Monday, December 08, 2014

I've been working on a series of childbirth poems based on the experiences of women in the early twentieth century and earlier of medical intervention in childbirth. I happened to be reading up on the work of filmmaker Irene Lusztig when I came across the very interesting and rather gruesome history of medical intervention in childbirth. It's a debate that still rages today and people have very strong feelings about.

The poems took me by surprise. I found references to childbirth creeping into my poems rather consistently over this last year and yet didn't feel I could explore it as a subject fully in an original way.
Suddenly I found a new way to write about childbirth through the personae of women who experienced rather dreadful medical interventions. So I've been a bit obsessed about reading up on terrible childbirth experiences! So far I have eight poems in the sequence and I feel there are a few more to come at least.

I've also been utterly delighted by Jay Parini's book on Roethke. A fantastic analysis of Roethke's poems, influences and the theory behind them. It's been a lot to take in and a book I'll be reading over several times. I feel it's answered a lot of my questions about Roethke and Plath's writing - about the role of mysticism, mythology and the transcendentalism of the American Romantic tradition.


Jim Murdoch said...

That’s it, isn’t it? Finding a way in? And once you discover it it’s so blinding obvious. Why’s no one already written this? Damn. Maybe they have. Must google it and see. No, it looks like I’m okay there. Phew. And then, of course, there’s the panic: when will I dry up? Will I have enough for at least a chapbook? I did make a start on some medical poems many years ago but only got four into the run and they stopped coming: ‘The Venereologist’, ‘The Pathologist’, ‘The Gynaecologist’ and ‘The Medical Student’. The first one got published four times but that was back when I didn’t realise you weren’t supposed to do stuff like that.

I did manage to finish two complete sets, ‘The Drowning Man Poems’ and ‘Sweet William’ but both took years (1981-2002 in William’s case). Every few months another one would pop out into the world but I’m pretty sure they’re done now. They were effective ways of exploring the bigger idea but then I discovered prose.

Never read Roethke. Well maybe I have and he never stuck. I think Carrie has something by him. I made a real effort with poetry this year but I’ve just told Rob that I’m not reviewing any more books for Elsewhere. They take too much effort and I hate the 500-word upper limit. I have a Guillevic some nice professor sent me—he’s republishing my article on Beckett and Guillevic in his journal—but I don’t think I’m going to be in the right mindset to read it until next year. It’s something that needs to be savoured.

Marion McCready said...

The first one got published four times but that was back when I didn’t realise you weren’t supposed to do stuff like that. - haha I remember accidentally doing something similar :)

I was asked to contribute a themed mini collection to a book published next year with the work of two other poets in it so I'm really excited to have put all my birth poems together which I've combined with fitting garden poems and my sequence is going to be called simply The Birth Garden! I'm really excited about it - it's a good way to showcase the birth poems and now that I've ordered them in a collection I can't believe how well they work with the garden poems!!