Saturday, November 30, 2013

Writing about haters and hatred

It takes a special poet or kind of poet to write well and convincingly about hatred, especially hatred directed toward one particular group. And yet it also must be done in a way that tells the reader that the hatred hasn't affected one's basic feelings about who one is or what one believes (about oneself and other things).

One also has to be able to laugh at the haters. Not so easy, but when learned, invaluable. This is yet another thing that the poets in Fat Poets Speak 2 do superbly. They toss the hate back into the faces of the haters and say, "Not today, thanks. Not interested. Find another group, and then another, and by that time, your kind of hate will be outlawed or outthought or outmedicated, or a combination of the three."

What makes it a bit easier is that for every hater, there seems to exist at least one lover.

Friday, November 29, 2013

What If

In the early 19th Century it became fashionable for women to look as if they were dying of consumption. Sort of the parallel to the wan cocained look that was so fashionable until very recently.

It became the view of scientists, religionists and social scientists alike that to be moving toward spiritual enlightenment, one had to be thin. Humans, they believed, would evolve into beings without bodies,lights that possessed superpowers.

I need hardly mention that the great number of scientists, religionists and social scientists in the 19th Century were men.

What if - yes, what if evolution favored fatter people instead? What if people with larger bodies were the ones developing higher/better spiritual connections? Instead of fading into lights, perhaps we are evolving growing into peaceful fatter bodies who have killer serves n tennis and volleyball and contact eternal oneness when we bake chocolate cake or fly?

What if we were aware that some bacteria, 500 years old,  had caused women to part-catch me, and then, being fool proof warm to the woman who wanted me to stay with her..

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Concern Trolling on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday I really love because of the memories that unfold when I think about it. Unfortunately it has a resoundingly awful subtext in the hostile ingratitude of the Pilgrims and other white people toward the helpfulness and then the very existence of the native Americans/Indians.

And yet how easy it is for fat people to identify with those feelings -that other people whom you dn't even know feel pointless hatred toward you. Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be a time of family togetherness and giving thanks, can often degenerate into a fat shaming marathon as "concern trolls" voice their supposedly concerned opinions that you "have to lose" x amount of weight or your health will be injured, or you will die..

Too bad they haven't looked at the statistics for weight loss surgery lately, in and from which a lot of people do die..

There are some excellent poems in Fat Poets Speak 2: Living and Loving Fatly on exactly this issue.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fat poets, fat people and holidays

This is a difficult thing to do, but I would love to see some fat poets write positively about some holidays. Lesleigh Owen loves Halloween; I love Thanksgiving. I am sure that other fat poets like these and/or other holidays. (And by the way, yes, I am aware of the alternate and rather unhappy text behind Thanksgiving and the way Native Americans were trying to help the white "settlers.") I like Thanksgiving for its associations and the idea that it is secular - people of all religions, across all ethnicities, separately but somehow together serve up turkey (or a veg. alternative) and stuffing and some kind of pie and give thanks, and hope that others will not have to live in poverty or fear the coming year.

Fat people already have No Diet Day. We have "Love Your Body" week. Next step: Festivals for these holidays.

And poems!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Writing about the Fat Revolution

One of the wonderful things that the poets do in Fat Poets Speak II: Living and Loving Fatly is to write about the Fat Revolution. Of course this Revolution is not new; it started in the 1970's and has grown slowly so that more and more people, even if they do not take a no-diet pledge, see that not only is dieting anti-woman because it starves us, but also that it simply doesn't work, completely misleading statistics to the contrary. More and more people are seeing that fat people are beautiful. More and more people are seeing that fat people have the right to live without being stigmatized, harassed or oppressed, whether by teenage idiots or by Boards supposedly designed to find solutions to "obesity."

How does one write about a Revolution without sounding pedantic or unpoetic?

One writes about the souls of fat women. One writes about the beauty of fat women. One writes about fat women gathering to protest. One writes about the courage of fat women who grit their teeth and get on with living their lives even after sociopaths harass them.

One writes about fat women learning to love themselves.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Our s/heroic roots

As I was writing about FatLand and the Fat Underground Railroad today, I thought of Harriet Tubman. And the Underground Railroad.

And I then thought of the very brave people, men and women, who risked their lives helping Jewish and
other prisoners in Concentration Camps to escape. Most of the couriers were Jewish. Some were not. The ones I knew best and about which I heard the most when I was growing up belonged to an organization called the Jewish Labor Committee.

I was thinking about how Democracy is fragile and how it can turn on itself in a matter of months, as it did in Germany in 1933, although the roots of Nazism were older than that, and its uber-nationalist roots were already taking shape in the late nineteenth century.

And I also thought of the Fat Underground whose members participated in and contributed to Shadow on a Tightrope. Some wrote poems. Some wrote also in other blogs and zines.

Ragen initiated and  is very much involved in a project that will catalog and archive Fat Activists. When the proceeds of Fat Poets Speak 2 go to her, they will help in this magnificent effort.

I guess all this is to say that our poems have roots in the acts of heroes and sheros and will hopefully influence future s/hero(e)s, many of them fat.

We reach back and forward, and our days are not short, but stretch as we write. As we write, we stand up to be counted.

And our numbers are growing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fat Fire

A couple of nights ago I wrote about the journey many of us took to become fat poets.

Now I'd like to turn that thought on its ear.

What if there were no references to the way people looked in poems, or at least not to their weight or height? What if no one even thought of fatness or thinness or averageness and thus they disappeared as ways to describe people?

Once I thought that this might be possible. I don't think so.

At least not for a long long time.

And we have to get people to respect our rights and forms and pride as fat people before this happens. Hell, even most fat people don't respect their own rights. Yet.

The way out is the way through. Baptism/initiation by fire.

Fat fire. I like that.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Oh yes we do...

"No one wants to be a poet." Kenneth Goldsmith on NPR, November 21, 2013

Strange thing is that Kenneth Goldsmith himself is a poet. And a sculptor. And yet he chooses  these self-deprecating words when describing part of what he himself does.

I guess Mr. Goldsmith doesn't quite understand the road that many of us had to travel to get ourselves to the place(s) from which we could indeed be poets. Gilbert and Gubar's groundbreaking work, Madwoman in the Attic, explores the anxieties behind the audaciousness of the 19th century women who dared to write and thus become authors. We, as fat women, had as many and perhaps more anxieties. At first some of us questioned if we even had the right to write poems. After all, the people described in the poems were usually beautiful. Especially if they were women. They might be ideals. And the USA was fervently in favor of ideal women being slim, we did not find many poems about fat women who were beautiful or extremely interesting, or both, or just poems about fat women in general. You had to go to certain very specific and not necessarily well known places for those.

But even so, what a joy, what a rush to read poems with fat women in them. Some magazines, zines and journals began to carry and list poems by and about fat women.

This was a very important time and a very key development. For if fat women were to write poems about themselves, they had to read poems in which people like themselves figured largely (no pun intended). The identification process had to begin.

Then we had to stop being ashamed of their bodies and themselves enough to be able to write about them both objectively and celebratorily. We had to figure out exactly what went into creating images about our bodies and also to understand what putting these images into poems would entail.

This meant finding a further identity, not just as poet, but as fat poet. What was the difference? What did it mean to write as a fat poet? It meant finding out what the word fat meant to each of us, and how we wanted to see ourselves in the poems we were writing, and how we wanted others to see us -in the future.

In short, how we wished to present ourselves in poems, and what we wanted our relationships with our poems to be.

Betty Dudley

Marilyn Wann posted one of Betty Rose Dudley's amazing poems from FAT?SO on Facebook. I didn't know Betty well, but we were FB friends and I admired her work immensely. I so wish she could have stayed around long enough to be with us in Fat Poets Speak.

Sign into FB. Then hit this link.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fat Cat

I would love to see more poets writing about their fat pets. I wrote this poem about a fat orange and white cat named Muffin. However, I do not have such a cat. I would, however, very much like to have a cat like this.

My Fat Cat

Muffin is my fat cat.
She is orange with lots of white fur,
Especially on her belly,
Which wobbles under her
When she jumps.
She rubs against me every time
I walk to the bathroom.

She thinks I am her pillow.
I explain to her
Without much conviction
That she is a cat
And show her a mirror.
Fascinated, she gazes at her likeness
Then struts to the window.
She doesn’t try to seduce birds
With birdlike noises;
She just watches.

She doesn’t gulp her food
But takes it in her mouth
In a leisurely fashion
And informs the world
That she is ready for another nap
By lying down in my bed
And rubbing against my blanket.

It is difficult to refuse her hint.
I spread myself next to her
And rub my head in her

The rest of the non-cat world

Will have to wait. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stark's private war against FatLand and against himself

The only "war" fought in FatLand was, ironically,  against the person who was responsible for providing the funding for a lot of its infrastructure. This grew out of the fact that he was basically at war with himself. He was very attracted to fat women, for instance, but wouldn't countenance marrying one (and especially the one he loved). He liked the idea of having physical fitness centers in FatLand, which was not necessarily a bad thing, but he insisted that their message include weight loss. Of course FatLand would not permit him to open his franchises there under his stipulations, but he kept trying.

When it was apparent that GymNotTrim, health franchises started by Sandor Forman, carried a much more appealing and applicable message of "have fun, move, don't worry about weight," Stark tried to get Forman to merge with CompleteFitness. Forman was at first willing, but then  when he discovered that Stark would not abandon his weight loss message, he reneged. He was then tried on the Other Side, where he would have gone to prison, except for the courageous rescue mounted by his wife Dara and four FatandProud members who then had to live in FatLand permanently.

Stark, livid over Forman's escape, sent drones over FatLand, especially near the safe houses in which the FatandProud members were now quartered. He wanted them turned over to the USA in exchange for a non-harassment pact.

The FatLand Board refused.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dear Amazing Fat Poets

Dear Amazing Fat Poets,

I am sure that you are aware that even by writing fat-friendly, fat-proud, fat liberation poems, you are committing a revolutionary act and changing the world. The world may be changing you at the same time, but rest assured that you are changing it at least as much.

From what you tell me, people respond very positively when you show them/read your poems. Perhaps there are more people around now who are not so easily taken in by Big Diet's ghastly siren songs. I am also hoping that fewer people will consider getting bariatric weight loss surgery, as well, since a) it causes people to die b) it causes people to become much much sicker than they were before they had the surgery c) people who are healthy -as in managing to live their lives without too many problems- of whatever weight should not go anywhere near this surgery d) can't the world manage to make some little adjustment in its stultifying anti-fat stance long enough to let mostly healthy fat people function without threatening to cut them open?

You are so beautiful. I was looking at your pictures, singly, a few days ago, and thinking that one day, if it does not already, it will see the beauty that shines through your faces and your voices. How wonderful it is that such beauty comes through your fingers -channeled first through your minds- and then finds its way at last onto the page.

I know what you have gone through to reach this proud stage. I know some of the hurts, the anger, the names we were called, the food that was grabbed out of our hands, the giggles from ignorant pea-brain haters, the assumption that bodies that were thinner were better, and worse yet, the assumption that people whose bodies were thinner were more intelligent (where they kept getting that one from, I still haven't quite figured out). I know the diets they put us on, the gnawing night hungers, the temporary happiness when the scale told us we were a pound lighter, the despair that occurred as we somehow gained the weight back on 800 calories a day. I know how we felt that we would never ever be esteemed as good enough or equal to those whose body weights happened to be smaller.

But look what happened to us. Look at the journey we have made and are making. Look how far we've come to be able to say with proud conviction that dieting does not work, that fat is not a crime, that our bodies and minds as fat people work perfectly well, thanks, and we don't need the help of arrogant, presumptuous anti-fat professionals to evaluate our experiences and find them wanting or even dangerous. We know now that we need - ourselves. We know now that we have - ourselves, and friends who believe as we do.

We are THEFATZ. We are fat poets. "The fatz are in gear..their bodies are connected.." (Paraphrase of  Jets' Song from West Side Story).

And damn it, we should get some t shirts :)

Hugs, Frannie

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Dream

Have this dream of a store which would feature clothes for plus sized women -both resold clothes and new clothes- fat liberation books, paintings and photos of fat people on the walls, poetry readings of fat liberation poetry, concerts of fat-friendly groups, talks by famous fat liberation activists.

Cheese and Chocolate give way to a pear

I love cheese. I love chocolate. I have not yet figured out how to work the two into a fat proud poem. Surely there should be a way of writing happily about cheese or chocolate in connection with the experience of proud fat people.

Also thinking of New York and oddly enough, the subway, which I miss, and which I am so totally not supposed to miss.

Let's see...cheese and chocolate on the subway in New York from a fat and proud standpoint..

From Nowhere

The woman came from nowhere,
the nowhere that floats and crawls
just past the Temple commuter line.
She sat down next to me
and starting hating on Catholics.
She stared at the trash.
I intuited hunger.
Handing her a pear from my bag,
I felt it should have been more.
At the time I thought my fat
deserved no mercy
and wouldn't miss fruit.

A nun came up to me
and said, "That was real nice
of you. I thought she was
going to hit me."
"Thanks," I said,
my agnostic surprise
at being called nice
by a nun giving birth
to self-approval.
"She looked hungry, I guess."

Oh well...ended up with Philadelphia and a pear, instead, and just a little fat pride by implication  in a brief mention of  the time when I didn't have any.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Journey

This is mainly a shout out to the wonderful poets who grace the pages of Fat Poets Speak (1): Voices of the Fat Poets' Society and Fat Poets Speak (2):  Living and Loving Fatly.

You perhaps cannot tell from our smiles and our often busy and pleasant lives what we had to do in order to get to a place from which we could write about the hurt and the times we had been harassed and rejected so crudely that it was difficult for us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go on living - and then writing. When many of us began writing, there were no support groups online to which we could voice our hurt, our shame, our anger. (Hell, for most of us, there wasn't an online :)      There were certainly no fat poets to tell us that it would get better, that we would be able to forge strength and wisdom and some great poems out of what seemed a desert of anti-fat critics and haters.

Books like Shadow on a Tightrope did go some way toward spurring us to greater understanding and solidarity with our other fat sisters. But as powerful as they were, they were still few and far between.

'In the 1980's and 1990's, groups like NAAFA, who had once emphasized social activities, began to see themselves as forgers of social justice and support and pride for fat people, so much so that they began to circulate press releases and statements about what fat people thought of organizations and efforts that purported to help us but did not speak for us. Their public voices grew stronger and more confident. Magazines started to feature articles and essays and images that came from fat pride, not from wishes to conform to a thin-loving ethos.

Most of us poets partook of some of these new sources of support and pride as we learned about them, and it made the going a lot easier for most of us. But each of us had to locate, within herself, the resolve to face the world as a fat person who no longer dreamt of one day becoming thin and facilely conformist.

The journeys we underwent were neither easy nor short. But they brought us to the place from which we could write poems as fat people more secure in our physical and emotional identities.

We do not necessarily glorify ourselves, but we face our world from very different places from those in which we started.

Perhaps the phrase which best describes our efforts and journeys is "Evolved equanimity."

But we continue to create, within our writing and out, the cause and images of Fat Liberation.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Breaking Her In

I do something here that I usually do only in longhand in notebooks. I make notes for a future poem.

Breaking Her In

I don't get it. I still don't get it.

She was heavy, sure, but not super heavy.

She was also quite tall for her age.

Why did you get conniptions when she gained some weight?

Seems she was mostly setting herself up for more growth, which did occur.

She didn't seem to have any other "conditions".

She was athletic, and loved to walk, as well.

By which scenario did you find her unfit? Did you envision Soviet troops invading the land,
with her sticking out of the hidden bunker and thus betraying the block?

Did you imagine Chinese tanks spotting her from miles away because you'd hidden the children and she was too big for the cellar?

Or was it something nastier, more ultrapersonal, like her frightening boys away or beating them at touch football and tug of war?

Whatever it was, it really played havoc with her body and its regulatory systems as you decreed and put her on diet after diet, and she kept losing, then gaining it all back and more.

Why did you keep trying to iron her into uniformity when it was so clear that she would never fit into your barbie cookie cutter mold? Is that all you knew to do to young girls?

Is that all you knew to do to your world?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Next Step

Some of us want fat people, especially fat women, to "fit in" and be part of the society in which they live. Some of us want to be part of/a society or place in which we don't have to worry about "fitting in." Or perhaps a place in which mostly fat people live.

I wrote last night about celebrating the 30th anniversary of the book Shadow on a Tightrope. We celebrate the first strong voicing of the idea that we shouldn't have to conform to anyone else's image of what we are supposed to look like.

And today, and now..

We take another step.

We want to be liked, even celebrated for what we are and what we look like. In many poems in Fat Poets Speak (2): Living and Loving Fatly, we speak of our curves, our bellies, our chins, our thighs. We want to teach the world how to fall in love with fat/fatness/fatting.

We dream more than equality.

We dream acknowledgment and appreciation.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Shadow on a Tightrope

The 1970's were heady days for the Women's Movement and for the Fat Liberation Movement.  The Fat Underground interrupted and demonstrated at meetings which purported to be about the health of fat people but at which no representative of any Fat movement was present.. Fat women started to see just how incredibly sexist and incredibly wrong it was for the corporatist establishment to tell them how they had to look and weigh, as well as unhealthy and even dangerous for them, the objects of sexist and corporatist scorn and derision.

In 1983 a book entitled Shadow on a Tightrope was published by Aunt Lute Books in San Francisco. It included interviews, essays and poems by women who self-identified as fat activists and feminists. 

The poems are what spoke to me most, I think. Women claiming their right to be treated as full citizens of their time, space and place, not objects whose shapes and sizes happened not to fit the current often anti-woman aesthetic. Women whose voices ring strong and true with the defiant courage and conviction of their belief that they need not apologize for what they are and who they are. And in those days they had to be a great deal more defiant to voice such ideas because they had never been heard previously, even in the Women's Movement of the time.

Since I read it, I kept thinking of the debt we owe to the women who tossed their anxieties about their "reputations" to the wind and wrote themselves and their images into the consciousness of the Women's Movement and the Fat Activist/Fat Feminist Movement. They are our guiding stars, our first born, our proud matriarchs.

We poets of Fat Poets Speak: Voices of the Fat Poets' Society and Fat Poets Speak: Living and Loving Fatly celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the publication of Shadow on a Tightrope. Without you, we would not have been born.

From:  Kathy Barron    Anne Kaplan   Corinna Makris    Lesleigh Owen   Eileen Rosensteel   Mary Ray Worley  Frannie Zellman   Durette Hauser  Deb Lemire  Dr. Deah Schwartz   M. M. Stein

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fat Older People

It would be wonderful if in Fat Poets Speak 3, we could have poems that deal with older people who are fat. They are so nice to hug. My grandma was plump during the last twenty years of her life, probably would be qualified as "overweight" according to the BMI scale, but she was strong and energetic, her mind alert with just occasional lapses. She was beautiful. I wrote about her in FPS 1. Would love to see more about people's grandmas and grandpas. (My grandpas both were and remained slim.)

If you look at family photos from the early 1900's, well into the 1930's and 1940's, you'd see that people's grandmas and often other relatives were strong, sturdy, hearty people, looking as if they did a fair amount of work during their days. They didn't have time to worry about dieting and/or what strangers felt about their bodies and body shapes!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Erotic poetry in Fat Poets Speak

There is some really beautiful erotic poetry in Fat Poets Speak 1 and 2. Some of it is overtly erotic, some is more subtle. But all of it somehow speaks to glorifying not just curves -although there is certain a healthy dose of that- but of making the world happy once more with roundness, softness, nurturing, even at times slowness and ease. However, rest assured that there are also poems that mention fat people who are hurrying, thinking very quickly, achieving, analyzing, engaging in heavily physical activity.

As mentioned previously, Kathy Barron may have come close to inventing a new poetic form of interlocking haiku. But other poets -Lesleigh Owen, Anne Kaplan- also provide engaging and fat-friendly haiku with notable success.

A rather long poem by Frannie Zellman highlights an incident that bespeaks her lust and longing for a certain young man who is willing to remark her lushness but then seems to fall short of acting on an opportunity to take advantage of its proximity, and her forgiving herself after.

Fat erotic poems..(not porn!). Love them!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Non-rhyming Ode to Chris Christie

A Non-rhyming Ode to Chris Christie

You tried to make yourself
Acceptable. Went through BLS (Bariatric/Weight Loss Surgery),
kept up  activities,
somehow ramped up your campaign.
Kept yelling at people.
I don't agree with anything you said
 but size should not influence voting.
Once upon a time
Taft was Pres. Men ate meals
of six courses.

Women served them and smiled
(at least in photos).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

View from the Seventh Floor

Ironically, the view from the seventh floor of the hospital in which my mom is staying is gorgeous. We don't have a clue as to how the hospital (rebuilt version of an older hospital in the area) managed to get its claws on so much undeveloped land. The environs seem larger than many good sized farms. And what does one see? Trees, trees, trees. There is even a creek.  Quite the pricey output for a hospital that does not have more than two vending machines for seven floors (and a very mediocre cafeteria, but oh well..)

Also ironically, most of the nurses -I'd say over 60 percent) are plus sized. None of them seem the least bit interested in having conversations about their bodies. Not that I have tried...they are civil to me, just about. They adore my mom (thank goodness for that, at least), a little lady of 85 who has shrunk to 4'9 and now weighs 87 pounds (she lost a lot of weight due to illnesses). Still beautiful, though, and many of them remark on it.

It would be wonderful to write a poem about these nurses, so many of them fat, who look at me, a fat person, with disdain, and who thus probably look on their own fat bodies, bodies that do so very much for them day by day, with disdain.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ode to a bathroom or a famous fat person

I mentioned previously that a bathroom figures largely in one of the poems I wrote for Fat Poets Speak  (2): Living and Loving Fatly. However, I think we need an ode to a bathroom, or a happy poem about a great bathroom. Or an angry poem about terrible bathrooms for fat people. How's that for a poetic thought?

Or, considering that it is Halloween tonight, how about a poem about becoming something else or someone else? The best: to dress up as famous fat people.  Mae West. Lily Langtry. Aretha Franklin. Mama Cass. Amy Lowell.  Jackie Gleason.  A great sumo wrestler. The great Bollywood film dancer, Jaya Prada. Fats Domino. List goes on..

And on.