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Body Poetics: 11 Poets On The Body

Poetry about the Body

Poets and writers have been focusing their work on the body for ages — on pleasure, on identity, on illness, on abuse, on beauty, and on the body as a living target.

Our bodies contain stories and songs; we write from their lived experiences. They are how we move through the world, and this can often be made difficult (or magical) depending on how others see and treat our bodies… not to mention how we treat ourselves.

It’s important that we read these poems, especially in a world where we are discussing identity and shifting ideologies around what it means to inhabit a body. We are talking more about how gender, race, and class intersect with the body and how our bodies are treated in public.

We are talking more about the internal dialogue that comes with having a body that is underrepresented or invalidated. And we are talking more about how we live in bodies that require care and management.

It’s a beautiful thing, too, this discourse. The more we talk and the more we create art, the more we are able to destigmatize illness or size or difference, and the more we identify and resist acts of oppression.

It also should be said that poetry is a beautiful vehicle for expressing and confessing our innermost, nuanced, intimate feelings of desire and appreciation for the world around us (Sappho’s poem is an excellent example, below).

Here are 11 poems on the body from incredible contemporary and canonical poets:

Diannely Antigua’s Diary Entry #16: About Using My Body

“Repeat after me: I am the ocean. I am a liver. I am
the bracelet on my wrist”

from Muzzle Magazine.

Jessica Reidy’s In The Oven

I’d stare in that void and wish myself in.

You see, I’ve been saving myself up

since I was young.

I’ll be clean like that, I say to the man,

the day my body is thin-gone

and can’t feel anyone.

from Luna Luna

Omotara James’ The Only Rooms I Occupy Are Empty

“at my annual appointment

when i’m asked to disrobe

and talk about what’s happened

with my body. you see

everyone travels through

some sort of prison   atsomepoint”

from Nat.Brut.

Leza Cantoral’s Zombie

My body is not my own anymore because my body was yours last night and last night is like a videocassette that got taped over with white noise.

from Entropy

Joanna C. Valente’s Sunday Poetry: THE END IS COMING

You are in the ER. Your body
isn’t on display but you feel like

you are on display. You are

of he way you let him
touch you. You are ashamed
you didn’t know any better.

from them

Cade Leebron’s Medusa In The Emergency Room

We’ve become

something unspecific, same as this town
that probably exists in almost every state.

I rename it Diagnosisland and like our love
or a stretched-out vein, it lasts forever.

from Chronically Lit

Sharon Olds’ After Making Love In Winter

We have come to the end of questions,

you run your palm, warm, large,

dry, back along my face over and

over, over and over, like God

putting the finishing touches on, before

sending me down to be born.

from Poetry Foundation

Krizia Bruno’s Mejorar La Raza: Part 1

They tell me:
            We must mejorar la raza.
            We must embrace our Spanish genes.
            We must use their gift to conceal.
            We must erase our blackness
            We are Dominican not Haitian.

from Pussy Magic Heals

Christine Sloan Stoddard’s The Storm

No one told me
my body
was an earthquake,
my body
a hurricane,
That my body
was and will always be
the eye of the storm.

from Quail Bell

Sappho’s A Tremor Shakes Me

For just gazing at you for a second, it is impossible
for me even to talk;
my tongue is broken, all at once a soft
flame has stolen beneath my flesh,
my eyes see nothing at all,
my ears ring,
sweat pours down me, a tremor
shakes me, I am more greenish than
grass, and I believe I am at
the very point of death.

from The Conversation

May Swenson’s Question

Body my house
my horse my hound   
what will I do
when you are fallen

Where will I sleep   
How will I ride   
What will I hunt

from Poetry Foundation

Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash

Poet, editor, and author of Light Magic for Dark Times. Editor of Luna Luna Magazine.