I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.
I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.
Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?
Carolyn Jess-Cooke has written some of my very favourite poems about motherhood. I read her book Boom! published by Seren, and all I kept thinking was: that is exactly how I feel about it. Such authentic, clever writing. Carolyn is a writer who, I think, captures something very universal about motherhood and mothering and she expresses it in such beautiful lines. Boom! is a very honest book and looks at parenting from different perspectives, including the lows as well as the highs.
From the title poem Boom!
There was this baby who thought she was a hand grenade.
She appeared one day in the centre of our marriage
– or at least in the spot where all the elements of our union
appeared to orbit
and kept threatening to explode, emitting endless alarm-sounds
that were difficult to decode.
It captures the explosive nature of having a baby; everything you knew is blown apart and re-made into something that contains this new person. I urge anyone looking for a book about motherhood to buy Boom!
Carolyn is also undertaking an important project at the moment on her blog. It is called Voicing Shadows, Singing Light and ‘it is a blog series designed to tear down barriers of silence that perpetuate suffering and deadly last resorts.’
Carolyn writes: ‘Mental illness affects all of us. More than a third of the population of Europe is affected by mental illness every year, with depression now recognised as Europe’s leading chronic condition. Mental illness is strongly linked to suicide; according to the World Health Organization, by the time you have finished reading this paragraph at least one person will have committed suicide.’
After putting out a call on Facebook and Twitter for poems ‘ that articulate some aspect of mental illness – whether as sufferer, survivor, carer or friend’ Carolyn has arranged them into a series of 7 posts. Today is day 3 and features one of my poems called Dark Thoughts, Lately. I am grateful to be included amongst such excellent poets. So far each post has been full of breathtaking poems that articulate different aspects of depression. I keep re-reading them because it is comforting to know you are not alone with the black dog, as it sleeps just outside the door, waiting.
I read in Kidderminster on Friday. It was the launch of Kidderminster Creatives and was hosted by Heather Wastie. It was one of the best nights I have been to in ages. The reason was the unconventional reading slots.
The upstairs at the Boars Head is the gallery space and to be surrounded by works of art certainly gives the right mood; creative and inspiring. Heather let everyone chat and look at the art, then she introduced three people at a time. Then another gap of 15 minutes for talking. There was a good mix of music and poems. People just performed where they stood with everyone standing nearby. It was immediate and felt like a real exchange of feeling.
Feelings. That’s what prompted this blog post. How to control emotion when reading.
I read one poem, my favourite one from my latest set that I have been working on. The problem, like a lot of my work, is that is sprang from some deeply personal emotion. Not even melancholy or sad emotion, it’s a love poem of sorts. I don’t think the poem is so personal that it doesn’t work for other people, but I do think it triggers a wave of emotion in me when I read it. Even though I have practised it endlessly and know it perfectly, as I stood and performed it, I inhabited the poem too much and my voice broke with emotion during the best damn line of the poem. So infuriating!
I am not against emotion during a reading. Bobby Parker was there that night and he read one of his poems about the Horse Fair and his voice was laden with intensity and emotion. I only wish it didn’t well up in me and inhibit my performance because I feel I am letting my poems down. There I go, feeling too much again.
The fourth poem from forthcoming chapbook Fox Boy can be read today at Ink, Sweat and Tears.