‘The thing that motivates me to write is a line or a sound or an image that I can’t get out of my head… The need to transform emotion (usually negative emotion) into something approaching comprehension.’
Natalie Whittaker is a poet and secondary school teacher from South East London. Her debut pamphlet Shadow Dogs was published by ignition press in 2018. Natalie is one of the London Library’s emerging writers for 2020 / 2021. Her poems have been widely published in UK magazines and anthologies; she was commended in the Verve poetry competition 2020, and won second place in the Kent and Sussex poetry competition 2020.
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.
the first week
three identical bereavement bouquets
white and green
within a week the lilies die
their leaves spawn small black flies
in the kitchen I put away the pans
and a blood clot pushes out of me
like a ragged rotten plum
into maternity tracksuit bottoms
the same night my milk comes in
breasts are sauna stones tears are steam
I slide cabbage leaves
into a maternity bra
go to bed sweat into cabbage leaves
white and green
on the wall there are small black flies
Natalie’s first pamphlet, Shadow Dogs, was published in 2018 by Ignition Press. They describe it as a collection of concise, haunting poems of suburban tales half-told, whose visceral and disturbing images are conveyed with unexpected intrigue. This is an absorbing debut delivered with acute, tender emotion from a writer who genuinely cares for their craft. These twenty-one poems herald a poet coming of age.