The Song of the Whole Wide World: On Grief, Motherhood and Poetry


Tamarin Norwood
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An extraordinary memoir of anticipatory grief, seventy-two minutes of life and a silent maternity leave, from artist and academic Tamarin Norwood.

A few months into pregnancy, Tamarin Norwood learned that the baby she was carrying would not live. Over the sleepless weeks that followed, Tamarin, her husband and their three-year-old son tried to navigate the unfamiliar waters of anticipatory sorrow and to prepare for what was to come.

Written partly during pregnancy and partly during the silent maternity leave that followed, The Song of the Whole Wide World is an emergency response to grief held somewhere between the womb, the grave and the many stories that bind them: stories drawn from medical science, poetry, liturgy, vivid waking dreams of underwater life, and knowledge held deep within the body.

This profoundly moving and intimate account offers a lyrical and fearless meditation on birth, death, and the possibilities of consolation.


‘A work of great and subtle beauty. It expanded my understanding of life, death and what it means to be a mother.’
Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love: The Story of My Brother and His Sister

‘A heartbreakingly brave, candid and lyrical memoir of baby loss.’
Leah Hazard, author of Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began and Hard Pushed: A Midwife’s Story

‘This book took my breath away. It’s a journey of love and loss and I’m grateful for Tamarin’s gift to write and articulate so tenderly what many bereaved parents cannot.’
Nicola Welsh, CEO of Held In Our Hearts, a charity providing baby loss counselling

‘The Song of the Whole Wide World shimmers. Tamarin Norwood’s poetic writing is gut-wrenching and gorgeous, all at the same time. It is a story for anyone grappling with the forces of gravity of life and death, of medical decisions, and surrendering to waves of love.’
Amy Kuebelbeck author of A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy When Your Baby’s Life Is Expected to Be Brief

‘I’ve never read a book like The Song of the Whole Wide World. It’s a thrilling act of imagination about mothering that illuminates the body and its metaphysical matters. Tamarin Norwood’s writing shows a respect towards her son so pure that I felt both humbled and proud to witness it. I’m still reeling from the piercing pain and joy of this book. Unforgettable.’
Gwyneth Lewis MBE, a National Poet of Wales

Published: 22 February 2024
ISBN: 978-1911648734
Cover design: © Tamarin Norwood & Luke Bird
Dimensions: A-Format 178mm x 111mm
Publicist Sophie Portas:

About the author

Dr Tamarin Norwood is a writer and academic with a background in fine art. She has written on drawing, metaphor, memorial and grief, and has an interest in ritual and rural history. She is a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, a visiting fellow at the University of Bath Centre for Death and Society, and a Leverhulme research fellow at Loughborough University.

In 2021 she won The Lancet Wakley Essay Prize for her essay Something Good Enough. She lives and works in Northamptonshire.

The Song of the Whole Wide World: On Grief, Motherhood and Poetry

Everyone was happy. There was something exhausting in the happiness, something darkening and almost black, but for now the relief was great and we were glad. The child had been born, his life momentous, the seventy-two minutes of his span all spent in his mother’s arms. It had been a rich life, full and great and heavy with meaning. It had been peaceful after all. […] All evening we stayed on the tiptoes of our dance and our happiness, too tired to stop, too tired to look at the blackening that was on its way.

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