Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 30 March 2015

  • A Birthmother’s Catechism


    How did you let him go?


    With black ink and legalese

    How did you let him go?

    It’d be another year before I could vote 

    How did you let him go?

    With altruism, tears, and self-loathing

    How did you let him go?

    A nurse brought pills for drying up breast milk

    How did you let him go?

    Who hangs a birdhouse from a sapling?


    by Carrie Etter


    ‘A Birthmother’s Catechism’ is copyright © Carrie Etter, 2014. It was published in Imagined Sons, and is reprinted here by permission of Seren Books

    Notes from Seren: 

    American poet Carrie Etter has lived in England since 2001 and taught creative writing at Bath Spa University since 2004. She has published three collections of poetry: The Tethers (Seren, 2009), winner of the London New Poetry Prize, Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011) and Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014); she also edited the anthology Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010). Individual poems have appeared in Boston Review, The New Republic, The New Statesman, Poetry Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and many other journals worldwide. She also reviews contemporary poetry, most recently for The Guardian and Warwick Review.

    You can read more about the book on Seren’s site, and find out more about Carrie’s work from her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter.

    Writing of this collection, Carol Rumens has commented: ‘The narrator is a mother whose son was adopted soon after his birth. In the main sequence she describes a series of encounters with the now-adult child. This is not the report of a literal search, nor an effort to construct an identity, but a mosaic of the numerous possibilities of relationship. Funny at times, fast-moving and psychologically astute, these tiny monologues are held together by a narrative voice as seemingly self-possessed as it is candid.’

    Seren is based in Bridgend, South Wales and was originally conceived in the early 80's by then Head of English at Brynteg Comp, Cary Archard, on his kitchen table as an offshoot of Poetry Wales magazine. After moving briefly to poet Dannie Abse’s garage in Ogmore by Sea, the advent of Managing Editor Mick Felton has seen the press has go from strength to strength. We’ve published a wide range of titles including fiction (which under Editor Penny Thomas has seen the Booker-nominated novel by Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days, and an acclaimed novella series based on the medieval Welsh tales from the Mabinogion) and non-fiction (including literary criticism such as John Redmond’s Poetry and Privacy, as well as sumptuous art books like the collaboration between the painter Shani Rhys James and a number of poets and writers: Florilingua). Seren’s poetry list, edited by Amy Wack since the early 90s, has produced T.S. Eliot-nominated titles by Deryn Rees-Jones and Pascale Petit, Costa winner John Haynes, and a large list of Forward prize winners and nominees. Cary Archard remains on our Board of Directors and is a lively and influential presence. We mourn the loss, last year, of the wonderful Dannie Abse, also a guiding spirit. Find out more about the publisher from its website.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.