Annie Finch’s volumes of poetry include Eve, selected as a Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Poetry Classic; Calendars, shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book Award; and Among the Goddesses, which received the Sarasvati Award for best book of poetry about women and mythology from the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology. Her newest book of poetry is Spells: Selected Poetry, Translations, and Performance Works 1970-2010 (Wesleyan University P). In addition to her creative work in poetry, translation, verse drama, and memoir, she has published a number of influential anthologies, critical books, and textbooks on poetry, most recently A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry (U of Michigan P). A Fellow of the Black Earth Institute and winner of the Robert Fitzgerald Award, she is director of the Stonecoast MFA Program, a low-residency creative writing program based at the University of Southern Maine. She blogs as American Witch at anniefinch.com.
Intimations of Pregnancy
I can't forget you is the awful thing
I am not a woman
This vigil is too restless
I never thought that this immediate
A groping fist would prove me what I am
I never thought till now I could be had
I am not a woman
I am solidifying like a rock
That turns inside herself each time she turns
Prairie Schooner, Vol. 82, No. 3 (Fall 2008), p. 90
“Intimations of Pregnancy” began while I was pregnant with my first child, and I finished it eight years later while pregnant with my second child. The title draws on Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” in what could be seen as a wry comment on the glory and immortality perceived in the child, but less in the mother in a contemporary culture where the Great Mother is rarely worshipped and an astounding proportion of new mothers are prescribed drugs for postpartum depression.
The poem's inspiration was a physical feeling, a gripping in my womb that was becoming stronger and more unequivocal as the pregnancy progressed. Even when I wrote the poem (my children are 21 and 13 years old today), my initial ambivalence about pregnancy felt so unacknowledged that to admit the feeling at all made me feel somehow “not a woman." Today, with the backlash against women’s agency over our own bodies, Rush Limbaugh’s comments about contraception, and the reactionary laws about fetal endangerment and lack of public acknowledgment of women's essential power of abortion, it feels even more important to create space in which women can freely question motherhood.
Soran Reader's essential essay “Abortion, Killing, and Maternal Moral Authority” includes the following quote from Margaret Little: “One of the most common reasons women seek abortion is that they do not have room in their life just then to be a mother, but they know if they continue the pregnancy they will not be able to give up the child… One may decline to enter into a relationship that, once extant, changes the contours of your psyche such that you couldn’t leave it.”
This poem inhabits that space in which the psyche contemplates the changing of its contours.