I never thought of my poems as having “recurrent themes” because they seemed to go in all sorts of directions. But one day recently I was looking at different literary journals and I found one called Love Me, Love My Belly which is a publication of Porkbelly Press, out of Cincinnati, Ohio. I am super excited about this zine and hoping to purchase one of their issues soon. They requested that work submitted be in relation to the body. I started looking through my work, self-reflectively, and noticed that much of it deals with the theme of my conflicting relationship to my body, my questioning of my body, and sometimes, a bolstering of my confidence concerning my body. What’s interesting also is that I really like the word “body” and I use the word itself in many of my poems (I didn’t realize this before). It seems to signify, to me, the mechanism which houses a person’s spirit, the skin and muscles and bones that put a person together. And in a certain sense, it also represents, to me, the sexuality of a body, as the “b” stretches to the “dy” slowly, having to press its way slowly over the “o.”
It was amazing to find a recurrent theme in my poems, because, as I’ve mentioned, I tend to think that my work goes in all sorts of directions. But in direct conjunction with the body, I oftentimes find myself returning to my gender, my womanhood, both in an excited way, and in a way that has me wondering: What’s next? Allow me to explain. I love being a woman, and for the most part I’m comfortable in my own skin. I think that my body is beautiful and wonderful. I also enjoy a lot of things that are traditionally expected of women. I love children and could see myself as a mom, certainly, and I’m also a home body who enjoys cooking and cleaning and resting.
But these confident assertions are layered with questions that I can’t help but ask: What if motherhood is too hard? Will I do everything in the house but no one will see or care? Am I too selfish to have kids? And what will happen to my body? Will anyone be able to love this body after it’s birthed children? After it’s lost its youth?
These questions start to uncover my insecurities layered within the soil, underneath all of the tulips and orchids and bluebells. There are lots of questions, and I don’t reveal them often, except in my poetry and in conversations where it’s acceptable to ask those kinds of questions. But going to TC Tolbert’s workshop started to make me ask: How do I approach the space around me, and how does that translate into how I write poetry?
One thing that TC asked us to do was to focus inwardly on what was going on inside our own selves–to focus 5% on other people and 95% on ourselves. I don’t usually self-reflect this much, but when I did, I realized that my interactions with others as well as the world around me are oftentimes gendered. I felt interested in the kitchen and found myself sort of excited and also anxious about the fact that there was a window above the sink. I’ve always liked windows above the sink, because it’s a nice thing to have when one does dishes. But is a window a mechanism of disguising the menial or even uncomfortable nature of the task of washing dishes? Will introducing a window into that space make a person more likely to linger a few more minutes each time, taking a task that’s boring and pretending it’s enjoyable?
It’s difficult to say. And I started thinking about all this a little more when I realized how much I think about my own body and how gendered my interactions feel to me, when I think about it.
Now that I am aware of this recurrent theme in my poetry, I hope to begin writing towards the idea of “body” and start understanding what it is I think about my own body, and not only that, but where I want to be. I can see a glimmer of light up ahead: I know that I want to accept and love my body for what it does, for its beauty, and I’ve come a long way. These days I have been gentle towards it, understanding towards it, as I’m seeing that the place most of my interaction takes place is in my mind–my body, however, is not under my control. It has, if you will, a mind of its own. And if I am able to accept that rather lovely idea, things will probably be easier for me from here on out.