Known as The Postpartum Poet, Leander is a mother of two, the creator of #riseofthemumpoet campaign on Instagram and has published two books of poetry.
When did you first start writing poetry?
In September 2016, when my son, Leo, was about two weeks old. It was in the morning and I was still in bed, watching my husband get ready for work.
How did motherhood impact your creativity and the way you write poetry?
Motherhood took my view on poetry, shook it around for a while and then replaced it in a misconfigured mess. As a secondary school English teacher, I used to just concentrate on poetry when I was teaching; I did not envisage that it would become such a huge creative outlet for me. Motherhood is great at throwing a few surprises our way!
How do you write poetry? How do you find the time?
My house is littered with little pieces of paper, post it notes or envelopes with poetic scribbles, title ideas or something that someone once said. I don’t really know how I write it to be honest – wine helps – but I have to be in the right mood. My poems always reflect how I am feeling.
As for finding the time, well, we all know that there isn’t enough time in the day so I usually write when I should be doing something else… washing up, sleeping, meetings (especially meetings!).
How do you feel when you’ve written a poem?
Free, relieved, relaxed. My poems reflect my thoughts and feelings at the time and it has become a therapy for me, allowing me to transfer those thoughts, fears and worries onto paper. Sometimes, I go back and read them and realise that they are utter rubbish, but they are still my expressions from that moment.
Who do you share your poetry with and why?
At the beginning, I used to read them to my husband because it was the only way that I could attempt to communicate how I was feeling after having Leo. Then, in 2019, after having Sofia, I decided to take the leap and created Postpartum Poetry on social media with the aim to ensure that other mums knew that they weren’t alone.
What has the response been to your poetry?
My friends, family and strangers from across the world have seen themselves in my poems, they have said that it makes them feel less lonely and they have explained that they feel better after reading them. However, there are a handful of people who do not appreciate my poems at all and have even requested that I avoid certain topics – guilty conscious? – but you can’t please everyone.
My own mental response has been overwhelming and it has given me a channel to express myself in the most coherent way that I can manage.
How did you feel when you published your poetry book?
Scared. I knew that my in-laws were not my biggest fans, and I was petrified of their reaction to some of those poems going into print because they had (coincidentally) drawn too many comparisons with themselves and did not appreciate my motive for sharing the poems; my husband always supported me 100% and actively encouraged me to keep writing. Truth be told, the in-laws did not even congratulate me at all once the book was live.
But, I didn’t do it for them; I did it for the millions of women who were, and are, in my position and just needed to be told that there was someone else in the world feeling the exact same way as them.
What poetry do you enjoy reading?
Limericks – they’re funny! Oh and Bo Burnham – he’s very rude! I like poem that are raw and that you can see yourself in.
Before I wrote poetry, I barely read any (expect when teaching) so it has really opened my eyes to all kinds of new creative work out there!
What tips do you have for others writing poems about their experiences of motherhood?
A: Just write. You can come back to them and tweak them, refine them or hide them under the carpet, but if you find it therapeutic, enjoyable or relieving then do it! There will always be someone else out there who thinks, “Oh, this poem is exactly how I feel too!”
There will also be people out there who have their own stuck up, old fashioned opinions on motherhood – sod them. Go for it.
What tips do you have for anyone who would like to give writing poetry a go but hasn’t done it before?
There are no rules. There are no patterns that you have to follow. It’s like freestyle dancing; it’s not ballet, or hip hop or salsa but you still know why it exists. There are also many sites that you can post it anonymously, so please don’t be put off!
In a nutshell, what are your reasons for writing poetry?
I was alone. I was alone, mentally suffering and desperate to understand the emotions that were circulating through my body. I soon found that those emotions could only escape through a pen nib. After starting Postpartum Poetry, I realised that another reason for writing was to normalise the hidden half of motherhood, to encourage mothers to accept that it’s not all instantaneous loving bonds and perfect families. It’s bloody hard!
Follow Leander on Instagram: @postpartumpoet
Leander’s two poetry books What Rhymes With Mum and We Broke Mummy are both available from Amazon for only £4.99 each.