Poetry Grrrowl: Adrienne Gruber + Q & A
In her third book of poetry Q & A (Book*hug Press) Adrienne Gruber delivers a poetic memoir about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum after the birth of her first child. Divided into chronological sections on each time period, the collection explores the history of pregnancy and birth in North America using prose, lyric, haiku, ghazal, and found poetry. Below Adrienne talks more about Q & A and shares the poem "Questions" from her collection.
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Interview with the Poet
All Lit Up: Tell us about your collection.
Adrienne Gruber: My collection is about the pregnancy and birth of my first daughter. It also explores the ways in which the western medical system has historically treated women during pregnancy, birth and postpartum, and the role misogyny has played in controlling women’s bodies and reproductive rights. The book moves between my own experiences and the experiences I researched in old medical texts and books.
ALU: What is your process for beginning a poem? Has it changed since you began writing?
AG: I don’t think I have a process. I don’t have a particular practice or routine when it comes to writing; I write when I can, as often as I have the time and the mental and physical energy. I usually write in coffee shops, to get some physical distance from my actual life and to disappear into anonymity.
Many of the poems in Q & A began with the research I was doing at the time on the history of birth in North America. The material I read was gruesome and fascinating and it was easy to begin poems from that place. Beginning a poem now is usually done on a whim and then I often have to force a line or a stanza out, which feels hard and weird and painful. It’s been a challenge to be so removed from my writing practice, but it’s the product of life circumstances at the moment.
ALU: What sparked your initial love of poetry?
AG: Reading poetry in high school and discovering the endless possibilities of expression through language.
ALU: Who are some of your fave women of poetry?
AG: There are so many! I love the work of many of my peers and am always excited by the books being published today. Some of the women poets I return to are Brenda Shaughnessy, Karen Solie, Sandra Ridley, Vivek Shraya, Brecken Hancock, Susan Musgrave, Dionne Brand, Chelene Knight, Rachel Rose, Liz Howard, Jennifer Still and so many more.
ALU: What do you find most informs and inspires your writing?
AG: Before having my daughters, my relationships, both romantic and non-romantic, most informed my writing. Now, because my children are young and demand so much of my time and energy, they are the ones that most inform my work. I have to work hard to carve out time away from them and my job (I teach high school), but my kids, their energy, their emotional development, their moods and our interactions are what inspire me.
ALU: If you had one superpower, what would it be? Could you describe it in a haiku?
write and mother well.
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A Poem from Q & A
We split a self in such a way that there isn’t enough
for either of us.
The first lesson of motherhood:
pretend you are brave until
you are brave.
Fact: death too is in the egg.
Try to remember
the seductive sea if you can.
For each night is a long drink
in a short glass and birth is
but a sleep and a forgetting.
Fact: the body is dumb, the body is meat.
I had no force left in me
but a voice in my head:
to have a child is to give
fate a hostage.
Once she was born
I was never not afraid.
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Adrienne Gruber is the author of two books of poetry, Buoyancy Control (BookThug) and This is the Nightmare (Thistledown Press), and five chapbooks. She won The Antigonish Review’s Great Blue Heron poetry contest in 2015, SubTerrain’s Lush Triumphant poetry contest in 2017 and has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, ARC’s Poem of the Year contest, Descant’s Winston Collins Best Canadian Poem contest and Matrix Magazine’s Lit POP poetry contest. In 2012, her chapbook, Mimic was awarded the bpNichol Chapbook Award. Originally from Saskatoon, Adrienne lives in Vancouver with her partner and two daughters. Q & A is her third book.
Photo credit Dennis Hill.
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