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Natural Birth Poems
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Natural Birth Poems (1983. Auflage)

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With insightful candour, Toi Derricote's poem explores the ways in which her confusion about love and sex and longing took away from the pleasures of pregnancy and motherhood.
Titel:Natural Birth Poems
Info:Crossing Press (1983)
Sammlungen:Deine Bibliothek


Natural Birth von Toi Derricotte

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Thank you, Darry (kidzdoc) for tipping me off to Natural Birth. It's a moving set of narrative poems about Toi Derricotte getting pregnant at 19, the process of giving birth to her son, and the aftermath. It brings home better than anything else I've read the challenges of giving birth, and I'd think it would resonate with any parent.

Derricotte, is now a Professor of English at Pittsburgh and award-winning poet. As a girl in 1962 she had strong feelings as to the behavior required of her. As she explains in the introduction, "It was a terrible thing, especially, for a black middle-class girl to come up pregnant. Part of the lifelong work of our class and gender was to prove beyond doubt that black people were civilized, not beasts." She married the father of her son, a struggling artist unable to provide much, when she was five months pregnant, and went away to a home for unwed mothers to have the baby. A subsequent exchange with an author she admired led to a large part of this manuscript "pouring down the page, and I began to move my lips, as if the wind was coming out of me, playing my teeth and tongue like an instrument."

This recounting of her girls-view experiences is powerful. This one, for example, is called "Maternity":

when they checked me in, i was thinking: this is going to be
a snap! but at the same time, everything looked so different!
this was another world, ordered and white. the night moved
by on wheels.

suddenly the newness of the bed, the room, the quiet,
the hospital gown they put me in, the sheets rolled up
hard and starched and white and everything white except the
clock on the wall in red and black and the nurse's back as
she moved out of the room without speaking, everything
conspired to make me feel afraid.

how long, how much will i suffer?

the night looked in from bottomless windows.


Toni Morrison was an editor at Random House and wanted to publish this book, but she finally wrote Derricotte that, "It doesn't fit in our categories; we don't know where to put it." Thank goodness Crossing Press published it, and Firebrand Books re-published it. It doesn't matter what category the book goes in, although Poetry will do. It's just plain an excellent book, with a lot to tell us about her life and our lives. ( )
1 abstimmen jnwelch | Feb 23, 2016 |
Toi Derricotte, an award-winning poet , professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, and co-founder of the Cave Canem Foundation for up and coming African-American poets, wrote this collection of narrative poems in the late 1970s, when her son reached 16 years of age. It was originally published in 1983, and reissued in 2000 with a preface from the author.

In 1962, Derricotte was a college student in Detroit, a beautiful, bright and driven young woman and practicing Catholic. Early that year she became pregnant by her lover and future husband, and she had to withdraw from university. She was unable to return to her parents' house in Michigan, and traveled to a home for unwed mothers in a distant city during her seventh month of pregnancy. There was no room available at the home when she arrived, and she was placed with a nearby family until December, a month before her due date.

During her pregnancy, Derricotte read about the benefits of natural childbirth, and decided that she wanted to go through labor and delivery without analgesia. She did so, alone from her family, her lover, or the other young women in the home, and this powerful set of poems largely describes her excruciating experience during L&D, the unexpected numbness toward her son that she felt immediately after his birth, and with the loneliness, inadequacy and fear she experienced toward the end of her pregnancy. In this excerpt from "holy cross hospital", Derricotte poignantly describes the plight of three other pregnant women:

couldn't stand to see these new young faces, these
children swollen as myself. my roommate, snotty,
bragging about how she didn't give a damn about the
kid and was going back to her boyfriend and be a
cheerleader in high school. could we ever "go back?"
would our bodies be the same? could we hide among the
she always reminded me of a lady at the bridge
club in her mother's shoes, playing her mother's hand.

i tried to get along, be silent, stay in my own corner.
i only had a month to go—too short to get to know them.
but being drawn to the room down the hall, the t.v. room
where, at night, we sat in our cuddly cotton robes and
fleece-lined slippers—like college freshmen, joking
about the nuns and laughing about due dates—jailbirds
waiting to be sprung.

one girl, taller and older, twenty-six or twenty-seven, kept
to herself, talked with a funny accent. the pain on her face
seemed worse than ours...

and a lovely, gentle girl with flat small bones. the
great round hump seemed to carry her around! she never
said an unkind word to anyone, went to church every morning
with her rosary and prayed each night alone in her room.

she was seventeen, diabetic, fearful that she or the baby
or both would die in childbirth. she wanted the baby, yet
knew that to keep it would be wrong. but what if the child
did live? what if she gave it up and could never have another?

i couldn't believe the fear, the knowledge she had of
death walking with her. i never felt stronger, eating
right, doing my exercises. i was holding on to the core,
the center of strength; death seemed remote, i could not
imagine it walking in our midst, death in the midst of
all that blooming. she seemed sincere, but maybe she
was lying...

she went down two weeks late. induced. she had decided
to keep the baby. the night i went down, she had just
gone into labor so the girls had two of us to cheer about.

the next morning when i awoke, i went to see her. she
smiled from her hospital bed with tubes in her arms. it
had been a boy. her baby was dead in the womb for two
weeks. i remembered she had complained no kicking. we
had reassured her everything was fine.

I highly recommend this superb collection of narrative poems, but would advise you to get the 2000 edition that contains Derricotte's insightful preface. ( )
5 abstimmen kidzdoc | Apr 22, 2012 |
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With insightful candour, Toi Derricote's poem explores the ways in which her confusion about love and sex and longing took away from the pleasures of pregnancy and motherhood.

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