My mother always told me never to put anything I care about in writing…
I began to write in earnest on my forty-fifth birthday. I’d thought about it for many years, but hadn’t been able to gather the courage. I even carried a notebook in my bag in preparation for inspiration. But in truth I was too scared to write anything down in case somebody read it. That seems weird now, since the fear has changed to maybe nobody will want to read it.
Looking back, three years on, I can see how writing was a tool I needed to work through the aftermath of losing my second (and last) child. It happened in May 2003, when I was thirty-seven years old and twenty weeks pregnant. The first thing I ever wrote, more than eight years after the event, was a story based on my experience, but written in the third person, allowing me to distance myself a little from the emotion. As time went on, I became braver and began writing poems around my loss and subsequent period of depression. I am currently working on a collection called Baby Blues.
The move towards poetry was a huge step for me and happened about six months into my writing journey. Up until then I had concentrated on short stories. I’d been afraid of reading poetry and had avoided it as best I could. A turning point came one Wednesday morning during a creative writing class, in an encounter with Raymond Carver’s poem, Happiness. I found myself so moved by the beauty and simplicity of the words that I suddenly knew writing poetry was something I could and should try.
So early it’s still almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
It felt like I’d been given permission to write in simple language. I wanted to convey intensity of feeling in a form anyone could understand.
I remember hearing my O’Level English teacher read Seamus Heaney’s Mid-Term Break and being so overwhelmed I had to leave the classroom. I hope to write poems that will make readers feel that punch in the stomach. For me, poetry is all about connection. Some poets seem to be more concerned with showing off their extensive vocabulary than attempting to connect with the reader. That style may suit some tastes, but it leaves me cold. The poems that stay in my mind are the ones that have made me cry, or laugh, or sometimes both.
Miscarriage is still, for many, a taboo subject. I want to challenge this in a direct way, by being open and honest about my personal experience of a harrowing reality so many couples endure in silence. Poetry gives my pain a voice and allows me to create a memorial for my much-missed daughter. In my poem, Touch, I try to capture, in as few words as possible, the memory of seeing my baby’s body:
Too delicate for touch,
they brought you to me
in what looked like a shoebox.
Your skin transparent,
some fingernails there,
Laura Cameron has had two poems published in CAP Moment and Still anthologies. Her flash fiction, Just Like the Real Thing, has been published in the Incubator Journal. Her poem, Pride, was recently selected for performance at the Reading and Writing for Peace event at QUB.