‘Joy, Calm and a Blessing’: Granny Woman by Kate Garrett (FreeSpace 1)

26 Mar


Joy, Calm and a Blessing


Welcome to poet and writer Kate Garrett’s first FreeSpace: 

‘The sequence ‘Joy, Calm and a Blessing’ consists of four poems exploring the experiences of four generations of women concerning pregnancy / maternity, bodily autonomy and choice (or lack thereof).

The first poem in the sequence, ‘Granny Woman’, is a fictional poem based on stories of my great-grandmother, Ida Rich Garrett, who served her community as a “granny woman” in northern Tennessee from the 1920s to 1940s. She was also mother to 17 children of her own, though only 14 of them survived beyond infancy – her youngest son was my grandfather.’


Granny Woman (1922)


The men leave us be; at times
like this they take themselves
out to the porch with pipes
and tin cups. Everyone trusts

the granny woman. She knows
best, walks for miles when
there’s a baby coming, brings
her bag along. The bottles

of green-smelling whiskey,
fat leaves smooth and big
as her hand, rolled into jars,
rattle next to mud bases

for the poultice. She eases
the pains away, welcomes
every life into the wild world,
soothes swollen breasts so new

young uns can feed. Now and then
she brews up roots and stems
for some silly girl with a problem.
I’d say the men on the porch

never know much about that.
Some must believe they’re lucky.
They never say anyhow. They don’t see
what we see: the other side

of the granny woman, when she
doesn’t bring joy, calm and a blessing,
when she carries pain in her bag,
cramps, red blood, and a flat relief.


*Until the middle of the 20th century, rural communities in the southern Appalachian region of the USA were served by “granny women”. These women were essentially midwives who used knowledge of herbal-based folk remedies to assist women in childbirth, and, less extensively, with terminations and contraception.


You can find out more about Kate and her work here:




Kate will be back with the second poem in her exploration of women’s experiences of autonomy and pregnancy on Wednesday 16th April.


There will be a second posting of Transformations poems this afternoon featuring the poets Karin Heyer and Eleanor Perry. Tomorrow you’ll see the next instalment of our collaborative short story initiative Hot Potato featuring poet and writer Michael Schmidt.  You can see the first section written by Steve Harris  here.


If you’d like to get involved with any of our opportunities or collaborations do get in touch via the contact form on the ‘What’s On’ Page or via @ArtiPeeps

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