When her only son travelled to fight with the Army in Afghanistan, Sheffield writer Bryony Doran found an outlet for her feelings of uncertainty through creating poetry.
Now Bryony’s collection, Bulletproof, is being published in a book called Home Front along with the work of three other female poets with husbands and sons who have served in conflict zones.
“What do you do when your son flies off to fight in Afghanistan and you know there is a possibility he may never come back? Or that if he does he may be badly injured? You write poetry of course,” said Bryony, who lives in Crookes.
She was brought up a pacifist – her father went to jail for his principles – so her son’s unexpected decision to join the army was especially difficult for her to come to terms with.
“I’d found the only way to cope and stay strong was to shut down my emotions, so writing poetry was the only time I felt truly alive. It helped me enter a different state of being, removing me from the present and allowing me to challenge and express those suppressed emotions on paper.”
Bryony had planned to use the time after her son left to finish her second novel, following the success of her first, The China Bird, which won the Hookline novel competition in 2008.
“I managed for a while, but then the poems took over and I went with them over the whole time my son was on tour. Afterwards, they just kept on coming. I tried hard not to watch or listen to any news but couldn’t help catching headlines from newspapers on petrol station forecourts, or snatches from the radio saying ‘Another soldier dead’.
“Seeing those headlines filled me with guilt because all I could think was, thank God it is not my son. Thankfully he returned safely in May 2011.”
With the help of fellow poet Ruth Padel, Bryony crafted the collection before being approached by Home Front’s publisher, Bloodaxe.
The book is being launched at the Dulwich Book Festival in south London on Remembrance Day this Sunday. Bryony will be speaking alongside the other English poet, Isabel Palmer, who will be reading from her collection, titled Atmospherics. The other two collections are by American writers Jehanne Dubrow and Elyse Fenton.
Home Front is published in paperback by Bloodaxe Books tomorrow (Friday), priced £12.