ECKLEBURG BOOK CLUB | Birth Mother Mercy by Alex M. Frankel

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Birth Mother Mercy by Alex M. Frankel


Alex M. Frankel’s Birth Mother Mercy is about maternal abandonment and sorrow, and the endless search for that ideal love who could not or would not be there either at the time of birth or during childhood. It is a book about loss, searching, grieving; the voice speaks—or the many voices here speak—with anger and bitterness but also with an abundance of humor and satire. The desolate suburban landscape of southern California serves as the backdrop to many of these poems—though quite a few are set in cyberspace, and one is set at thirty-six thousand feet in the air. Some poems, in a Hopperesque way, reach out beyond an individual’s concerns to the larger world of the multiplex and the 7-Eleven, but in the end return to the search for family, meaning, community, a search with stops and detours along the way that many will find sublime, and others may find shocking.



“Days and nights in Los Angeles, roots tugged out, wrung out, chatrooms, classrooms, malls, toilets, Help Wanted at the 7-Eleven, elusive boys, “urgent hunger,” the American 20th century, loneliness and betrayal—these poems have begun to haunt me. Alex Frankel sings in a register almost beyond hearing, the pain is so keen, the writing so fine.” –Alicia Ostriker, author of The Book of Seventy

“[Frankel] has a sharp sense of imagery and an uppercut-punch use of language; he conveys emotion with surprising metaphor, and his exploration into themes of loneliness and quiet rage are done…with a true poet’s precision.”
–From a review by Eric Morago (

“Frankel’s work makes me cry; I’m very moved, always. I think he’s a great poet. I’m always changed a little bit when I read him: I’m changed in a direction that’s closer to my own soul. I’m chilled by the mystery of great art, and feel hopeful, in some way.”–Gail Gauldin Moore, author of Nancy of the Silences

“As a reader of Alex’s writing for two decades, I can truly say that few of his contemporaries can equal his talent for blending strong human personalities with often startling emotional events.” –Robert Foster, author of I Want to Go in Motion


Purchasing Information

Publisher: Lummox Press
Page Count: 97
Price: $15
Size: 7 1/2 x 9 1/4
Release Date: November 2013
ISBN: 978-1-929878-48-2



Discussion Questions

  1. What are some of the underlying themes of Birth Mother Mercy?
  2. How can we interpret this book’s title?
  3. This book contains free verse poems, prose poems and some formal poems–can you identify the formal poems and the names of these forms?
  4. In what way does the opening poem, “The Growth,” set the reader up for what is to come?
  5. This poet often disturbs readers by being at once “too literary” and “too frank”–explore why this might be the case.
  6. Birth Mother Mercy, while unified thematically, contains quite a mix of voices and poetic forms; do you think it all holds together? Explain.
  7. What are some of the more memorable lines and poems in this book?
  8. This poet is often spoken of as “taking risks”–point out in which poems he might be doing this. And: What does it mean to take risks in poetry?


Alex author

Alex M. Frankel was born in San Francisco. In addition to Birth Mother Mercy, he has a chapbook entitled My Father’s Lady, Wearing Black (Conflux Press). Besides poetry, he writes short stories, book reviews, and essays; recently his essay “Cycles of Rejection: An Elegy for My Four Parents,” appeared in the online journal Switchback. His essay “Broke Straight Stud: A Case in Porn” appeared in the Dr. TJ Eckleburg Review in 2013. His website is


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4 Replies to “ECKLEBURG BOOK CLUB | Birth Mother Mercy by Alex M. Frankel”

  1. Available now from Lummox Press! A book about maternal abandonment, greed, lust, isolation, death, sorrow, abuse, lightened and leavened with a few limericks…

  2. It has been called an obscene mishmash that any decent person would instantly throw in the garbage–check it out before all copies are confiscated!

  3. So honest and raw are
    the poems in “Birth Mother Mercy,” by Alex M. Frankel, that each one
    I read makes me feel that I am privy to secrets of life. And then there is the
    much needed laughter, still stinging and with a kind of poignancy that makes my
    head nod reflexively.

  4. BIRTH MOTHER MERCY is a great book. At the moment he’s
    working on a memoir: A BIRTH MOTHER’S KISS, which is even stronger than his poetry. It is actually a kind of pilgrimage for Frankel’s highly regarded poetry, into an appealing, yet appalling prose narrative of a boy’s life lived without the love of parents. No doubt many of his readerswill experience degrees of identification with his confusions, beginning with rejection as an infant, by his beautiful, but unstable young mother. Then moves on to reveal a father devoid of paternal feelings, incapable of instilling love in a boy of his own
    co-creation. What emerge steadily throughout the book are the means young Frankel utilizes,
    including psychoanalysis, to cope with a puzzling life. Including romantic relations with a variety of young men in Spain, England, and the United States. All enabling him to stand before us emotionally naked telling his story, sometimes with humour, Always emboldened by the talents of an exciting poet turning to prose with truly impressive ease.

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