Sandra Faulkner Bringing Up Baby
Sandra Faulkner Bringing Up Baby

Collage and Erasure Poems: “Bringing Up Baby”

“Bringing up Baby” is a collection of collage and erasure poems about pregnancy and mothering created from felted wool, applique pins, crayon, markers, stickers, photos, book pages, crib placards, pediatrician instructions, language, and family artifacts that function as praise for and critique of (white) mothering. The collection of mother poetry contains two types of collage and erasure poetry: “What to Expect,” which are erasure poems from a pregnancy advice manual (see left side of slide) and “Baby Book,” which includes erasure and collage of feminist texts, my baby book, and material scraps of my daughter’s early years.

Sandra Faulkner, “Bringing Up Baby”, Collage Poetry, Photoshop

Bringing up Baby

“Was the day I was born the best day of your life? Was the best day of your life when I was born?” My daughter asks on a scooter ride around the block. I let the dogs sniff the dead squirrel rotting by the neighbor’s tree.

“The demand for happiness is increasingly articulated as a demand to return to social ideals… The belief that happiness should be an effect of following social ideals, almost as if happiness is the reward for a certain loyalty.” (-Sarah Ahmed)

Do not lie. Do not quit.

My mother’s advice, part of me, my body, the way I move through this task of mothering are stitched into my answer.

As I explained in my recent podcast here at The AutoEthnographer, collage can be a form of visual poetry. It can be a form of textual poetry. What it means is that you’re juxtaposing existing elements into something new, so you’re taking preexisting parts and arranging them. Collage poetry can include visual elements. You can juxtapose different texts like found poetry and cut up poetry and include different visual elements. The idea is that collage contains a mix of visual, audio, and textual components, and it’s great for when you want to create some kind of multi-dimensional work, and you know this can work well on the page. It can also work well 3-dimensionally. We could also think about incorporating elements of video as well.

Sandra Faulkner, “Are You Pregnant?”, Erasure Poetry with crayon, pencil, paper, and knit sweater

Are You Pregnant?

be negative                 call
                                the pregnancy program
a hormonal imbalance

                        emotional tools

                                                a list of



                                Take a breath

put off

                                        your baby

Sandra Faulkner, “Are You Pregnant? 5”, Erasure Poetry with crayon, pencil, paper, and knit sweater


                pee on that

Wait                                 the number of days
                                 in the last 6 months


your test

                       with               a few drops of blood

your tiny  



                                          physical sign

                            color                             the vagina

test the cervix

My Creative Collage and Erasure Process

In the “What to Expect”1 pieces, I use erasure and collage with pages from What to Expect When You Are Expecting, a popular guide to pregnancy and childbirth that I found insulting, highly heterosexist and hegemonic when I was gifted it by my Obstetrician’s office. At first, I read the guide to be a good pregnant woman and new mother who is self-abnegating and completely fulfilled by feminine breeding, but it was frustrating and made me feel more than inadequate. I finally quit advice manuals when my daughter was 4 months old.

Sandra Faulkner, “Nine Months”, Erasure Poetry with crayon, pencil, paper, and knit sweater

Nine Months

read the small print

honey sugar you
can suspect


be separated

I created six pieces using the pages of the book that correspond to my birthday and my daughter’s birthday. Using leftover crayons and pencils from my daughter’s art projects to erase some words and highlight others, I tell another more nuanced story of pregnancy, the story of an ambivalent, though intended pregnancy. I also recycled pieces of a sweater I knit that accidentally got felted in the wash.

Sandra Faulkner, “Birth Day”, Collage Poetry, Photoshop

Birth Day

The queer child is an unhappy object for many parents…

happiness provides the emotional setting for disappointment…

we just have to

expect happiness

from ‘this or that’

for ‘this or that’

to be experienceable as disappointment. (-Sarah Ahmed)

It was an indoor hospital day

full of induced labor with no pain meds

I thought of death

during the 4-week wait,

the detaching placenta

hooked to the medical model

Critiquing Dominant Narratives

The resultant erasure collage allows for a range of feelings about pregnancy and critique dominant narratives of pregnancy and childbirth. “Collage could be seen as an enactment of deterritorialization in that creating a collage, one takes something from its recognizable territory and distorts it into new forms” (Smartt Gullion, 2019, p. 163). Using collage as poetic inquiry and Halberstam’s (1998) idea of scavenger methodology, I re-story and create (or distort) a different kind of a baby book, family history, mothering, and mother’s work. A scavenger methodology queers our research endeavors through the combination of different methods that have been traditionally excluded from research on human behavior, especially those that are seemingly oppositional.

Sandra Faulkner, “Battle of the B-F Girls”, Collage Poetry, Photoshop

Battle of the B-F Girls

Look at the placards from our hospital cribs,

the directions for breast/bottle

feeding success. The pressure

from the institutions that know

best. You can’t win.

Breast is best, but bottle is modern.

Battle of the B-F Girls

Release the thirty-seven years          between          us
mothers who can’t win

Every sentence begins I’m a (bf!) GIRL          yes          I’m a (BF!) GIRL

Argue which nipple is best– bottle-fed by the modern mother
but          breastfed is best

Suck the modern formula for the modern mother
you          know the modern way

Trust success of this baby girl business          in seven steps
bf girl and/or bf girl

The use of nontraditional scholarly materials—poetic language, fiber, family artifacts—and means of presentation and insisting this is research queer what is considered interpersonal communication methodology.  “Collage is particularly well suited to arts-based researchers who seek to uncover, juxtapose, and transform multiple meanings and perspectives and to integrate different aspects of a person or phenomena through embodied, multisensorial processes” (Scotti & Chilton, 2017, p. 360). The collage form is a way to play with image and text, to expand the possibilities of text and story to show how poetic inquiry on mothering, family, and cultural history shape the poetic voice and how poetic voice is a form of feminist theorizing and an example of interpersonal feminist scholarship (Manning & Denker, 2015).

Sandra Faulkner, “Feeding”, Collage Poetry, Photoshop


2 months

Any feeding concerns?
Are you putting anything in your baby’s bottle
When awake, does your baby spend time


Encourage your baby          to kick
time          not recommended under age 2

        baby         go longer between
        by 4 months old
                crying means hunger
        wait 4 months to start cereal

        Do Not
        Do Not give your baby honey

Feeding Concerns?

Concerned feeding.

Feeding the list

        of too little,
        too much,
        and never enough.

The “Baby Book” Collage

In the “Baby Book” collages, I juxtapose images, text, and reflections from my unfinished baby book and my daughter’s never begun baby book in a reimagined scrapbook wherein two mothers—my mother and me—converse in lines of poetry about being mother and the white middle-class expectations of motherhood that mean a mother is never good enough. I use pages from my baby book that my mother filled in, notes from my pediatrician and my daughter’s pediatrician on feeding, sonogram images, and text from feminist theory. Most of the pieces are done in Photoshop, though one of the pieces was an erasure poem made with stickers from the pediatrician’s office and washable child markers.

Sandra Faulkner, “Food Thought”, Collage Poetry, Photoshop

Food Thought

Feeding Concerns?
Are you putting anything in your bottle?

                                                  baby spend time


                                        get older and bigger
                                        take more
                                        take breastmilk or formula

Crying means hunger
          continue to use
Wait months to start

DO NOT           bottle
Be active
Encourage           reach           kick
Screen time

The erasure collages “serve as a kind of queer Pinterest scrapbook that critique and interrogate expectations and attitudes about what mothers should do, think, and feel. Good mothers in a pro-natalist culture should channel their creativity into things like making scrapbooks of their progeny” (Faulkner, 2017, p. 166). Good academics should act as if they do not have children and certainly said children should not disrupt and make messy service, teaching, and research activities (Faulkner, 2012; Huopalainen & Satama, 2018).

The poems show the dialectics of being mother and academic, poet and scholar, feminist and knitter and discourses of good (white) mother and bad mother, feminist academic and everyday mom.

Sandra Faulkner, “Working Mom”, Collage Poetry, Photoshop

Working Mom

Throw the carcass of a week
in a soup pot filled to the top
with the scraps of non-negotiable work,

the child who wretches in the bed
with no mattress cover.
Sauté the passive aggressive snark

of the other school volunteers
and the unappreciative colleagues
until you have a reduction of rotten attitude.

Sprinkle in the salt of rejection,
the pieces of resentment flaked
off the cake of adult

Let the grease of paying bills
float to the top, ladle the scum
of heated and hasty words.

Simmer the emotional hegemony
of everyone who want the mother
of vinegar without the pucker.

Release the trapped series of disappointments
as you turn up the flame.

Collage Poetry as Storytelling and Feminist Work

The use of poetry as a form of storytelling and feminist work provides a way to show dialectics and tensions in family life and provide alternatives to the status quo by critiquing taken-for-granted social structures and assumptions about relational life. “The confessional in poetry focuses attention on embodied experience through highlighting dualistic thinking, especially that which focuses on the body, the domestic sphere, and mothering” (Faulkner, 2017b, p. 103).

Sandra Faulkner, “Are You Pregnant?”, Erasure Poetry with crayon, pencil, paper, and knit sweater

Are You Pregnant?

Everybody knows

transition from fertilized egg to

                                        infertility specialist

you face


                                        the first trimester




                    not convinced

Poetry, as a form, offers a unique way of being able to position and engage dialectics and to uncover taken-for-granted social structures and assumptions about relational life. “Bringing Up Baby” uses erasure to bring forth voices of ambivalence, anger, and disgust not seen in official discourse of pregnancy advice books and medical advice. My positionalities as a white/middle-class/bisexual/ambivalent mother/daughter, academic, romantic partner, and poet influence what I saw in the texts and what I brought out of the shadows. I use erasure as “creative imagination” to remind “us that re-vision is what keeps vision from hardening into dogma.” (Steinorth, 2021, p. xi).

Sandra Faulkner, “Pregnancy”, Erasure Poetry with crayon, pencil, paper, and knit sweater


              because trying               can be

              transfer                embryos
                                          fetuses                             miscarriages abortions                                                                                                   or other infections


                                                                      You’ll                             feel pregnant


                                                                      You’ll repeat

these 9 months

The pieces show places of privilege—leisure time to craft because of job security, having good health insurance, the money to send a child to daycare, and being read as (mostly) a good mother because of being highly educated, white, and partnered. They also show my wrestling with insipid parenting advice and expectations that to be a good (white/middleclass) mother I should spend 110% of my energy and time to turn my child into a baby Einstein. “The most interesting poetry by mothers about motherhood attempts to express the complexity of this multifaceted emotional and physical experience” (Souffrant, 2009, p. 26). I use erasure to free words from “the ossified importance of the authorized” medical community, free them from the dogma of dominant discourse about mothering and motherhood “to imply fresh meanings,” possibilities, understanding (Souffrant, 2009, p. 26).

Sandra Faulkner, Lifestyle 71, Erasure Poetry with crayon, pencil, paper, and knit sweater

Lifestyle 71



skip your

thrill hitting               high


placental abruption


spend hours


                                                        pose                             your                             trouble


                                                        silent                                           against a wall
bump                             that fetus

buzzing                             so close
rattling                                           well-documented                                                         mind

To conclude, the use of poetry as a form of storytelling and feminist work provides CFIC researchers, teacher, and practitioners with a way to show dialectics and tensions in family life, provide alternatives to the status quo by critiquing taken-for-granted social structures and assumptions about relational life (Suter, 2018). The use of erasure and collage as mother poetry, in particular, shows how this poet scholar wrestled with the ambivalence of too much advice and not enough of the right kind of pregnancy and mothering advice. It shows how mothering and motherhood, writing and being an academic, and being a poet and a partner are not uniformly positive or negative experiences, but experiences that we perpetually write and live into existence (Faulkner, 2016).


Source Texts for erasure poems: Murkoff, H. and Mazel, S. (2016). What to expect when you’re expecting (5th ed), p.8. New York: Workman Publishing

.“Feeding”; “Food Thought”; “Bringing Up Baby” first appeared in MotherWork collage (A queer scrapbook). QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, 4(1), 166-179. doi:10.14321/qed.4.1.0166

“Birth Day” first appeared in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. http://matterpress.com/journal/

“Battle of the B-F Girls” first appeared in Rat’s Ass Review, 2. Available at http://ratsassreview.net/?page_id=879#Faulkner.

Working Mom appeared as “Making Soup” in Ithaca Lit. Spring 2017. Available at http://ithacalit.com/sandra-faulkner.html

10 ARE YOU PREGNANT? first appeared in Slippery Elm.
“Are You Pregnant?,” “Nine Months,” and “Life Style” first appeared in S/tick Magazine.

Photo of Sanda Faulkner
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Sandra L. Faulkner is professor of communication at Bowling Green State University where she writes, teaches and researches about close relationships. Her interests include qualitative methodology, poetic inquiry, and the relationships among culture, identities, and sexualities in close relationships. Her research focuses on how individuals navigate gender and sexuality through interpersonal communication and personal narrative. She often uses poetry, creative nonfiction, and autoethnography to explore her own negotiation of identity as a parent, partner, and professor. She received the 2013 Knower Outstanding Article Award from the National Communication Association, the 2016 Norman K. Denzin Qualitative Research Award, and the 2020 Trujillo and Goodall “It’s a Way of Life Award” in Narrative Ethnography. https://www.sandrafaulkner.online/ and https://bgsu.academia.edu/SandraFaulkner