Tag Archives: domestic violence

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day14


16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day14

Translated by violence – that witnessing violence, or carrying it out, or being the victim of it changes you in a fundamental way.  It sounds obvious written out like that, but there are lots of ways of knowing something without truly knowing it.

The many violences inflicted on women in Ovid’s Metamorphosis.  Echo and her stolen voice, Medusa with snakes in her hair, transformed by revengeful Athena because she was raped by Poseidon, the Theban women and Io’s maids transformed into seabirds, and Europa carried away by Jupiter in the shape of a bull and raped…and the one that twisted my heart, Daphne, transformed into a laurel tree to escape the attentions of Apollo, who then still touches her, even though she is a tree

Transformation of the self by another – maybe it is the most violent thing that can happen

It is not as easily undone

And afterwards, the knowledge that the self can be transformed, and what to do with that self, now it has changed, and whether it is a self at all, or something else, something not-self

This is one of the few poems in the book that directly address other women.  When I say ‘us’ I mean women, women who have been translated by violence, women who have been transformed by it.



Don’t we all have a little Echo in us, our voices stolen,
only able to repeat what has already been said:
you made me do it he says and we call back do it, do it.

Wouldn’t any of us, if pushed, sit on the riverbank
and comb snakes from our hair, or think that in our grief
we could become a sea bird, our outstretched bodies

like a cross nailed to the wind? Who amongst us
hasn’t sat astride a man more bull than man
as he knelt in the dirt, for no good reason we can think of?

There was a time when I was translated by violence,
there were times I prayed to be turned into a flower
or a tree, something he wouldn’t recognise as me.


16 Days of Action #day13 #16days

16 Days of Action #day13 #16days

16 Days of Action – Day 13

This is the other poem in the sequence that I don’t usually read out loud.

I wrote this at Treloyhan Manor Hotel, in St Ives.  I was tutoring a residential there with the poet Clare Shaw.  She led a kind of visualisation exercise, and I wrote this poem.

It was one of two poems that I wrote in her workshop – along with the course participants – the other one is the title poem of the sequence, and will appear here in three days time.

I’ve said thank you to Clare before, but I won’t get tired of it.  She was one of the first people I showed these poems to as a whole sequence and I honestly don’t think I would have published them without her support.

I’d already sent the ‘final’ version of the manuscript to Amy Wack, my editor at Seren, but I sent her this poem, and the other poem, because I knew they belonged with the others.

Part of trauma theory talks about part of you remaining in the time and place where the trauma took place.  I hadn’t read anything around trauma theory when I wrote this poem though.

Poetry can go back to that place and put a fence and a border around it, can contain it a little, so it isn’t just leaking out into and onto everything else.

All of these poems did this for me.  I often describe them as my shields that I put between myself and the world.

I said in an earlier post (I think) that there is a lot of knowing in these poems.

They are also a reaching towards knowing and a figuring out.

I Know

I know this bus stop, the green and flaking paint of it.
I know this road I have to cross, I know the traffic
rushing past.  I know these seven steps.  I know
this door, its weight, its tone as it speaks in anger.
I know this hallway, the hexagon tiles, red and black
and red and black.  I know this second door.
I know what it is for the body to open one door
then the other while the heart stays silent.
I know these floorboards.  I know what it is
to lie here, the body like a boat, caught by its heels
in a harbour. I know what it is to kneel here
as if in prayer, if prayers were ever full of tears.
Ten years on, it’s almost heady to look back,
see myself kneeling on the floor, watching
the hysterical skittering of the phone.
His voice, trapped and low: pick up the phone. 
You’d better pick up the fucking phone.
I know the top of my head, I know my shoulders,
can see how everything I knew is scattered
across the floor, like love and all the weight of it.
I know this room.  I know that sofa, the orange of it,
this patient waiting.  I know how it feels to walk
backwards into it.  I know this place.  I leave my self
down there, kneeling, still alone.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #Day12 #16days

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #Day12 #16days

The Oxford Dictionary defines a “doppelganger” as ‘An apparition or double of a living person’.  There’s an interesting article on the BBC here

I also found this rather strange website where you can register your details and find your very own ‘twin stranger’.

I have my very own twin who I’m often mistaken for, so it’s not that I long for a doppelganger.

But I’ve been fascinated by them since I heard a story from a friend about visiting a concentration camp, looking at the pictures on the wall of the victims who were murdered, and seeing a photo of a student that my friend taught.  My friend said it wasn’t a lookalike, it was his student, staring out from many years ago, from a horrific time in history.

And there are other names for doppelgangers – a ‘spirit double’, a ‘fetch’, a ‘firstcomer’.

So this is my doppelganger poem, my own private haunting, and one of the first poems I wrote in the sequence, examining an experience which led to me finally being forced to think about something I hadn’t thought about for ten years, something I hadn’t told anyone about for ten years, a ‘fetch’ that dragged me back to the past.


It was you, the set of your shoulders, your way
of standing, your arms folded across your chest,

your belly a small hill, it was you, it was you,
your hair dark and shaved, your skin brown

from the sun.  I turned on my heel and went
back into the classroom and sank to my knees

behind the door and I prayed you away,
to a God I’d never spoken to before,

I wished you away like a child.  I looked again
and again through the darkened glass,

it was you, but it was not you.  Your soul
had entered this man, his eyes and his hands

were yours, it was you, I could swear it
on anything you named, if I stopped looking

it would always be you.  So I looked
and I looked till my eyes burned from

not blinking and I watched him walk away.
Your soul left his body as if it had

never been there and all that was left
of you was a taste of smoke in the air.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day6


16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence – Day 6


The painting above is by a fabulous artist called Fran Riley.  It hangs in my living room to remind me what I know.

Poets have always turned to myth and stories to talk about trauma and violence.  The figure of the woodcutter – just the word ‘woodcutter’ and the word ‘forest’ and all the old childhood stories are summoned from their resting places.

When a poem settles down on its hunches and the poet comes from out of the shadows and says something like ‘Listen’ or ‘I can tell you’ or ‘Let me tell you’ or ‘The story goes’ it can feel like they are with you in the room whilst you’re reading.

One of my favourite poems which does this is by the poet Brigit Pegeen Kelly.  The poem is called Song.  Listen, the poet says.  This poem is also about knowing.  Who knows, and who doesn’t.  Not only who knows, but what they know.  The type of knowing.

I read an article that told me that trees warn each other when there is danger.  That they communicate through an intertwined and complicated root system.  That if one tree is failing in a forest, other trees will divert resources to it to help it.

This poem is about a moment of knowing, of understanding, a moment of change, a moment of knowing. Although it is hidden amongst trees, and behind figures of woodcutters, and clever ravens, and throats, and light coming and going from the room as if it was a person.





The Knowing

The story goes that the light slipped past/and entered the
room like a shout/he stood over me/a woodcutter entered
the forest/and the trees began to warn each other/it was
July or maybe June/the knowing settled at my throat/a
clever raven/it never left/does not believe in trees or
flying/the light slipping past/it is sometimes painful/to have
a knowing at your throat/that clever raven/but better than
the alternative/something small and bruised/the raven
knows most things/it remembers nothing/this is really
about the trees/which saw it all

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day4


16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day4

Whilst I was writing these poems, this sequence, once I realised that was what I was doing, I started to look around for other poets who had written about violence or trauma.

My friend, the poet David Tait was leaving to live and work in China and asked me to look after part of his collection of books.

Looking through the box, I found Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

It was a huge and heavy book,written in blank verse.  It would only be a slight exaggeration to say I fell in love with it.

This is from Book 1, available online here and translated by Ian Johnston.

                                                    Before the sea,
land, and heavens, which cover everything,
the entire world of nature looked the same.
They called that Chaos, a crude confused mass,
nothing but lifeless stuff and scattered seeds of matter not yet properly combined, all piled up in the same place together.There was no Titan yet providing light to the world, Phoebe did not grow larger and renew her crescent horns, nor did Earth remain hanging in the surrounding air, balanced by her own weight. Amphitrite had not yet pushed her arms through long margins of the coastal shores, and where there was land there was also sea and air, but the ground was not solid, the water was not fit for swimming, and the air lacked any light. No matter retained its own proper shape—one thing would keep obstructing something else, for in one body cold things fought with hot,wet with dry, soft with hard, and heavy thingswith those which had no weight. 

In the Metamorphosis, there are more than 250 transformations as women (and sometimes men, but mostly women) fall afoul of the gods.  They are transformed into trees, birds, animals, flowers.

I started to think of the violence of that act.  The transformation of the self by another.

Which is what happens in an abusive relationship.

The self is transformed.  Maybe this is the most violent act.

Which sounds ridiculous, because physical violence is obviously more painful, more immediate, more obvious, more measurable.

But then, once the self is transformed, it can’t be reversed.

In Ovid, hardly anyone comes back to human form.

If they live, they live a different life.

I also, around this time, before, during, after writing this poem, found this wonderful and positive portrayal of transformation by the poet Liz Berry.  I’ve always wanted to ask her whether she’d read Ovid – the line ‘I found my bones hollowing down to slender pipes’ is particularly Ovidian, in its detail.  You can read her poem ‘Bird’ here.

When I Was a Thing with Feathers

When I turned mimic and could sing only what I’d heard
a hundred times before, when my throat changed shape
and left me unable to articulate the edges of words,
when feathers pierced my skin growing from within,
when I tried to let my head fall to my hands and found
only wings, when I was able to fly but chose never
to stutter from tree to earth and back again, when I
could live on almost nothing, when I saw myself reflected
in windows, my eyes like tiny stones and my beak
the smallest sword, when I knew fear was just a thing
to be bargained with, inside my feathered heart
was another feathered thing, born white but slowly
turning black, the way the crow in all the stories
was turned black for speaking truth.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence – Day 3


16 Days of Action – day 3

A few years ago – I think maybe the summer of 2014, I booked onto a residential poetry course with Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel at Ty Newydd.

It was a great week – and very productive for me – I wrote a lot of my first collection there.  I wrote my ‘Curse of the Trumpet Teacher’  in one of Ian’s workshops and my poem ‘That Summer’ in Ruth’s workshop (both in my first collection).

And I wrote this poem – ‘He Was the Forgotten Thing’ I think during Ian’s workshop.

Simon Armitage has a great poem here called ‘Not the Furniture Game’ which I think was one of the poems Ian may have used in the workshop. Simon’s poem reminds me a little of a blazon –  defined on the Poetry Foundation website as cataloguing ‘the physical attributes of a subject, usually female’.  It also ‘compares parts of the female body to jewels, celestial bodies, natural phenomenon, and other beautiful or rare objects.’  Simon Armitage’s poem isn’t a blazon but it seems to subvert and answer back to the tradition.

What does ‘forgotten mean anyhow?

There are references to other poems in the sequence in this poem.  When I was writing these poems, I often wrote a line, and then realised there was something, some story, some partial memory I had to write about.  Like ‘he was walking home/through the snow with his arm like a curse/round my neck’ – I had to write a whole poem ‘Followed’ to explain what I meant.  Like the birds, who keep returning throughout the sequence.  Like ‘he was a fist not an eye’ – see Day 10 ‘On Eyes’.  Or the line ‘the language of insects’ from the poem ‘In That Year’ from Day 1.  I didn’t know what I meant when I wrote it then.  I had to write another poem to understand.

Adrienne Rich said ‘Lying is done with words and also with silence’.

and ‘It will take all your heart, it will take all your breath, it will be short/it will not be simple


He was the Forgotten Thing

He was the forgotten thing, the blackened tree
that doesn’t grow, that doesn’t fall, he was
the car that wouldn’t pull over, the tide coming in,
he was everything I put my heart against,
the low set and turn of heads when he entered a room,
he was buses roaring past like blind heroes,
he was stolen things.  He was the connecting parts
of train carriages, he was windows with curtains
to keep out the street, he was a car that drove
through the night, he was a fist not an eye, he was
an eye not an ear, he had thoughts that took over
the day like weather, like the rain coming in,
he was nothing I thought of, he was not
what was promised, he was walking home
through the snow with his arm like a curse
round my neck, he was not black and white,
he was nothing like that.  And look at him now,
standing in a field surrounded by crows, one arm
pointing north but his face to the west,
he knows to be still with his black button eyes,
his stitched-on smile.  The birds have come
to pull out the straw that keeps him upright.
Look how they carry him home in their
sharp little beaks once again.

16 Days of Action against Domestic Violence #day2


16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence  – Day 2

There is a beautiful poem by the poet C.P. Cavafy called ‘Body, Remember’ or sometimes ‘Remember, Body’ depending on the translation.  You can find one translation of it here but I would recommend looking up different versions of this poem.

This is one of my favourite poems – full of regret and desire and passion and longing.  And there is something shockingly direct about it, as if Cavafy is not talking to his body, but to the readers, to yours, to mine.

And the heartbreak of that line ‘Now that it’s all finally in the past’.  The past as a place you want to return to, the past as a place that the body remembers.

The idea that the body can remember things that the mind can’t.

That sometimes there isn’t a narrative

That sometimes your body knows the narrative but keeps it to itself

That sometimes there are only fragments

The body and the mind separated and able to talk to each other

There’s a dog loose in the woods, there’s a dog loose in the woods  

Watership Down, and a rabbit going ‘tharn’

Body, remember not only how much you were loved

Body, remember that night you pretended 

Once you were full of fields

Remind me, body, so I don’t let it happen again




Body, Remember

Body, remember that night you pretended
it was a film, you had a soundtrack running
through your head, don’t lie to me body,
you know what it is.  You’re keeping it from me,
the stretched white sheets of a bed,
the spinning round of it, the high whining sound
in the head.  Body, you remember how it felt,
surely, surely.  You’re lying to me.  Show me
how to recognise the glint in the eye of the dog,
the rabid dog.  Remind me, O body, of the way
he moved when he drank, that dangerous silence.
Let me feel how I let my eyes drop, birds falling
from a sky, how my heart was a field, and there
was a dog, loose in the field, it was worrying
the sheep, they were running and then
they were still.  O body, let me remember
what it was to have a field in my chest,
O body, let me recognise the dog.


Previously published in The Art of Falling by Seren

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence



I wanted to take part in this last year – but by the time I realised it was happening, half of the 16 days had gone.  It seemed important to start at the beginning, to take part all the way through.

The 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence is linked to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.  

In my first collection The Art of Falling there is a sequence in the middle of the book ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ which is centered around/explores an experience of domestic violence.

I thought that I was putting this sequence at the heart of the collection, right in the middle.  But from another angle, maybe I was hiding it.

A strange/almost coincidence that there are 17 poems in the sequence – it almost/nearly fits into the 16 days.

But not quite.  The poems spill out of the container they should have fitted into.  The experience spills out of the year that it happened in and touches everything that comes after.

When I think back to the process of writing this sequence, when I think of the poems in the sequence, Elizabeth Bishop’s poem ‘The Monument’  always comes into my mind.  ‘The Monument’ is only a monument.  But also an experience.  Something you can walk around, and look at from every angle.  Maybe you can climb on top of it and look down. Or lie on the floor and look up.  You can’t climb inside it and look out.  Or maybe you can. Still, by the end of the poem/experience, could you draw the Monument? Could you testify to the truth of it,to what it really looked like?

This was the first poem I wrote about that time, that place, that year.  I wrote it half-asleep, sitting in front of the fire on the floor.  The same feeling of half-asleep that you might have when you’re driving late at night, and you realise you need to pull over before you drift across a motorway, drift into a fence. I wasn’t driving, or at least I was only driving towards a poem. I woke up at 3am with my head in the dog basket and the house completely silent, and the poem (or at least a first draft) finished.


In That Year 

And in that year my body was a pillar of smoke
and even his hands could not hold me.

And in that year my mind was an empty table
and he laid his thoughts down like dishes of plenty.

And in that year my heart was the old monument,
the folly, and  no use could be found for it.

And in that year my tongue spoke the language
of insects and not even my father knew me.

And in that year I waited for the horses
but they only shifted their feet in the darkness.

And in that year I imagined a vain thing;
I believed that the world would come for me.

And in that year I gave up on all the things
I was promised and left myself to sadness.

And then that year lay down like a path
and I walked it, I walked it, I walk it.


This poem can be found in The Art of Falling, published by Seren 2015

Sunday Poem – James Caruth


Evening all.  I’ve dragged myself away from editing my collection with great difficulty tonight to write this post – which is strange because I had to really force myself to start editing.  I think I was worried because I knew that there were problems in the manuscript that I needed to sort out and I was panicking, thinking maybe I won’t be able to sort them out, so I didn’t want to start.  I’ve sent the collection out to a few poets and I’ve had lovely feedback from them – all of them identified things they weren’t sure about – some of them they even agreed on (without knowing it).  Today my good friend Noel Williams wrote to me, sending me 12 pages of detailed feedback, going through each poem and in particular focusing on the order of the poems, which is what I’d asked for help with.  So armed with this and combining it with the other feedback I’ve had I’ve finally started sorting the collection out.  My method for this is to re-type the whole thing again, which is risky because I could type mistakes in but it is my way of editing.  I taught myself to touch type when I was about 17 – probably the most useful skill I ever learnt and I love typing.  I like the shapes that words make on the keyboard when you are touch typing and for me it is an important part of editing – it forces me to slow down which is always a good thing.

This afternoon I helped out the Barrow Steelworks Band at a local church service, just playing hymns whilst the congregation sang.  I actually quite enjoyed it – one of the congregation read a really lovely extract from ‘the electric bible’ (what ever that is) but the first line was ‘The clouds are the prophets of god’ or something like that.  I should have written it down.

This morning my alarm didn’t go off and I woke up at 9.30am which left just time to shove a chocolate croissant down and then jump in the car to get down to Roose to go for a run with the Walney Wind Cheetahs.  Because of my disorganisation, I wasn’t in the best of shapes, but I managed 6 miles at a respectable pace.  Yesterday I had a go at beating my PB at the 5km park run which is held every Saturday.  I managed to knock 11 seconds off – I went from 25mins 13 seconds to 25 minutes 4 seconds…so I’m heading the right way to get under 25.

On Wednesday I met up with poets Keith Hutton and Clare Shaw and non poet Jemima at the Endmoor 10k.  Although this race was ridiculously hilly, the organisers provide tea, coffee, squash and cakes at the end to make you forget about the pain.  It actually works as well.  The weather was so nice, we sat on the field for a while afterwards, planning our ‘Flying Poets’ tour where we are somehow going to combine running and poetry…I’ll tell you more when we know more…

This week in general has been a funny old week.  I’ve spent a lot of it driving round to schools and finding I’m not needed or wanted in because the children are on a trip/having a party/doing something more exciting.  It’s still been busy though because my quintet, the South Lakes Brass Ensemble had their first performance as guests at my sisters junior band concert.  It went really well and I really enjoyed playing.

Poetry-wise, three of the poems from my sequence about domestic violence have been published in Poetry Wales this week, which is apparently out now http://poetrywales.co.uk/currentissue/

I have another three poems out in ‘Poem’ which is out next week http://poemmagazine.org/aboutsubscribe/ and I was excited to learn that one of these poems is also going to be included in an issue of The New Humanist.  You can also read the first poem in the sequence, which was published in Poetry News this week on the website here http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/membership/mempoems/membpo14/#Moore

The other exciting thing is that, by my records, I’ve sold personally 476 copies of my pamphlet.  I’m not sure how many my publisher has sold.  I’ve always wanted to sell 500 copies myself though so it’s looking like I’m on target to get there! If you would like one, head over to the https://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com/reviews-and-stuff/.  It comes wrapped in lovely tissue paper…

This week’s Sunday Poem is another one of the winners of the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition.  I’ve used one of James Caruth’s poems before as the Sunday Poem a while ago, but I asked him for this poem because it made me laugh out loud.  Jim’s poetry is beautiful, lyrical and poised.  His poems are not loud or show offy – they are usually quietly understated so this poem with it’s exaggerations and swagger seemed to show another weapon in Jim’s armour.  This poem also wears its technical achievement lightly – the line breaks are perfectly measured – look at the break at the end of stanza 2 for example after ‘learn’ so we are left hanging, wondering ‘learn what?’ until we reach stanza 3.  And the lovely stanza break at the end of stanza 5.  All of the line breaks in the poem work to reinforce the humour in the poem, as does the repetition of the outrageous claim about the spider’s size.

James Caruth was born in Belfast and lived there until 1982 before moving to Cape Town, South Africa.  He now lives in Sheffield.  His first collection ‘A Stones Throw’ was published by Staple Press in 2007 and a long poem sequence ‘Dark Peak’ was published in pamphlet form by Longbarrow Press in 2008.  ‘Marking the Lambs’ was published by Smith/Doorstop in 2012.  ‘A Spider In The Bath’ comes from Jim’s pamphlet ‘The Death of Narrative’ which was one of the winners of the 2013/14 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition, judged by Carol Ann Duffy.  You can buy Jim’s two latest pamphlets from the Poetry Business website at http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/859/the-death-of-narrative-james-caruth

I hope you enjoy the poem.

A Spider In The Bath – James Caruth

I call her to come and look
at a spider in the bath.
A spider as big as my hand.

She tells me it’s nothing.
Nothing! – It’s as big as my hand.
She tells me I must learn

not to exaggerate my fears
but to take deep breaths, confront my anxieties,

see this spider as big as my hand
for what it is and nothing more.
Tegenaria domestica,

which at this time of year, she adds,
is prone to wandering long distances
in search of a mate.  And what’s more,

I should note its resilience,
how it will survive in its quest for months
without food or water.

She admires the unwavering intent
to follow desire.  I ask her how she knows
so much about this spider as big as my hand.

She looks through me as if studying
a stain she has only just found
on the bathroom tiles,

and says, it has always intrigued her
how, when the act is complete, the female
will turn and eat every last bit of him.


Sunday Poem – Carrie Etter


It has been so long since I have written this blog in the daylight – the last couple of weeks have been speed typing at half an hour before midnight.

This week has been as busy as usual – on Monday I booked my flights for my trip to Ireland in May – I am reading at O’Bheal in Cork on the 26th May – before the reading I’ll also be running a workshop.  I managed to have a chat this week with the lovely Ita Dempsey who I stayed with in Fermoy when I went over last year for the festival and Ita has asked me to run a workshop for her poetry group the weekend before the O’Bheal reading.  So I’ll be heading over to Fermoy before the reading which will be good fun – so the reading at O’Bheal has now morphed into a bit of a jolly to Ireland which I am not complaining about in the slightest!  I’ll be in and around Cork and Fermoy from the 23rd May to 27th.

My friend Jill came to stay this week as well – Jill always kindly puts me up in London when ever I have readings down there so it was nice to have her come and visit.  She seemed to spend most of the visit with my dogs or the cat lying all over her on the sofa!  Jill’s visit also coincided with lots of poetry happenings this week in Cumbria – on Wednesday it was the Open Mic at Zefferelllis  – Zaffar Kunial was the Guest Poet – it was my first chance to hear Zaff read his poetry in a longer set so I’d been looking forward to this for a while.  Zaff didn’t disappoint – he is a great reader of his work and his poems definitely stay with you after you’ve heard them.

On Thursday we walked the dogs down to the beach huts – one of my favourite dog walks – it is about a mile or so to get to the beach but the views are stunning and there are lots of beach huts – all different shapes, sizes and colours and I like to fantasize that one day I will have one as my writing hut! Apparently they hardly ever come up for sale though…

I also got my house valued as we have nearly finished the decorating now – just a carpet to put down and the back yard to tidy up.  Rather depressingly, but predictably, my house is worth the same as I paid for it eight years ago – I suppose it could be worse.  My lonely garret is starting to look a little impossible to reach – but we shall see!

On Friday I was the guest poet at an event in  Preston at The New Continental.  The event was organised by three local poets, Martin Domleo, Terry Quinn and Ron Scowcroft.  It was the first event of it’s kind and there was a good audience.  In the first set I read mainly from the pamphlet and I managed to sell six wolves.

In the second set I decided to read mainly from the new sequence I’ve been working on which I’ve mentioned on here before – it is about domestic violence and the impetus behind this sequence was a year long relationship that I had with someone ten years ago when I was 21.

Consequently, it was quite a nerve-wracking thing to stand up and say.  I felt it was important to give this introduction, that the poems come from personal experience (although they are not confessional, or autobiography, I don’t think) because I didn’t want people to think I was appropriating another person’s experience.  The introduction was the hardest thing to do – and then I just read the poems, one after the another, without the usual introductions (or scaffolding as I think of it) around each poem.  For me, although I was absolutely terrified reading them – it was also a liberating experience and I’m really glad I did it.

The reason I’m writing this today is that this week, I’ve been reading Carrie Etter’s new book ‘Imagined Sons’ and have been blown away by it – as soon as I finished I wrote to Carrie and asked her if I could have one of the poems from the book for the blog.  Carrie’s book is a series of poems which reflect on the experience of a birth mother who gave up her son when she was seventeen.  The poems in ‘Imagined Sons’ circle around and around this subject – looking at it from different angles and view points – I don’t think they are just a reflection, they are trying to make sense of something that is so painful that maybe it can’t be made sense of, something that happened in the past that has echoes which can be heard and probably will be heard throughout a whole life.

Now, experiencing domestic violence and giving up a child are obviously completely different subjects and experiences – but I suppose the idea of having an experience that haunts you, that you can’t make sense of, was the thing that made me instantly connect with the poems in Imagined Sons – and the technique of handling this material by standing back and looking from different view points and angles is something I’ve tried to do in my sequence too.

Carrie’s book is punctuated by ‘A Birthmother’s Catechism’ which is a question that is asked over and over again, and which receives different answers each time.  The question in the first catechism is ‘How did you let him go?’ which is in itself a heartbreaking question.  There are ten Catechisms and each one asks a different question over and over again.  In between the Catechisms are the Imagined Sons.

The son is imagined as a baker, a pilot, a delivery man, a business man, as a teenage goth.  The thing I loved about these poems was their bravery – in Imagined Sons 17: The Courthouse – the son arrives ‘in a cheap suit and handcuffs’.  The poems don’t shy away from imagining negative reincarnations of the son.  In ‘Imagined Sons 16: Narcissus’ the poem imagines the son as Narcissus and finishes ‘I know I’m here to drown us both’ and many of the poems are concerned with the damage that could be caused if the two were to meet.

Perhaps the most striking thing in the book though is how the mother and the son brush past each other in different reincarnations, in different places, over and over again in the poems – often not quite meeting at all.

The poems in the book, apart from the Catechisms are all prose poems – and are brilliant examples of the form.  A good prose poem ( I think) should feel inevitable – as if there is no other form that poem could wear and the Imagined Sons certainly live up to this.  I will stop gushing now – but it is a really beautiful book and if you are only going to buy one poetry book this month I would make it this one!

Carrie Etter is an American expatriate who is a poet, fiction writer and critic with two previously published collections: ‘The Tethers’ (Seren, 2009) and ‘Divining for Starters’ (Shearsman, 2011).  She is a senior lecturer in creative writing at Bath Spa University.  Sixteen of the ‘Imagined Sons’ poems  first appeared in a pamphlet published by Oystercatcher in 2009 called ‘The Sons’ which was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice.

Carrie has her own website at http://carrieetter.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/imagined-sons-seren-2014.html where you can find out more about her.  If you would like to buy a copy of the book you can find it at

Imagined Sons is published by Seren and you can buy a copy from Seren at http://www.serenbooks.com/book/imagined-sons/9781781721513

I asked Carrie if I could post ‘Imagined Sons 36: The Bus’.  This poem was originally published in Long Poem Magazine.  In this poem, the son is both driver and passenger on the bus – I interpreted this to mean the Son is both the thing that shapes the mother’s life – the driver who decides in what direction her life (or the bus) is going to go, but also the passenger, the person who is not in control, whose life has been shaped by another person’s decision.  It is beautiful writing.  I hope you enjoy it.

You also get a bonus because you can read one of my favourite ‘Imagined Sons’ poems online at ‘The Iowa Review’ here, which imagines the son as an olive: http://iowareview.uiowa.edu/?q=page/etter

Imagined Sons 36: The Bus – Carrie Etter

When I get on the bus to go to work, the driver winks at me.
Winks! I take my ticket and choose a seat; there’s only one other
passenger, and he rides in the very back.  The wink has jostled me
into curiosity, and when it occurs to me that yes, the driver’s
features seem vaguely familiar, I realise that the other passenger is
coming closer.  I look over my shoulder and see him, dark-haired
with downcast eyes, advance a row.  When I look into the driver’s
rearview mirror, I am surprised to see reflected two casts of the
same face, not twins but somehow the same person twice over,
driven and driver, my son and my son, as the bus takes a turn
away from its route, past a field greener than any I have ever seen.