An Othered Mother is a pamphlet about the body, trauma, and family, exploring the ways in which bodies intersect with bodies. Jem Henderson plays with form and language to achieve a vision where ' a hundred genders bloom', where the binary falls apart - we can only hope the future reads like Jem Henderson's poetry, because their poetry very much is the future.

Aaron Kent is the editor at Broken Sleep Books and has had several poetry books published, including Angels the Size of Houses (Shearsman Books) and The Rise of... (Broken Sleep Books).

An Othered Mother is an innovative collection of existential panic (of sometimes Biblical proportions), in which the comfort of family and relationships still carry within them some unspoken threat; we do not know what it is, or if it will ever come to fruition, but this book walks the line between vigilance and acceptance of fate, be it good or bad. At times colloquial and confiding, Henderson uses shifting distances of tone which make visceral attempts at simulating fears of abandonment within the reader; you are loved and isolated, you are held and alone. There are places where childhood and adulthood converge, timelines interfering with one another, family trees and earth. An Othered Mother carries an important message through the magic and confessionalism found in Henderson’s dry, uncynical tone: this book may not have the optimistic message or answer that you were hoping for, but that’s life. We do not always need to feel hopeful, our answers may not be found on motivational slogans printed on notebooks. But we do not always have to feel doomed, either. When reading this book, you will not be given the secret sentiment that unlocks the doors to all of your happinesses. But you will, for the moment, find somebody sitting beside you on the sofa, offering you a slice of pizza, and when somebody gets the answer wrong on the gameshow you are watching, you will laugh. You’ll say, “I can’t remember the last time I laughed like that”, and for an hour or two before bed, you won’t even think about what happened.

Scout Tzofiya Bolton, author of A Terrific Uproar (Broken Sleep Books), and Wild Heather (Civil Coping Mechanisms).

Sensuous, cinematic, and essential. Poetry like this makes us remember ourselves. Exploring gender, sexuality, and class Henderson brings a distinct gaze to how we navigate the intimate relationships with ourselves and with each other

Joelle Taylor writer and poet. Winner of the T.S Eliot Prize 2022

Jem Henderson

Jem Henderson (they/them) is a genderqueer poet from Leeds, published in Streetcake, Full House, Dreich, and Civic Leicester's Black Lives Matter anthology. They won a Creative Future award for underrepresented writers in 2021. They have a collaborative collection with Chris Cambell, small plates, due in 2023 from Broken Sleep, and upcoming publications in Spelt and Anthropocene.

in sickness and health


when we were ill my mother

would make me and my sister

run up and down the stairs

after she'd called the doctors,

so that when they arrived

the kind man in a bowtie 

would know

just how poorly we were.


I asked her, before

the estrangement

how could you do that?

But all she said was

the world is uncaring

It's a mother's job to teach you


My little boy lays in his bed,

the thermometer reading red

The calpol making his chin

sticky and sweet when I kiss him.

He coughs, the sound caught

in his chest like a bird trying to escape


and I put my cool hand

on his hot head

and teach him

it will be okay