It’s an arresting idea, and not easy to pull off: assemble a poetry collection around the idea of conception, pregnancy, and childbirth – not, however, like a child is conceived and born, but as a woman is constructed from childhood to adulthood.
The works in the collection are a combination of poetry and short narratives. They are confessional in nature; “self-examined” is perhaps a better description. She recounts scenes from childhood and growing up, the accumulated experiences that, in both good and bad ways, contribute to whom we are as adults. Time is both telescoped and abandoned, because our collective experiences, traumas and delights remain with us, shaping actions and reactions.
The poems and narratives are grouped in five sections: conception; first, second, and third trimesters; and afterbirth. They have the feel of an ongoing flow, always happening in the present. This is one from the :First Trimester” section:
sensing the potential
Is this the me you wish to see
propped up pedestal
trip the switch
Blackness now as you ponder
in the dark there is no sense of my self
which might influence your desire
space and time need pay no mind
the wormhole trumps their power
Now meek and mild
no more girl gone wild
you knew that taste would sour
Pulsing waves distort my senses
while you decide
where you’ll mark your fences
Collar tight, the leash is snug
have you determinedthis is love?
Head grew up in Nova Scotia and now lives in Alberta. She’s the author of a previous collection of poetry, Nothing Left to Lose (nominated for the Pushcart Prize), and Pulse, a narrative fiction collection. She’s also been published in numerous anthologies and publications.
In Birthing Inadequacy, what the poet is particularly conscious of, as the title suggests, are those experiences that contribute to a negative or inadequate sense of self. We’ve all experienced them; what she reminds us here is that these experiences are never really left behind. And yet that recognition is itself a kind of catharsis; recognition leads to understanding, and understanding leads to resolution.
Painting: Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, oil on canvas (1662-65) by Johannes Vermeer; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.