Just in time for a pandemic which ain’t going away any time soon, Signature Books has set up a YouTube channel. For readers of Mormon fare, the new channel will be a great way to sample book releases while seeing and hearing from the authors. Indeed, for the time being, it may be the best way for publishing teams to celebrate new written works in a visual way.

Much to my delight, Signature’s initial videos are a trio of poetry readings by author Dayna Patterson. All three come from her new collection If Mother Braids a Waterfall. Here is Dayna reading the title poem from the collection.

For me, Dayna’s verse captures the power and significance of motherhood by isolating it from its fruits. This is a short poem. I strongly suggest watching it more than once. Avoid settling for your first reaction, take 2 or 3 deep relaxed breaths, and then watch it a second time. With great poetry, second and third readings are where you begin to make meaningful connections and rewarding observations.

In separate videos on the channel, Dayna also reads “Dear Mom” and “The Mormons are Coming.” “Dear Mom” depicts an animal woken from hibernation. The text leaps from lyrical imagery like “dreaming of silver fish and spring” to harsh phrases like “tore razors from my fingers.” Though the poem’s physical narrative includes increasing possibilities for fear and violence, Dayna’s voice remains calm and steady. Of course, there is more going on than just an animal awakening. The poem’s crafted tension and its meaning are rooted in humanity and parental vulnerability. Give it a try.

“The Mormons are Coming” is the longest of the three poems Dayna reads, but it is also the most immediately accessible. Dayna provides a crisp and clear succession of Mormon cultural images and ideals, everything from funeral potatoes to home displays of the motto “Families are Forever.” These images will likely burst with significance for Wheat and Tares readers. The strength and depth of this poem are achieved through steadily rising tension, even as many of the images remain outwardly warm and inviting. Sometimes the verse feels like a celebration of Mormonism and other times like an indictment.

Looking ahead, Signature Books is planning to post videos of Lavina Fielding Anderson reading from her book of essays Mercy without End.

Questions for Discussion

  • After watching Dayna read her poem “The Mormons are Coming”, comment on which images of Mormon culture jumped out at you. Why do you suppose they did?
  • What were your reactions listening to the poems “Dear Mom” and “If Mother Braids a Waterfall”?