Sleepless Reading

In the first few months after E’s birth I found it almost impossible to write. Life was full of profound (and funny, mundane, horrible, stressful, bewildering, ecstatic, beautiful) moments that seemed made for poetry, but I was too tired, hungry, busy, or frazzled to capture any of them. Although I was worried that I’d never feel like writing again, I was incredibly lucky to have some seasoned poet parents on hand to reassure me that things would calm down eventually. Happily, they were right.  But in the meantime, I just read as much as I could, using every feed, every little nap, and every sleepless night to make up for the ten months that I’d been starved of words.

Here are just a few of the books that I read and loved in those first few months. Some write beautifully about pregnancy, childbirth, and children, while others address climate change and environmental disaster, addiction and recovery, war, race and racism, class, gender and sexuality, loss and grief, love, and selfhood. Some are fiction, while others are poetry collections, essays, and prose. Some are new, while others are established classics. Some I’ve read before, and others are brand new discoveries. All are fantastic in their own way.


Karen McCarthy Woolf, Seasonal Disturbances

Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

Amy Liptrot, The Outrun

Margo Jefferson, Negroland

Sinéad Morrissey, Through the Square Window

Holly McNish, Nobody Told Me

Jon Silkin, Out of Battle

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Kayo Chingonyi, Kumukanda

Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts

Julia Copus, The World’s Two Smallest Humans

Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe

Clare Pollard, Incarnation

Sarah Moss, Signs for Lost Children

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

Tiphanie Yannique, Wife

Karen McCarthy Woolf, An Aviary of Small Birds

Michael Hamburger, The Truth of Poetry

Ted Hughes, Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose

Ocean Vuong, Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Denise Riley, Say Something Back

Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins

Sarah Moss, Bodies of Light

This post should really be called ‘rest read when the baby rests’. When E was born every midwife, health visitor, family member, and seasoned parent gave this (very good) advice. I’m afraid I didn’t follow it. But I think reading also has fantastic restorative properties. For one thing it has the power to keep you sane, adult, and imaginative in those crazy first few months. It gives you something else to talk about in amongst the chat about nap routines and colic.

What other books should be on this list? Let me know the books that keep you company through sleepless nights – baby induced or otherwise.

Hannah x

Stopping and Starting

When I came to the end of my PhD and started as a Teaching Fellow I slowly stopped adding to this blog. Lecturing, writing, marking, moving, marrying – there was lots going on. Then, bam, I got pregnant, and extremely sick. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (or very severe morning sickness) left me completely debilitated for over 9 months. For most of that time I couldn’t even read a few words without throwing up and getting a migraine that would last for the rest of the day, if not longer. I subsisted on podcasts and the odd audiobook (although to be honest I was so drugged up with anti sickness medication that I couldn’t tell you what I listened to now). Contributing to this blog therefore felt a little bit impossible (plus, what would I have to talk about apart from the varying insides of toilet bowls?).

After that came the wonderful little one, and all the fun and craziness that goes with a new baby. I was reading again – it turns out that sleepless nights free up a lot of time for good novels and poetry collections – and writing and researching, but I couldn’t quite find the extra energy or articulacy to post anything.

Until now! I thought about starting again completely. New look, new name, new purpose. But I quickly realised that I was simply following the same impulse for a false fresh start that drives me to buy endless shiny new notebooks even though I’ve got hundreds of half-filled ones taking up space at home. So instead I’m sticking with what I’ve got, and am restarting this blog with these aims:

To write things about poetry and good writing

To write things about ways of reading poetry and good writing

To write things about good books in general

To write things about writing poetry

To write things about listening to poetry

To write things about performing poetry

To write things about research

To write things about teaching

To write things about competitions, submissions, magazines, events, workshops, and the ‘business’ of writing

To write things about whatever else crops up


Hannah x