I wrote poetry infrequently before reading out in public for the first time in September 2016, then began to spend more time writing it. When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer in December of the same year, I wrote a few poems, finding how much it helped me to deal with it. I’ve never been the kind of person to pour every unprocessed thought onto social media. Poetry was a way to offload everything, without bothering people.
I was more of a novelist than a poet and had taken part in National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November. I also decided to sign up for National Poetry Writing Month the following April. By then, the chemo hadn’t helped my dad at all, so had been stopped. He was signed off from treatment, which amounts to being sent home with no hope, just the knowledge that there’s not much time left.
I suppose the routine of trying to write a poem a day, gave me something to do. Not all the poems were about my dad, but almost half were. Then on 15th April 2017, I received the early morning call from my younger sister to say Dad had passed away.
I travelled to Bradford from Manchester with my older sister and my partner. I had no thoughts about achieving a poem a day for the rest of the month, but it almost happened anyway. I think I was only 3 short of averaging one poem a day by the end of April.
The first poem about my dad’s death came on the day he died. I was keeping busy, cleaning and generally doing all the things I used to do during my visits when he was ill. When putting away clothes that had just being washed, some of these were my dad’s. I knew he no longer needed them. This drew my attention to all the things he still had in the house, because it was way too soon to think about doing anything with them. That led me to writing a poem called “Things That Remind Me of You”. It became the first in a series of four poems set at four different times (the time he died, six months, a year and two years later). I’ve
included them in my collection and recorded them to put online later this year, though it took a few takes. I don’t think I would ever read these in front of an audience.
The early poems probably helped me to detach myself a little and made it easier to cope for a while. Eventually, I had to deal with a lot of emotions about losing my Dad, but overall, I believe writing poetry helped.
Many of those early poems were depressing. Even if I had been able to read them out in public without crying, I wouldn’t have wanted to. I wrote a lot of what I now think of as my “Dad poems”. It wasn’t until I heard someone read out a poem about her Grandmother, I realised the tone of the poem I had been trying to write. I wanted something about my dad, with happy memories, which might still be sad but not full on depressing. I ended up writing a poem called “Your First Christmas in Heaven”. It was about how much my dad loved Christmas, excessive decorations and food. I managed to read it out in public and it received a good reaction. I wrote a few more positive poems after that, based on funny things he used to say or do.
I’m sure I’ll write more about him when I feel the need to. I think it has helped me to process and accept a lot of things. Looking back, it helps to see how I felt then compared to now.
EDITOR’S NOTE: PleaseAndy N’s article about writing