© 2018 by Cat Woodward

The Complaint’ is a series of traditionally lyric poems giving voice to my refusal to have children and the stigma attached to that decision. This project attempts to imitate the style of Denise Riley (my PhD supervisor) specifically the way in which many of her poems reflexively explore a metaphorical/symbolic emotional landscape with un-apologetically lyric excess, with a curiously un-contradictory candidness/guarded-ness. In particular I want to imitate the wryness of that voice, as well as its logical, argumentative, flamboyant, feminine character. The poems I have so far produced don’t strike me as all that similar to Riley’s, though I feel that they've imported something ambivalent and foreign into me. Denise's work has turned out to be inimitable as long as I maintain good faith with it.

One of the most affecting and perhaps dire things I've realised since starting the project is that Denise is well known for the incredible lyric poetry she has written on the death of her son. I chose the topic of 'The Complaint' simply because it is an issue very close to my heart and one that I felt I could treat appropriately in this particular lyric mode, but part way through writing I realised that our connection on the theme of motherhood is very tender - loss vs refusal - and here I am attempting to sing one song with the voice of the other. On the one hand it feels very wrong, morbid and sacrilegious, on the other it feels like adding another part to the nonetheless always incomplete picture of woman as mother. Perhaps an articulation of my refusal must include that encounter with loss (what feels like its opposite) because that encounter hinges on the preciousness of what is spurned in my refusal, the central, most contested, most painful point.

Two poems from 'The Complaint' are due to appear in the Roehampton Roundtable journal alongside my critical commentary. Two more are due to appear in Black Box Manifold.

Excerpts from the sequence to come, watch this space.

[collaborations are] just a scapegoat that incarnates a communitarian burden of guilt about individual action and cleanses the community through its very expulsion via production.

Trisha Low