. You can more episodes at

Our theme music is by Eric Ian Farmer.

Marjorie Maddox is the host of WPSU's Poetry Moment for the 2023-24 season. She has been a professor of English and creative writing since 1990 at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.