British Columbia

Vancouver poet writes a poem per week during wife's pregnancy

Rob Taylor's book The News is a collection of poems he wrote leading up to the birth of his son

Rob Taylor's book The News is a collection of poems he wrote leading up to the birth of his son

The News is a collection of 40 poems that helped Rob Taylor find the meaning of parenthood. (Andrew Malone/Flickr)

For many couples expecting a child, it's a standard procedure to buy a bunch of baby books to begin preparing for the newborn.

But when Rob Taylor found out his wife was pregnant he ended up writing his own.

"The baby was on purpose — the book was by accident," he told host Sheryl MacKay on CBC's North by Northwest.

Taylor is a poet by trade with several publications under his belt. When he and his wife found out they would be having a baby, his creative juices started flowing.

"I wrote a poem about that first experience of finding out we were having a baby and thinking about what that would mean," he said.

"A week later I found myself writing another."

He decided to stick to it — and ended up writing another 40 over the course of the pregnancy. The poems are now part of a collection called The News, a title that refers to how he felt throughout the nine months. 

"A big theme of the book is being a father, and the differences of that to being a mother," he said.

"[As a father] the experiences of the pregnancy are received through an intermediary.... From my wife, from the midwife.

"You're receiving things not that differently than turning on the news."

Channeling 'the news'

The news became a source of inspiration for many of the poems.

Taylor says he was influenced by the coverage in the mass media at the time of his wife's pregnancy, which was dominated by the migrant crisis in Europe and a rash of police shootings in the U.S.

"The news was very bleak week in and week out ... and I felt like I had to grapple with that as part of preparing myself, and preparing my child for life."

It became a tool for him to understand what it means to be a responsible parent and guardian.

"The book was in many ways about preparing myself for parenthood, and in my mind that's about becoming the best person you can be."

"I felt a lot of pressure during the pregnancy," he said. "I got a nine month crash course on how to be a better person."

Taylor read the first poem he wrote — which was just after the couple found out about the pregnancy — on CBC Radio One's North by Northwest.

It's titled Five Weeks:

Anonymous. A lima bean, they say. 
No eyes or brain beneath 
the flesh and blood and membrane 
of my wife. But O my burning baby 
anchors love within me. One day 
you'll wonder if any of this matters, 
if you and it share a common bond, 
if Love's a word we pin to things 
thin-skinned enough to pierce. 
I sit in bed beside you both— 
you and the idea of what you'll be— 
and listen as your mother breathes 
for three. If we lose you what of you 
will linger? If you last how will this 
breathing, burning love divide, 
sustain, and multiply? When I speak of it, 
many years from now, to whom will 
I be speaking? My dear, my darling, 
do you hear me where you sleep?

To listen to more live readings from the book, and listen to his interview, click on the audio labelled: Vancouver poet writes a poem per week during wife's pregnancy

With files from CBC's North by Northwest