Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa, composer Stephen Moore and filmmaker Peter Madden have collaborated on a powerful filmpoem dedicated to Savita Halappanavar, who died on 28 October 2012, at University Hospital Galway in Ireland, of complications from a miscarriage after the hospital refused to perform an abortion. As people around the world celebrate their real or imagined Irishness today, it might be worth remembering some of the less savory aspects of St. Patrick’s legacy — or perhaps, to put it in a more positive way, some of the figurative serpents that still remain for Patrick’s spiritual descendents to cast out of Ireland.
The poem, originally titled “Recovery Room, Maternity Ward,” may be read in Numéro Cinq, which featured the video along with this description from the poet:
My poem Waking gives voice to a woman waking up in the recovery room of a maternity hospital. At the core of this poem is the sense of disorientation, loneliness and loss that follows a miscarriage. This is an experience that is, sadly, not unfamiliar to me, personally.
I chose to dedicate Waking to the memory of Savita Halappanavar, whose appalling death while under the care of the Irish maternity system left many in shock. She was admitted to hospital while suffering a miscarriage, and despite her repeated requests to terminate her pregnancy, she was denied the procedure that would have saved her life. Savita’s death led to many protests both in Ireland and abroad, where protestors demanded a review of Irish law that prevented her from accessing the abortion that would have saved her life. I would wish nothing more for Savita than to allow her the treatment she needed in order to wake up and draw breath, and it angers and saddens me to live in a country where a woman must die in order for society to effect essential constitutional change.
I am very grateful to the talented filmmaker Peter Madden for interpreting my poem visually with a sensitivity that I believe honours those many, many women who each year suffer the pain of miscarriage in silence. The haunting soundtrack is an original musical composition by guitarist Stephen Moore that adds further depth to the collaboration.