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Voices and Verses

National Poetry Month: “Release” By Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton

Houston’s Poet Laureate reads a poem inspired by motherhood.


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Courtesy of the poet
Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, Houston Poet Laureate

In this sound portrait, we meet poet Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. She describes her reaction upon finding out that she was named Houston Poet Laureate and talks about why poetry is everything to her. She performs her poem, "Release."

Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton is an internationally-known poet, singer, actress, photographer, wife, mother, and the third Poet Laureate for the City of Houston, appointed in April 2017 by Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Formerly ranked the #2 Best Female Poet in the World, D.E.E.P. has established herself as a notable force in the Performance and Slam Poetry World. A slam coach and performer with numerous competitions and championship titles to her name, she has been featured on BBC, NPR, Upworthy, Blavity, Button Poetry, Write About Now, and the opening video of the 2017-18 Houston Rockets season. Her work can be found in the upcoming Houston Noir Collection by Akashic Books (2019), Wicked Banshee’s Survival Through Art Issue, Alight’s Collection of Poetry, and the 2012 and 2017 Houston Poetry Fest Anthologies. Her pen name, D.E.E.P., originated in middle school and is an acronym for Determined to Excel in Everything Possible.



When I decided to become a mother
People warned me
How hard it would be
That having a child is
Like forever having your heart
Go walking around
Outside your body
But after birthing
Two hatchlings into the gulf
I have come to know motherhood
Is not being any less than human
It is more about learning how to envelope the sea

It is watching your skin soft to slick to sucker to cradle
Trading your blind spot for the infinity of sightlines
Each pregnancy's surge of hormones
Turning you more cephalopod
And if I never believed in evolution

My daughter confirmed me a sea monster
My son made me more Ursula
More sea witch in drag
My confidence has been a constant in camouflage
My spirit has seen the bottom of the ocean more times than I want to admit
But my children

Give the poor unfortunate of my soul venom
And a song
Give me a reason to plot and scheme us into a better sea
Made me unearth myself from the sand every dawn
And dream

Did you know that an octopus has 3 hearts?
One to take all of the rejection life sends
And other two to make sure that it has something to breathe for
The midnight risings often feel of palpitation
Their tangled sleep is me wrestling with myself
The most annoying parts are when I see too much of my ink in them

This world has tried to tell me
I can't have it all
The abyss and the surface too
I respond with my children's constricting laughter
We tighten and choke
The doubt that we can be this and bigger

Don’t you know that a kraken
Is merely a woman
With too much to lose to the sea
That if you come for her offspring
She will drag you under
Did you know that a mother has enough strength to swallow a ship whole?
Davy Jones is a just woman after too many miscarriages
I have a heart in that locker too
I know what it's like to be a mile-long myth

To have to balance being visible
With just being
A bubble gurgling through self-conscious waters
But I wouldn't trade a limb for them
Wouldn’t beg for bones or legs
I am happy drowning my sadness
In their salt-water cure all

At the end of the day
When we have been stretched to distant oceans
When the pirates of work and school and sleep and stage
Have tried to steal our unison chest thump
And propulsion
We be devilfish
Be the things mermaids fear and envy
Make man into nightmare
And expectation into sinkhole
We are not hard

We are not a divided tether
We are an eight-legged doomsday
Are unity town terror
Our tentacles tangling us betwixt one another
Motherhood is a monstrosity waiting to surge
It is a strangling safety
It is knowing
That you have all the reasons to whirlpool
And are just waiting for the moment
To release


This poem is reprinted with permission by the author.

Music used: AprRec1 (excerpt) by Tyondai Braxton from Brooklyn Rider: Spontaneous Symbols; Don't Worry (excerpt), Legions-Forest (excerpt), and Seven League Boots (excerpt) by Zoë Keating from Into the Trees.

To learn more about this series, go here.

Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Senior Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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