Tree by Natalie Whittaker
‘one day I wake up and it’s November / bare branches are faulty umbilical cords / failing to implant the sky’
In Tree, Natalie Whittaker is writing about her personal experience of stillbirth and the mental illness that can follow such a traumatic event. It is a subject that is still rarely addressed in poetry, writing or conversation. That she is able to do so here, in eighteen intricate, carefully crafted poems, in a way that is engaging, communicative, distressing and yet also beautiful, is a testament to her abilities as a poet, her strong grasp on the power of language and the power of her imagination. With these powers, she brings a harrowing subject close up and enables the reader to truly feel, to see, to understand, to share. It is a brave and necessary work, wonderfully and heart-breakingly realised.
”next year I’ll show you autumn and it will be so beautiful’ – except autumn comes with an absence, the hardest of losses and so begins Tree, Natalie Whittaker’s powerful and important collection on the experience of stillbirth. Her attention to detail is unflinching, and rightly so. We are taken from delivery room, to morgue, to the support group in a neon-lit church hall, to a landscape that is forever changed. These spare, exquisite poems explore the intricacies of sorrow, with a new and dazzling delicacy. As the blossom falls through Tree’s pages, each poem quivers with not just grief, but a love that is celebrated, a love that is ongoing.’ – Rebecca Goss