Tables of Silver and Gold: Writing Baby Loss
This seminar at 5pm on Friday 8th July 2022 is about one of the saddest of all parental experiences: losing an infant child.Many parents who lose a baby, whether through perinatal loss, stillbirth, miscarriage or medical abortion, never talk about it. We allow silence to surround their grief. And yet, since the dawn of recorded culture, lost babies have been remembered through the written word. In the 4000-year-old Sumerian ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’, the hero asks one who has visited the Underworld, ‘Did you see my little stillborn ones who did not know themselves?’ He is told, ‘They enjoy syrup and ghee at tables of silver and gold’. It is a portrait of gladness that consoles the grieving parent.
This in-person seminar at the Devon and Exeter Institution introduces writers, who are also parents, to talk about writing or translating their experiences of baby loss and grieving: the Russian novelist Anna Starobinets whose 2017 memoir about the loss of her son, who suffered from a medical condition incompatible with life, was recently published in English as Look At Him; Anna’s English translator, the poet Katherine E. Young, and Devon-based author William Henry Searle, whose memoir Elowen is due out in 2022 from Little Toller Press. We also host a parent supporter from the baby loss and neonatal death charity, SANDS. Our aim is to allow speakers and audience to share their experiences of baby loss in a respectful, sensitive, and mutually supportive way in the peaceful surroundings of 7 Cathedral Close, where an exhibition on the history of maternal care in Devon will be on display. All welcome, advance booking recommended (please book here).
As optional preparation for the seminar, please read this extract from Anna’s memoir Look At Him in Katherine E. Young’s translation: Starobinets and Young TEXT for Exeter conference . Please be warned that this is an emotionally harrowing read, as Anna describes the insensitive treatment she received from medical professionals when the scope of her tragic loss was made clear to her for the first time. As this is copyrighted material, we ask you not to share the text more widely.
Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council via an AHRC Networking Grant to the University of Exeter.