Today we are delighted to welcome award-winning writer Hasan Namir to the Book*hug Blog. In the following essay, Namir introduces readers to some of the thoughts and feelings surrounding his latest collection Umbilical Cord, poems documenting the journey that he and his husband took to have a child. Parents or would-be parents will enjoy these warm insights and behind-the-scenes perspectives.
We leave it to Hasan to take it away!
2019 was the year when Tarn and I knew we really wanted to have a baby. We were together long enough to know for sure that we loved each other, and we couldn’t imagine being with anyone else but each other. That same year, my poetry book War/Torn was released, and I had already thought about writing a follow-up book. I knew from the very beginning that Umbilical Cord had to be about my love story with Tarn and our desire to start a family together.
I knew that I wanted to shift away from trauma and focus on the love that blossomed with Tarn, and on what made our love and our journey so special. I wanted the book to be a collection of love letters to both Tarn and to Malek, our son. I wanted the book to be both personal and universal, a story of a couple who love each other so much that they want to start a family together. Umbilical Cord is unique because it highlights the surrogacy process, the parenting process, and how two men come together to raise their child.
The writing process started at the beginning of our journey, and the poems continued developing until Malek turned one, so I was writing these poems as I was going through all the experiences myself with Tarn. It started with us remembering that my sister-in-law had offered to be our surrogate at our engagement and wedding. Then it turned into a question, and she immediately said, “Absolutely,” agreeing to do this for us. I was writing while we researched the fertility clinic, while saving up money, for the whole IVF process. I had all these ideas in my head… I was writing small notes and letters to Malek before he was even a fetus. I was writing poems to our child, hoping that they could hear my words.
I wrote poems continuously, highlighting the excitement and fears that I shared with Tarn. I included “Dear Child” poems throughout the collection, and these were my love letters to our son, Malek. I really wanted to express all my love to both Malek and Tarn. While War/Torn was about struggling with conflicting identities and finding reconciliation, Umbilical Cord is about love between two men, who fulfill their dreams of becoming parents with the help of the most amazing surrogate. The umbilical cord becomes a feeling that binds all of this together.
Essentially, Umbilical Cord is a collaboration with many people who wanted to make the book the best it could be. Working with Book*hug Press has been wonderful. Jay and Hazel Millar gave me the creative freedom to bring out the book in the best way possible. They allowed me to work with my amazing friend, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, who is the most incredible poetry editor. Shazia is the one who suggested that I incorporate family photos into the book, so it would become like a family photo album. I was on board with that idea right away, and I chose some of my favourite family photos. And none of these ideas would have come together without the brilliant work of graphic designer Gareth Lind, of Lind Design. I’m also so thankful for Dani Carter, who handles the Book*hug Press blog; for Shannon Whibbs, the book’s wonderful copy editor; and for every single person who made this possible, including all the authors who agreed to read and blurb the book. I look up to you all, and I’m beyond grateful.
I wrote Umbilical Cord as a message of hope and love to all the parents out there. With this book, I’m giving you a glimpse of our journey. I don’t think I would’ve been able to write about this in any other genre or form. Poetry is the only form that gives me the comfort to open up about my personal life and story.
I’m super excited, and I hope that many readers will buy the book and experience the magic of love and family.
Hasan Namir is an Iraqi-Canadian author. He graduated from Simon Fraser University with a BA in English and received the Ying Chen Creative Writing Student Award. He is the author of God in Pink (2015), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Fiction and was chosen as one of the Top 100 Books of 2015 by The Globe and Mail. His work has also been in media across Canada. He is also the author of the poetry book War/Torn (2019, Book*hug Press) which received the 2020 Barbara Gittings Honor Book Award from the Stonewall Book Awards, and children’s book The Name I Call Myself (2020). Hasan lives in Vancouver with his husband and child.