‘Blind Pilots & Furious Lullabies’: Poetry & Fatherhood

‘Blind Pilots & Furious Lullabies’: Poetry & Fatherhood

Join us to explore the gristly issues of fathers and fatherhoods as we challenge preconceptions and look for new ways into this vital subject.

Fathers have long sat in the ‘lonely offices’ of poetry – almost always distant, usually indifferent, generally remote. If benevolent, they light fires to warm the house, or stand at the back door smoking, watching the stars; they hold our hands, once, on a beach in quiet contemplation, or pass us an unexplained pressed flower before retreating back into their solitude. Malignant fathers have a somewhat Orphic quality – no matter how many times we cut their heads off, they keep on talking to us and, as Seamus Heaney wrote, ‘will not go away’. 

Even though these paternal spectres loom large, poets for the most part have historically ignored their roles as fathers. In his essay ‘Ferocious Lullaby’, David Wojahn cites the absence of children in the work of William Carlos Williams, Wallace Steven, and Rilke. His list is far from exhaustive. Being a dad has just never fitted well with the self-mythologising that still haunts a lot of male poetry. In her late 90s studies, Susan Faludi wonders why the act of nurturing is so hard for men to practise. Amongst other things, she blames the space race. Men should be out there, exploring the void, alone. So, just like James Tate’s lost pilot, our fathers and fatherhoods continue to orbit our lives, refusing intimacy, touched only in the way a ‘disinterested scholar touches an original page’. 

But what if we could bring the whole thing closer? A growing number of poets are addressing, head on, the gristly issues of contemporary masculinity both from within and beyond the bounds of its traditional structures. On this course we’ll look at fatherhood as perhaps the principal totem of that. We’ll explore ways to break down and to write about fathers, and also to write as one. Leonard Cohen said that ‘if your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash’. We’ll do a little bit of self-immolation, sure, but we’ll also set fire to a few of those old totems and fusty cabinets while we’re at it. 

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. For more information visit our Online Courses page.

Image Credit:Juliane Liebermann

About Luke Palmer View Profile

Luke Palmer has published two pamphlets of poetry – Spring in the Hospital (Prole Books, 2018) and In all my books my father dies (Red Ceilings Press, 2021). The second is a single poem sequence – a constrained formal piece sculpted from texts published in Luke’s birth year. Born from his own anxieties as a new parent, it presents a parallel autobiography of sorts; an imagined alternate timeline in which the early loss of the protagonist’s own father has a deep and lasting impact. Luke Kennard described it as ‘stark and beautiful … the process something like divination’. 

Luke’s work has appeared in a wide variety journals and anthologies. He is the 2022 winner of the Winchester Poetry Prize for the poem ‘Desire | Fathers’ which explored the inherent contradictions that seem to exist in nurturing whilst male. His debut collection will be released by Broken Sleep Books in early 2024 and will feature several poems voiced by the preformationist son of a 16th Century alchemist, using this lens to look at the parent/child relationship from both sides. Luke is also a Carnegie Medal and UKLA longlisted author. His novels for young adults also explore parental connections and absences. He lives in Wiltshire with his partner and their three young daughters.

‘It was like finding a group of friends you could trust with your creative vulnerabilities.’

– Autumn 2022 survey response

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