BY JOANNA CLEARY
A story: I volunteer to write a blog piece for Inklette on a hazy Wednesday evening and an idea appears, as they often do for me, seemingly out of nowhere. I want to write about the female body. No, a voice within me interjects. That’s too political. The voice is correct; bodies are political. This inner resistance is not a result of me wanting to shy away from my political beliefs, however, but more a result of me not wanting to be yelled at for being politically incorrect in a world, particularly a virtual world, where it is impossible to be politically correct to everyone.
I continue to stare at a blank Word document in hopes that another idea comes to me. Slowly, my gaze slides from my computer screen to my forearms, resting beside the keyboard of my laptop. They inexplicably appear stubborn, resistant. They seem to want to say something, but, being forearms, they can’t. I look at my hands next. Get typing, the voice inside my head says, having changed its (my?) mind. I do.
Being a Poetry Editor for Inklette, I spend an embarrassing amount of time writing and reading poetry. Here is a list of poems about the female body that each emotionally resonate with me. I acknowledge that there are as many different female bodies as there as females and that these differences can stem from life experiences, gender identity, ability, race, ethnicity, culture, and so on. This list does not attempt to capture all the complexities of the female body, as that would be impossible, but is rather the product of the nights I spend staying up reading poetry I haven’t read before instead of going to bed.
- Vagina Sonnet (Joan Larkin):
- Breasts (Erica Jong):
- Nurse (Dorianne Laux):
- Beauty (Ariana Reines):
- Exclusively on Venus (Trace Peterson): https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/exclusively-venus
- Diminishment (Nancy Mairs):
- Women of Colour (Rupi Kaur): https://hungmduong232.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/women-of-colour-rupi-kaur/
- After the First Child, the Second (Mary Austin Speaker): https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/after-first-child-second
Enjoy. Read them in order. Pick one at random. Recite your favourite at a poetry slam. Write a response poem. Write a comparative essay and show it to your English teacher. I decided not to write any commentary concerning the poems themselves so that each one will come as a surprise. As you read, I have one request: remember to feel the poetry. We too often forget, or choose not to acknowledge, how things make us feel.
Go ahead. Be political. We don’t have a choice about that, for better or for worse. All bodies can be powerful and perhaps that power deserves to be used. I developed a rather complex formula when I was collecting poems for this article: meaning = feeling = power = politics = change/advocacy = progress. For good reason, progress is often seen as an illusion. I agree that it is, unfortunately, too often illusive, but I also believe it exists in some form. I see potential for progress to come about through these poems and the reading of them. So, read. See the power in the female body.
JOANNA CLEARY has been part of the Inklette team since 2015 and is pathetically in love with poetry. Her work has previously appeared in Cicada Magazine, Inklette Magazine, Glass Kite Anthology, Parallel Ink, Phosphene Literary Journal, HIV Here and Now, and On the Rusk. She is the 2017 recipient of the 2017 University of Waterloo Creative Writing Society Award for Poetry