I am back from my Sunday JHPF Literary Salon on the topic "Poetry and the Body." Organized by Marina Yoffe and hosted by Richard Jeffery Newman, I led a discussion on how the body is represented in poetry, and specifically how I have used the body in my poetry. I maintain that poems about the body are never about the body.
These are a few of the poems I used in my discussion:
Sharon Olds: “Topography,” “The Pope’s Penis”
Lucille Clifton: “If i stand in my window”
Brian Turner: “Autopsy”
Robert Hass: “A Story about the Body”
William Matthews: “Pissing off the Back of the Boat into the Nivernais Canal”
Leading workshops always pulls me out of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed the energy of the Q&A, as well as leading the writing prompts. Thanks for pulling together a very engaging and interactive program.
(Note: I’m about to make a huge generalization about male and female poets. I understand this is a generalization and there are always exceptions.) When men write about women’s bodies (or their own bodies), I find that there is a restraint or an inhibition that comes through in the work—or, in the case of a woman’s body, the body tends to be objectified. But women are more open with descriptions of the body, both male and female. Is this more about women claiming power over the body in a patriarchal society?
*I’d love to hear feedback, or please share examples of poems on this topic.*
It always surprises me when people read my work and discover things that never entered my mind when I was writing the poems. For instance, as Richard points out, food imagery runs throughout Underlife. A lot. Even when the poem seemingly has no connection to food, I’ve probably added a verb or adjective associated with eating or nourishment, or the act of preparation.
On my drive back to Massachusetts from New York, I had lots of time to think about my goals for this year. I’m just too busy to give serious thought to any new projects, so I have decided to postpone working on my new manuscript. Clearly, I am too distracted and busy with Mass Poetry Festival planning to devote any time to research. My hope is to start in August when I’m more relaxed and not shoveling out from the latest snowstorm.
In the meantime, I will write a poem a week and *try* to keep up with writing a poem a day in April for National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). I’m playing catch up from last week so I owe myself two poems.
AWP is just around the corner!