Jessica Bell’s collection A Tide Should Be Able to Rise Despite Its Moon skillfully frames motherhood as identity shift.
If Philip Glass and the members of Beach House had a side project, it would sound like Mongoa. Inspired by all that makes life nostalgically and beautifully dark, this trip hop/ambient duo will take your heart and set it sailing towards the edges of your consciousness.
My life would be nothing without music and writing. Not because listening to music inspires my writing, but because writing music inspires my writing. The cat’s out of the bag. Mongoa is me and a guy named Alexander Zamparas (we’re ex-members of Keep Shelly in Athens), and this music project fuels the heart that wrote my latest poetry collection, A Tide Should Be Able to Rise Despite Its Moon. But don’t worry, I’ve thrown in an equal number ‘not-me’ influences too.
The book was inspired by the special bond between me and my three-year-old son and my need to explore the identity shift that came after becoming a mother. I come from punk/rock roots and all of the sudden I was thrust into the depths of unconditional love, responsibilities I’d never had to deal with before, a lack of playing live (oh, how I miss it) and the loss of the old ‘me’.
Now before you roll your eyes at the thought of reading about the life of a gushing mother, hold your proverbial horses, just a little bit. I said inspired, not about. The poems in this collection search for meaning in a world of misconception, and offer a new perspective of the world we think we know. They begin with small autobiographical everyday moments and end with a shift in understanding that, I hope, not only enlightens readers, but will leave them reconsidering their own thoughts about life.
They’re rather spiritual in nature, from quiet nights reflecting on the sound of my son’s smile, to viewing life from the perspective of a potted tree dreaming of being rooted into true mother earth. Just like the songs of Mongoa, and my other influences, they are raw, honest, modern-day fables that remind readers to look deeper, feel more, go with the flow, and let the world speak for itself.
1) Old Soul – MONGOA
“Rolling over hills, and valleys, to catch my old soul …” Many fans have said that this song should be the soundtrack to a Viking movie … well wouldn’t that be nice? But deep down it speaks to our deep human need for connection, which a lot of the poems in my collection do too—connection to loved ones, ideas, and to ourselves. Sometimes we feel connected to something, but we’re not sure where it’s coming from, and we search for meaning, feel nostalgic for a past that we’re not sure is our own… we are on the hunt for our old souls.
2) Wise Up – Aimee Mann
“It’s not what you thought, when you first began it. You got what you want. now you can hardly stand it, though by now you know, it’s not going to stop …. ’til you wise up.” I first heard this song, and discovered Aimee Mann, from the soundtrack of a film called Magnolia (1999) starring Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise and Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP, oh how I miss your talent!) This song is primarily about substance abuse, but it is so gut-wrenching and can be associated with so many aspects of life. I get teary every time I hear it, and listen to it when I feel life sucks to remind myself to ‘Wise Up.’ The Magnolia version of this song isn’t on Spotify, but I urge you to find it on YouTube, since it’s a slightly different production than the original, and a lot more moving. A lot of the poems in A Tide Should Be Able to Rise Despite Its Moon deal with the fact that we, alone, are in control of our own choices and how we deal with the emotions triggered by the consequences of them. Sometimes a small shift in perspective can save you.
3) Living in the Cracks – MONGOA
“We live and breathe alone, and in the dark, we search for light, and meaning… We live and breathe too long, and in the cold, we shiver cracks into, already fractured bones.” We’re all broken in some way, aren’t we? And sometimes we feel that things just couldn’t get any worse. Becoming a mother can bring lots of joy, but it can also bring heartache, and for a career-focused woman like me, an identity crisis. “Hope isn’t all we have, we have fear, of finding joy, and happiness… Hope isn’t all that’s left, in your sleep, buildings fall, and you’re still standing tall.” I endure crack after crack after crack, but I’m still here and ‘standing tall.’ I’m finding that living in the moment really helps me to enjoy and appreciate a life that I never thought I’d find myself living, which is also explored in my book.
4) Glassworks: I. Opening – Philip Glass
I love the rolling sound of the piano in this track. It reminds me of splashing/foaming waves, mountains and valleys from a bird’s eye view, the arc of unconditional love, drowning (both figuratively and metaphorically), surviving, inner strength, the will to never give up, the desire to be everything you can be, melancholia, nostalgia … I could go on. I could listen to this track over and over when I’m writing. It sends me into a very calm lull, almost like I’m meditating and my words are not my own.
5) Wall of Darkness – MONGOA
“Pray for pain to pass you by, for pain to linger on, for pain to take your heart, for pain to make things dark.” How often do we wallow in our pain? We want it to go away, but at the same time we can’t live without it. As creatives, I find that pain fuels our art. Without pain there would be no conflict, tension, comedic relief, or emotion. We need those ups and downs in our lives to fully realize our stories. Without pain there would be no story. “Build a wall to your mind, a wall to your soul, a wall to miracles, a wall to darkness.” Along with pain comes the realization that, once again, we are in control of our own emotional pain. We can choose to find a way out of it, or we can wallow in it. Both are necessary.
6) The Heart Asks Pleasure First – Michael Nyman
You probably know this track from the motion picture The Piano. I think it’s one of those films you either love or hate. I’m in the love camp. I think the music did it for me. Soundtracks are everything when I’m watching a film. I really do think they make or break it, and I always pull out my iPhone and Shazam something if I like it. Just like the Philip Glass track in item 4, I could have this on repeat when I write. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I also play piano (badly) and have always had a deep-rooted desire to be able to play professionally. This of course fuels my desire to write both music, poetry, and prose.
7) Silver Moon – MONGOA
“Broken from a light breeze, particles floating away in the air you breathe, bolts in my heart from way it beats out of tune, nothing shines the way I see the silver moon.” When my son was around one year old, he developed a fascination with the moon. Every time he saw a crescent moon, he would get all excited and point to it and say “Half a moon! Half a moon!” in a kind of melodic way. His cuteness would make my heart melt, and the love I felt for him was almost intolerable. This inspired this song, many poems in my collection, and of course, the title. “Green tumbling hills they are indeed alive, and in these hills the stories glow and learn to find the will to thrive, and now the tale it grows.” This song also speaks to the nature of narrative, and with each little step of the way, the narrative becomes bigger and stronger, and develops a mind of its own.
8) Hey Heartbreaker – Dream Wife
When you listen to this song, instead of interpreting ‘you’ as a lover, interpret it as a toddler. That is all.
9) Her Voice – MONGOA
“Breathe in her voice, live in her choice, love in circles, sing in hopeful melodies, not only remedies.” The voice being referred to in this song is the voice of mother nature, and she has a huge voice in my collection of poems too. Earth, water in all forms you can imagine, clouds, moons of all colors, trees, flowers, cicadas, fire, salt, and more, feature in my poems in this collection. This song, with its orchestral instrumentation, really speaks to the drama mother nature can bring. Even the smallest creature should beat to the sound of rumbling timpani.
10) Memory – Babes in Toyland
And I couldn’t end this list without a track from one of my favorite riot grrl tracks from the 1990s which directly inspired the poem that begins, My 22-year old/electric guitar. It completely embodies both the sweetness and chaos of motherhood, beginning with a slow simple drum beat, bluesy guitar riff, and a sweet shaky female vocal singing “Memory
Hide and seek, Halloween, yeah, Men or me, yeah” and then launches into a harder and louder version of the same beat and riff, with a roaring faster vocal singing “Coming in from the other side, Look what you’ve done to me, following, following, Look what you’ve done to me, shadowing, shallowing, Yeah, the other side”. Yeah … I’m on the other side now, baby. And?
Jessica Bell is a multi-award-winning author/poet and singersongwriter who was born in Melbourne, Australia.In addition to having published a memoir, five novels, four poetry collections, and numerous craft books on writing and publishing, she is also the publisher of Vine Leaves Press, and a highly sought-after book cover designer. She currently resides in Athens, Greece, with her partner and son, and a pile of dishes that still don’t know how to wash themselves despite her consistently teaching by example.For more information about Jessica and her projects, visit, iamjessicabell.com.