I’ve never been someone who reads poetry, but I’ve always liked the idea of reading it.
My history with poetry is this. I recently bought a war poetry collection because I remember doing war poetry for my GCSEs and enjoying it (not enjoying it, like that!). But I haven’t read any of it.
I won a prize at school and got £10 to spend on a book. I chose a collection of Jim Morrison’s poems, because I was 17 when I had to choose. But I’ve never read it.
I got a poem a day book from my Grandma’s house when we were clearing out her house after she died. But I’ve never read it.
I spot the pattern, it’s not hard. I need to actually read some of the poetry I’ve already got. That would be a great starting point.
I feel like I want to like poetry more because I want my kids to think liking poetry is normal (because it is!) and I’ve always felt like I should make more effort to find poetry I like. I do better with poetry for kids (shout out to Michael Rosen’s Bananas in my Ears, and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes.) probably because they are so much more accessible.
Then one day, early last year, I heard Hollie McNish reading out a poem about breastfeeding on Radio 4 (of course!) and I needed to read her book.
Nobody Told Me is in diary form about when McNish found out she was pregnant up to her daughter being 3. The poems are in amongst longer prose about the whole experience. I love this book with all my heart. I even had to stop reading it for ages because I didn’t want it to end. When I realised I’d shelved it for a year, I knew I had to just let myself finish it!
I’ll be honest, I’ve found so many things about pregnancy and having small children, and breastfeeding just shocking because they were unexpected. I heard ‘you will have to feed your baby every 2 hours at first’ and thought I understood how that would feel. I got a babies that wanted to feed constantly from 6pm to 5am and this gradually reduced over the first month. I felt horrendous for at least a year.
I knew breastfeeding would be ‘hard work’ but the reality of cracked, bleeding nipples and a baby that always wanted feeding, and people saying carry on, and others saying give a bottle was overwhelming and from another planet insane. And more than that, as an introvert having small people who constantly talk and want to touch you and want attention is beyond anything I could ever have imagined.
So an honest book, covering these tough years, with insanely emotive poetry is heartbreakingly great. It brought up so much emotion for me. There’s also bits that made me laugh out loud.
McNish is so honest and so positive. Things happen while she’s pregnant (like people touching her bump) and she always tries to see the positive reason they are doing this incredibly invasive, annoying thing. He gran trying to get her to get married and she sees she is trying to protect her.
The mixture of heartwarming to heartbreaking to devastating is perfect. It’s the nearest account of pregnancy and small child parenting to my own experience, and it made me cry and laugh in equal measure. The poetry is incredibly moving and completely relatable and accessible. Hooray!