Today is the publication day for my second poetry collection BOOM! Needless to say, I am over the moon, not least because this collection has been four years in the making but because of the subject matter – motherhood. My 8th book, it’s probably the most personal book I’ve published to date.

I had the opportunity to give the first reading from the collection at the Wordsworth Trust on Sunday 13th April. It was also the first Writing Motherhood event, accompanied by Sinead Morrissey and Rebecca Goss who read wonderfully and participated in a discussion afterwards about how motherhood has impacted their creativity. A really wonderful event.

Thank you to all of you who have contributed to the Writing Motherhood blog. To all of you, I raise a glass in celebration of this wee book and hope to see you at the launch! (details here). I hope you enjoy the selections of poems included below.



 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.

On the ridge of threat, we had two options.

One was attempt to make it to the bottom

of the crevice slowly, purposively, holding hands. The other

was see how long we could stand there philosophizing

that when she finally went off we’d be able to take it.

But then the baby who believed she was a hand grenade

was joined in number: several more such devices entered our lives.

We held on, expecting each day to be our last. We did not let go.

As one might expect, she blew us to smithereens.

We survived, but in a different state: you became

organized, I discovered patience, shrapnel soldered the parts of us

that hadn’t quite fit together before. Sometimes when I speak

it’s your words that come out of my mouth.

first published in Poetry Review, 102:2, Summer 2012.

Home Birth 

They said she was stuck,

as though she was a nine-pound human fork

pronged in the dishwasher,

an umbrella that wouldn’t fold to size.

Stuck because my body had never given birth

so I pushed until I thought I’d turn inside out

and yet she sat in my cervix for hours,

heartbeat like a drum

as the contractions collapsed on me

like skyscrapers,

as they talked about the knife.

Second time round, the sour sensation

of complete idiocy

for willing this pain again, going through it,

risking so much for someone

who remained at the fringes of knowing,

ghosted by awful wisdom

that birth isn’t the end of it, nor the worst –

episiotomy; infections; afterpains; breastfeeding.

But my body remembered,

it took the first shunt of his head, yawned, then

toboganned him out in a gush of brine,

red as a crab. I remember his arms

like a sock full of eggs, muscular, fists bunched,

as though he’d been prepared to fight.

first published in New Statesman, March 2014


The Waking

Those first few days every part of her wakened,

the seedling eyes stirred by sunlight, tight fists

clamped to her chest like a medieval knight

and slowly loosening, as if the metal hands

were reminded of their likeness to petals

by the flowing hours. Her colors, too,

rose up like disturbed oils in a lake, pooling

through the birth-tinge into human shades,

her ink eyes lightening to an ancestral blue.

The scurf and residue of me on her scalp floated

easily as a pollen from the sweet grass of her hair.

She reminded me of a fern, each morning more

unfurled, the frond-limbs edging away from her

heart, the wide leaves of her face spread to catch

my gaze. Once, I saw the white down of her skin

cloud in my hands, the cream ridges of her nails

drift like crescent moons, the thick blue rope

she had used to descend me tossed like a stone,

as though she was finally free.

first published in The Stinging Fly, 22, Winter 2012/3


Our children are so soft, we imprint them

like a heavy sole stepping into mud

not breaking the ground but reordering

its elements, the way it will hitherto

hold water, light, the curious nose of wind

and voice of earth. Even when later rain

smoothes out that patina something of the mark

holds. Even when the sun whips the wetness

to its pools of night and the stiffened ground

wears its shelled-out grooves, when these deepen

in each punching hail and hollowing storm

the pattern may be nothing like the original

print but art in its own way, no trace of boot

apparent in the striving clay.

first published in Poetry Review 103:2, Summer 2013


Honour Thy Parents

Honour thy father and thy mother

for they have spent the waning flame

of their youth failing

to get you to sleep; long hours by your bed,

singing, pleading. It was not

what they imagined parenthood would be like.

Honour them

for they have had to figure you out

like a trillion-piece jigsaw

that changed each time

they spied the beginnings of a picture.

Honour them for sparing you,

for fumbling and fretting, dressing and undressing

the foreign shrieking creature you once were

lest you grew too cold, too hot,

these imperfect beings

who confronted their complete dearth of knowledge

at first sight of you,

new and unbearably slight,

they resolved henceforth to do everything

right – honour them

for enduring vagaries and catalogues of advice,

most of it wrong,

for swallowing judgments dealt by strangers

during your many epic meltdowns.

No doubt there were times

you pushed them to some barren edge of love,

embarrassments, harassments of other

children in the park, or when you called them names

in public – fool! Dirty poo-face!

O honour them!

who carried their dreams through your childhood

like beads in a ripped sack,

they were doing their best; understand they were

their own parents’ children – honour them

for they must live with their mistakes,

honour them, which is to say

be all that they were not and do all

they could not, and so honour

your life. And if you find

you can neither forgive nor see in them

the good, the God, or the once unblemished child

think on this –

parenthood is the universal curse

of becoming or overcoming

our parents

for better or for worse –

and honour them.