Unable Mother

Unable Mother
Unable Mother V.Press

Now available to pre-order for £9.99 from V.Press (published September 4th 2018)


About ‘Unable Mother’

“This work challenges our abstract and cosy notions of motherhood with a brutal and vulnerable delve into the psyche. Calcutt grapples, sometimes violently, sometimes with aching tenderness, each hard-won line “like squeezing/flesh and fruit from the  bone,/this terrible love”. This is an intimate book, the kind that comes in close to your ear to whisper dark secrets and unavoidable truths. These poems are spare, careful, insistent – and devastatingly good.”  Robert Peake author of The Knowledge

Helen Calcutt’s poems are full of surprising and intricate moments – they unfold like origami, deftly packing and unpacking themselves into new forms and presenting the reader with confidences, secrets and insight, the tender words for the things that are hard to say. In their explorations of motherhood, loss and discovery, Calcutt’s poetry is steeled with precise language, always finding clarity forged in the heart of experience.  These are intimate poems which are felt in the body, and written with a keen physicality – “love is meant to live on in the body” writes Calcutt, “My flesh making heaven of it.” In their makings and re-makings, each poem here reveals this to be a remarkable and potent debut. Jane Commane editor at Nine Arches Press 

Sample poem:

The listening tree

I don’t know when this began. I have an ear
for the beautiful/terrible
sounds, soaked with rain.
With my hearing in such leaves,
I can bear the worst of human music.
I’ve gone so very far, listening
without moving. My roots are bound
by ribbons in the earth
which lengthen into my back
and I sway, as it happens
in these roots from my back. I listen,
and sleep between the dark
and the dark
where my hearing is suspended.
And between this and my skull,
it’s all dark matter,
where earth and her sweetness
have darkened to gather each
bone to a bone,
every coil to a chord.
I sing, though you wouldn’t know it.
My mouth is sunk in a pool
of old life,
it glitters and tries
to sing of its light,
and cries owl-cries
for a secret way out. Still, I bend
my thick spine
to bare my neck, and touch you.
You could almost be a stranger
who’s found me by a road,
you hold out your arms
as if you hold the great world,
you place your hands
on my body and hair. Your tears
catch on the quiet in the air,
and shake and glitter with the shakings
of your hair;
something in your shape
is like a tree, like me. I barely brush you
and your mouth comes alive on my light,
I barely sigh I am a temple, I am
soaking you with light.
If I could birth myself a second time,
I’d have your soul.
You rock and sigh ‘oh I’m done, Mother,
I’m done.’ But the young, my love,
are free, or didn’t you know? There’s no
god in this world.
The closest thing to prayer is
a child who says she hurts.

All words  © Helen Calcutt 2018