Thursday, June 18, 2020

writing the body

from radio ocularia

I was amused to discover this morning hat two recent samplings of the FEED mss. posted on my instagram both included the word "bicuspid." Strangely, unlike some of my favorites to overuse ("water" "dark" "blood" --my latent goth-girl sack of tricks) is a relatively new addition.  But then it made me think again of the ways we write the body over and over through various projects. The obsessions and impulses that come through subconsciously in the words as a translation of the physical. Sometimes without us even realizing we're doing it.

A good example, is how I once noted a tendency to talk about wrists a lot in my first couple books. No doubt this had much to do with some carpal tunnel pain I was experiencing due to both writing and working at the library. It's better than it used to be, but  I still have a little bit of achyness when the barometer is right.  It did not help when I hurt the other wrist after a bus fall that I stupidly convinced myself was fine, but may have, in hindsight been a minor fracture.  After I had mono in the late aughts, and a subsequent year of just very bad health, I was fixated on throats.  Throats in every poem.  Also just the general instability of the body,  which crops up in series like "radio ocularia".  Some years, my allergies are really bad in spring and fall, and this manifests as a face ache and tingly, sometimes painful, bicuspids. My first book, the fever almanac, was very much about the places where language and the body meet,  its section headings pointing to it:  "how to tell a story in a dead language"  "glossalalia" and "dialogue in blue"

But it's especially interesting to think about FEED in particular, which perhaps the most in any recent manuscript of the past couple years, is rooted in body considerations of another kind--body image and dismorphia.  I've written in bits and pieces in other projects about food and disordered eating, about the fat body, particularly the fat femme body in the world. But this is perhaps the most airtime I've given body issues in my poems, and the most raw material of my own  The most raw in general, I suppose.   It's a book about mothers as well, but also bodies, the mothers and the daughters , and the damage each can do to the other. You see it in obvious places like "plump," a retelling of Hansel and Gretel where the witch becomes a mother-figure to the starving daughter.    In "the hunger palace" which tries to reconcile my mother's death and issues she had with her own body and how those were my own inheritance. While the sections of "the summer house": and "the science of impossible objects" are more generally about mothers and mothering, the very first section "swallow" sets a tone that strikes some cords even within those differently pro-occupied parts. "swallow" is pure autobiography, as is "the hunger palace," but while the second is longer and more essayistic, it does the damage in short, barbed prose poems. One of them begins "As a child, we work to make me smaller."  (I've written a bit more on that segment in particular here... )

I think there is some of it in the newer projects like pelt, which is more about monstrousness and the body, though the chief concerns might be elsewhere. Or in the new corona-inspired poems series "bloom," with it's themes of contagion and connection.

No comments: