Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Matthew Thorburn, author of Dear Almost, on How Writing Can Help One Cope with Loss #Giveaway

Thank you to True Book Addict for inviting me to share a guest post as part of my Poetic Book Tour for my new book. Dear Almost is a book-length poem addressed to an unborn child lost in a miscarriage. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about the book and share my thoughts about how writing can help one cope with loss.

When my wife and I found out we were expecting, we were ecstatic. And when we learned we had lost our child to be, it seemed like no one could understand how we felt. We mourned this loss together and in our own individual ways, which for me meant writing about it.

Gradually, I realized what we had lost was not only this tiny person just starting to take shape, but also a whole world of possibilities and imaginings about who this baby would be, and the new life the three of us would have had together. Writing Dear Almost was a way of holding onto and honoring those feelings, and of being with our “almost girl” in the only way I could: in words. The entire book is written to her, like a letter, starting with its title.

It’s probably no surprise that, being a writer, I found the most natural way to mourn our loss was by writing. I drafted much of the poem in my notebook, a few lines at a time, with the aim of just getting everything down without worrying too much about how all these little pieces would come together into a single long poem. That’s how I tend to write poems anyway, but it felt particularly appropriate and necessary here, as my thoughts and feelings were similarly all over the place.

It’s hard to remember now exactly when I started writing this poem. I can only remember being in the midst of writing it, and wanting to stay in the world of this poem for as long as I could. From those notebook notes, I gradually pieced together a story about trying to cope with this loss and figure out how to mourn for an unborn child—someone who both was and wasn’t there. Finding the right words to describe what I was thinking and feeling helped me come to terms with our loss.

I carried a printout of the book manuscript with me each day, often marking up revisions and drafting new lines in longhand on my subway commute and during my lunch hours. The poem offered a place of shelter where I could explore my complicated feelings. It could also be an escape, as I would sometimes lose myself in the pleasing work of making images and crafting lines—until I remembered I was writing about our lost child. The words on my pages created a space in which I could imagine the girl she might have become, and what that life together might have been like for the three of us. Writing this book gave me a way to hold on a little longer, until I was able to let her go.

I hope that sharing my experience in Dear Almost may help people coping with their own losses feel less alone. It took me a long time to understand and find the words to express my feelings of grief, anger, and hopelessness. We all mourn in our own ways, so I don’t know if my book will give other people useful words for how they feel, but I hope it might help them to hear my story.

About the book
Louisiana State University Press
Publication Date: September 1, 2016
88 pages, $17.95
Formats: Paperback, eBook

Dear Almost is a book-length poem addressed to an unborn child lost in miscarriage. Beginning with the hope and promise of springtime, the poet traces the course of a year with sections set in each of the four seasons. Part book of days, part meditative prayer, part travelogue, the poem details a would-be father’s wanderings through the figurative landscapes of memory and imagination as well as the literal landscapes of the Bronx, Shanghai, suburban New Jersey, and the Japanese island of Miyajima.

As the speaker navigates his days, he attempts to show his unborn daughter “what life is like / here where you ought to be / with us, but aren’t.” His experiences recall other deaths and uncover the different ways we remember and forget. Grief forces him to consider a question he never imagined asking: how do you mourn for someone you loved but never truly knew, never met or saw? In candid, meditative verse, Dear Almost seeks to resolve this painful question, honoring the memory of a child who both was and wasn’t there.

Early Praise
“Like a modern-day Basho, Matthew Thorburn travels on a year-long journey through grief over the ‘almost girl’ he and his wife lose to miscarriage. Here, in artful, haibun-like free verse, the timely and timeless merge: geese are sucked into an Airbus engine, forcing an emergency landing; the poet contemplates the moon as he carries out a bag of garbage in the Bronx. The result is clear, mysterious, original, and ultimately hope-filled. Dear Almost might be the truest poem about miscarriage I’ve ever read.” —Katrina Vandenberg, author of The Alphabet Not Unlike the World

“Matthew Thorburn’s Dear Almost is a meditation on our lives and their impermanence, the miracle that we exist at all. The ghost of an unborn child hovers like a breath over these supple lines, but Thorburn finds room for food and prayer, for work and love, for keen observation of the twin worlds we inhabit, the one inside us and the one where our daily lives take place. I am glad to have Dear Almost in both of these worlds.” —Al Maginnes, author of Music from Small Towns

“One poem written across seasons, Matthew Thorburn’s Dear Almost is an elegy for an unborn child written out of love, kindness, and ultimately hope. There is sadness everywhere here that lives among the dailiness of our lives at home, around the world, and at work. What a capacious gift this poet has for perception, keen observation, and the written word, but even more so, a great gift for understanding all of the tangled cross-stitching of the human heart.” —Victoria Chang, author of The Boss

About the Poet
Matthew Thorburn is the author of six collections of poetry, including the book-length poem Dear Almost (Louisiana State University Press, 2016) and the chapbook A Green River in Spring (Autumn House Press, 2015), winner of the Coal Hill Review chapbook competition. His previous collections include This Time Tomorrow (Waywiser Press, 2013), Every Possible Blue (CW Books, 2012), Subject to Change, and an earlier chapbook, the long poem Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City Press, 2009). His work has been recognized with a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, as well as fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His interviews with writers appear on the Ploughshares blog as a monthly feature. He lives in New York City, where he works in corporate communications.

GIVEAWAY: One print copy to a winner in U.S./Canada. Leave a comment below expressing your thoughts on Matthew Thorburn's guest post. Please include your email address so I can contact the winner. Giveaway will run until Tuesday, November 15 at 11:59pm CST.


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  1. Sounds like such a wonderfully poignant read. Sorry I'm not resident in the UK. Best wishes to Matthew and his wife, it sounds like the writing of this was such a cathartic process.

  2. Thanks, Michelle, for being on the book tour for this one.

  3. This emotional and meaningful book would be a treasure. The thoughts expressed in this post and heart wrenching and beautiful. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)

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