Right to the heart of motherhood and loss.


I got both of these books on the same day and I met both of the poets on another same day. Perhaps that is why these two books are linked together in my mind. They are both astonishingly well written. They both made me cry. They both made me think about my own version of loss.The poems led me to a door I don’t open very often, one I have tried to write about but find I can’t. Not yet anyway.

‘The pain of nursing and losing a sick baby inspired the poet to write a collection which has earned her a place on the Forward poetry prize shortlist.’

Rebecca Goss writes in a very clear way; I almost felt like the stunning poems were medical notes as I read them. Not that the poems are devoid of emotion, quite the opposite. The poems are raw, tender and precisely detailed. Careful in the sense that they must be written right, the memory must be preserved accurately like a flower pressed between the pages of a hardback book captures the memory of summer. They are heartbreaking to read but always the life itself shines through, not the death. That and the mother’s steadfast courage and love.


We have her prints.
Hands and feet, pencil grey,
as if they stood her in soot.
A nurse lifted her palms
then soles to the paper.
Underneath, wrote her name,
the date. I wanted her handprint
to come home on sugar paper:
bright yellow, ready for the fridge.
Months later, the sun picked out
her paw on the pane, each tip,
tiny as peas. I peered close,
nose almost touching my fossil,
backlit on the glass.
“Print”  Her Birth by Rebecca Goss (Carcanet, 2013)


‘In Imagined Sons  Carrie Etter has written a book of vivid, heartbreaking poems on the experience of giving up a child for adoption. A prize-winning author, lecturer, critic and popular blogger, Etter imagines the possible destinies for the child and presents us with various scenarios from the tragic to the absurd.’

Carrie Etter uses the catechism form to answer the questions so often casually thrown to women who give up a child for adoption. Between these poems are a series of Imagined Son poems. Each one imagining a meeting with the man he might now be. A glimpse, a conversation, different points of his life. Like dreams they begin unexpectedly in a new setting and end without reunion. It is very unsettling and emotional to read, but like any good book I could not stop, wanting to read another vivid scene. Etter shows the complexity of it all: nothing is simple or black and white. Longing is presented next to reason, emotion next to logic. It is this rich layering that makes the poems so brilliant in my opinion.

My favourite poem from Imagined Sons 13: The Woodcutter


Writing and Motherhood

Ledbury starts this Friday! Those words may mean nothing to most people, but to a certain type of person they cause a shiver of excitement and expectation. The kind of people who spend hours debating a line break or think that reading a thesaurus is a treat. Poets.

I am reading from my new pamphlet on Saturday, but before that I am chairing an event called Writing Motherhood. I was excited to be asked to do this because it is something that I can relate to as I have three children of my own and I have often had to fit my writing in around my role as a mother.


The three poets who will be reading their work and debating the issues around the subject are Hollie McNish, Carolyn Jess-Cooke and Rebecca Goss. I have been thinking about it a lot, as I write poem edits whilst waiting at gym class for my daughter or make notes on the edge of my child’s old spelling practise. For me, writing and motherhood is intertwined and cannot be separated easily. It’s not easy being a mother who writes: two occupations that are equally time consuming and require me to be focused. I wouldn’t have it any other way though! I am looking forward to listening to the conversation that is generated about women who write and have children. How do they find the time? Does it make them a better writer? Or does it hamper them and stop them from achieving what they want? After I had the children time suddenly became very finite and precious so when I had a moment I would use it to write with a burning intensity, aware that I didn’t have long before I had to focus on the children. Come along and join the conversation on Saturday.

Writing Motherhood

Saturday, 5th July
11:00 am – 12:00 pm


Burgage Hall

Does becoming a mother affect your creative life? Does a child ‘cost’ a female writer four books or profit her writing? Poets  discuss the various ways that motherhood has influenced their writing, and perform newly commissioned work in response to the social and political dimensions in which motherhood operates.