Friday, February 28, 2014

Fat Women Writing Themselves 2

So if you are a fat woman and you are finally starting to write yourself, what do you write? Or, perhaps more accurately, who do you write?

If you are anything like me, before you started writing yourself, you were writing some reflection of other people's expectations of you. Or you were writing your own fantasy of yourself. In short, you were writing a hologram of yourself. In your poems, you were acting very consciously like women who were not fat. And you were writing another body. Or perhaps, not even a body. No body. Nobody.

I don't mean that if you are a fat woman who begins writing herself, you are automatically going to start writing about your body. That may not come for a while. Maybe it won't arrive in your writing at all. The difference is that you may stop writing about yourself as another body. Or especially another person.

You start to write about yourself in your own skin, in your own life. This means exchanging the dream of someone you used to write about, and perhaps someone you used to try to be, or even thought you were, for the reality of what and who you are. I don't know. Perhaps for some women it may not be as fulfilling at first, to write about yourself and the way you go through your days in this body, in this reality, wearing a red top and not worrying so much about how other people like you or see you or don't like you. That was the irony, for me. Writing myself as a fat woman meant almost instantly that I didn't feel I had to compare myself to other women, or the way they looked or thought or were. I felt that I didn't have to be gentle, sweet or cute or, worse, helpless. Or clueless. Suddenly not only did I get back my body but I also got back my personality and my mind.

What I wrote about changed materially and thoroughly. I stopped writing about imaginary or even real past romances in the accepted tones of conventionality and started to write about  romances with the ocean and the wind. And not just for or with me, but of others, as well.

It was a joy to write about other fat women (and occasionally men), as well.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fat Women Poets Learning to Write Themselves

I am a fat woman poet and was never slim, but I spent the first  forty five years of my life not writing about myself - or not writing about what I looked like and most of what I felt. This of course is by no means uncommon with many or even most fat women poets. At least in those days. And perhaps even now. It is as if we suspended our own body shapes, our feelings, our cores in some unvisited center of our brains and left them there. We adapted to everyone else's shapes, thoughts, feelings and somehow take them as if they were our own.

And to an extent they are. We are after all members of poetic communities other than those of fat women. We are Americans (if we live here), or North Americans if we are from Canada. We are members of some ethnic group, maybe. We are members of a spiritual or religious group - perhaps. We are lovers of animals or oceans or wheat fields. We are often politically passionate. We are often indignant about how women of all sizes are treated and the way they are still objectified. We consider everyone's thoughts, needs, orientations..

Except our own. And we don't even recognize that we are doing this until...we recognize it.

And when we do, the world and the images it creates and the ways in which we create them looks as if it has been enlarged by a factor of a million. The connections we make from our new realization, that we write ourselves and the world and the day as fat women poets, not just as poets, not even just as women poets, transforms not only our poetry, but our existence.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dr. Deah read Kathy Barron's poem "Fat Bitch" this past weekend

So Dr. Deah Schwartz was the Chair of the Fat Studies/Fat Literature presentation at the Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque during the past weekend. With the able assistance of Susan Huddis Koppelman, who unfortunately could not attend, and of Peggy Elam, the CEO of Pearlsong Press, Dr. Deah put together a superb program of literature and clips and readings and discussion.

The hit of the presentation:  Fat Bitch, by Kathy Barron, a poet whose poems are featured in Fat Poets Speak (1) - Voices of the Fat Poets' Society and Fat Poets Speak (1) - Living and Loving Fatly.

For your listening pleasure, here it is:  Live! Kathy Barron reads her poems Fat Bitch and Fat Bitch 2.

Friday, February 21, 2014

To Wisconsin

Wonderful paradox:  Wisconsin is both the seventh "fattest" state and the seventh healthiest. No one seems to be willing to figure that out or take it as a possible signal that fat people are often quite healthy.. When I was in Madison and sometimes fortunate enough to be taken on car rides to other parts of Wisconsin, I saw lots of wonderfully strong, hefty men and women, farmers and city people. I also saw many happy cows, none of them skinny. It somehow delighted me that the cream from these cows that were running around in the field on the UW/Madison campus would go into some of the best ice cream in the USA. (Yogurt and sour cream, too.)

And cheese. Don't get me started on the cheese. Brick cheese. Wisconsin cheddar. Farmer cheese (not the same thing as Farmer Cheese in New York).

Farmers' markets every Saturday in spring and summer and early autumn near the Capitol Building, with veggies and fruit and bread and cider and cakes and cheese and fish and meat and eggs and flowers and plants and lots of other stuff. Squirrels getting angry if you didn't offer them anything and trying to bite your toes..

One of the managers at the branch Rocky's Pizza in which I worked was tall and blond and hefty and strong with lovely shoulders. He seemed to me to personify Wisconsinites. He often teased me about my semi-vegetarian state, stating that potatoes screamed when they were picked. I also remember his smile, often sardonic. His eyes were blue, and he used to love to annoy the regional corporate head by talking to me during her visits when she had informed all the workers at this Rocky's that no one was to talk when she was visiting.

Consider this a poem in the Wisconsin, a state that did not hate its fat people.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fat Beauty

Of what does fat beauty consist?

There is an entire section devoted to "Beauty" in Fat Poets Speak 2: Living and Loving Fatly. There are two schools of thought on this issue. One is that people should not care about the appearances of others to begin with unless they discern actual sickness from another's appearance and wish to call medical personnel. The other school is that of widening diversity in perceptions of beauty in response to being brainwashed for years about only thin bodies being beautiful.

Some poets in the Fat Acceptance movement use different words and combinations of words to describe and evoke the beauty of fat bodies and even of weather and nature. Roundness and softness, luscious curves, skin, the desert, drops of water on a full body, richness of skin, rounded and double chins - all these and many many more rethink and rewrite beauty and especially the rich and tempting contours of fat lusciousness.

It is also rather nice to see large and plus sized models in magazines in clothes that we might realistically think of buying. Yet another addition to the possibilities of considering ourselves beautiful. Sculpture depicting fat people heroically and sensually helps to create and add to images of fat beauty.

Fat and beautiul - two words which are seen together much more often than they were ten years ago.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dr. Deah Schwartz will be reading from FPS 1 !!!!!

I am thrilled to tell you that at the Southwest PCA (Popular Culture Association), our very own wonderful Dr. Deah Schwartz, who has a poem in the upcoming volume of Fat Poets Speak: Living and Loving Fatly, will be leading the Fat Studies Conference. Not only that - she will be reading from Fat Poets Speak (1): Voices of the Fat Poets' Society.

I especially recommended the saucy exchanges about gaining weight and losing weight :)

One could say that people should not even be asking such questions, and one would be right. But then the joy in answering these questions would be gone, as well.

Remember those exchanges? They were so much fun.

Did you lose weight?

No. Did you find some lying around somewhere?

Did you gain weight?

Yes, and I'm even more fabulous now.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Living and Loving Fatly

Tonight I will be looking over/proofreading the PDF of Fat Poets Speak (2): Living and Loving Fatly. From there, it will mostly be in the supremely capable hands and mind of Peggy Elam, CEO of Pearlsong Press.

We voted on the name for the second volume of Fat Poets Speak. There was one other possible choice, but "Living and Loving Fatly" seemed to fit beautifully. We live each day as people who could be any size, and yet at the same time we live as fat people, which is quite different than living as people who are "average," whatever that means, or "slim." The difference is that we win victories and display courage by choosing when to respond to the anti-fat bigotry of those who harass and stigmatize us, and when to pass these people by. Or laugh at them. Or look at them as if they are crazy.

Sometimes, as one of our FPS poets, Eileen Rosensteel, writes so eloquently in her poem "Minefields," our days are indeed minefields:  we skirt anger and pick our way through situations which could and sometimes do explode into confrontations. We ignore angry glances, we determinedly put items in our shopping carts that we wish to buy even if we incur the incredulity of the busybodies and the ignorant.

Other times we encounter bliss as we exchange ideas and thoughts and yes, love, with those close to us who support and succor us.

Up and down, down and up again - we are witnesses to the aches, difficulties and sometimes horrors of living in a culture that still devalues us for our bodies and shapes, and also to the pleasures of knowing and appreciating people who appreciate us in our own skin.

It is not easy at times to live and love fatly. But it is often interesting and definitely poem-worthy.

We hope you will agree when you read Fat Poets Speak (2): Living and Loving Fatly, due to be published in April, 2014.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter wonder

I saw a wonderful nick on a post on Facebook: wintercrystal (the "e" may have been omitted, but I am compulsive about full spellings, as you may know). It reminded me of one of the best winter poems I have ever read - the very last poem in Fat Poets Speak (1):  Voices of the Fat Poets' Society (Pearlsong Press, 2009). It is Arctic New Year, by Lesleigh Owen (copyright 2009, by Lesleigh Owen and Pearlsong Press).

And I will accompany it with a poem entitled "Winter Crystal."

Water froze,
merged with sky.
In cold I lose my outlines
and become crystal
like a spider writing

I don't know if it is because I am fat, or because I have genes from cold places :)   But I love winter. I feel that I merge with the cold. To an extent, and in other ways, so does Lesleigh in her amazing poem.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Could not get my mind off the little giraffe who was killed and fed to the lions. I thought of all beings and all people who are considered "surplus" and thus expendable according to some control freak or megalomaniac's plan. Fat people are on many people's "surplus" lists.

Marius, I would have been so happy
to welcome you to my backyard.
The neighbors would have gawked,
but in time perhaps they would have
gotten accustomed to your happy
lanky giraffiness or giraffitude
and when you beamed your large giraffey
eyes on them, they would have
decided that you were some kind
of neighborhood mascot or media stunt
and would have focused on some other
unsuburblike incursion.

I would have been happy
to feed you giraffe foods
and talk to you in giraffe language
half the night
as you ran around hooking up
with trees and grass
and mowed or mossy lawns.

I would have shown you
the tastiest tidbits of bark and seeds
and all the herbs and vines
lurking about in the yard.
I would have left water for you to drink
near your head
so that you would not have to splay your legs
to reach it.

And Marius,
I would have shown  giraffe friends
On the TV or on my screen
So that you knew your species folk.

your giraffe spirit lives
in all the acacia vines
and the seeds that they leave.
Let those who took you
live without greening.
They are the surplus
Their hate breeds only hate.
Our anger
feeds, unexpected,
on love we could not have guessed.

Time and tide will prove the wiser.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Maxine Kumin: 1925-2014

Maxine Kumin, a former professor/poetry workshop leader of mine, died yesterday. Her workshop was the first college poetry workshop I attended. I was young, impatient, inappropriately in love with a man who really wasn't the one for me, fickle, in love with the outdoors and movement of any kind. In short, a pain in the butt. At the time she was already famous, but was also trying to keep Anne Sexton from committing suicide. She had little time to spare for a too-energetic, not poetically developed undergrad student.

Thank you, Maxine, for your graceful and important contribution to American letters.

Maxine Kumin:  1925-2014


by Maxine Kumin

How pleasant the yellow butter
melting on white kernels, the meniscus
of red wine that coats the insides of our goblets

where we sit with sturdy friends as old as we are
after shucking the garden's last Silver Queen
and setting husks and stalks aside for the horses

the last two of our lives, still noble to look upon:
our first foal, now a bossy mare of 28
which calibrates to 84 in people years

and my chestnut gelding, not exactly a youngster 
at 22. Every year, the end of summer
lazy and golden, invites grief and regret:

suddenly it's 1980, winter buffets us, 
winds strike like cruelty out of Dickens. Somehow
we have seven horses for six stalls. One of them,

a big-nosed roan gelding, calm as a president's portrait
lives in the rectangle that leads to the stalls. We call it
the motel lobby. Wise old campaigner, he dunks his

hay in the water bucket to soften it, then visits the others
who hang their heads over their dutch doors. Sometimes 
he sprawls out flat to nap in his commodious quarters.

That spring, in the bustle of grooming
and riding and shoeing, I remember I let him go
to a neighbor I thought was a friend, and the following 

fall she sold him down the river. I meant to
but never did go looking for him, to buy him back
and now my old guilt is flooding this twilit table

my guilt is ghosting the candles that pale us to skeletons
the ones we must all become in an as yet unspecified order. 
Oh Jack, tethered in what rough stall alone

did you remember that one good winter?
- See more at:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

FatandHappy House

Dream:  A network of houses spread across the land (USA, but hopefully other countries might decide to participate) to which fat people could come to:  live, cook, write, sing, play instruments, make art,read poetry,design things, do research, just hang out, greet people.

Poets could get grants to write for a summer or a year. Different kinds of poetry readings would be held weekly, monthly, yearly.

One or two of the biggest houses would also hold archives -papers of famous fat people and famous fat activists, relevant clippings, newspaper articles, copies of fat-friendly magazines and journals.

Dance evenings with wonderful fat dancers of all kinds would be held. Fashion shows would also take place.

Clothes of all sizes would be available for those who visited (either free or at a very low price).

There would be four residents at all times keeping the house in some kind of shape and greeting and helping those who came to visit.

FatandHappy House.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fat? Imagine that!

I do not always have a firm grip on what constitutes a fat person. Some people call others fat to get them upset or angry, even though actual fatness may be in question. Others tell people they like that they are not fat, as if to spare them the voicing of an objectionable association or category. I consider "fat" an adjective, a descriptor. And yet...I myself am not always sure if someone is fat or not. The BMI classifications to me are all but worthless. They were meant to measure variations in weight across populations, not personal health or heft. Oh, another thing. Health has zero to do with fat, and vice versa. Thin people get every disease or illness that fat people get. Fat people can be and are super athletes. Fat people could be healthy and happy if doctors and fat-hating charlatans would let them be so.

Am I fat? Imagine that. 
I like being fat as a soft orange cat.
I like being fat as a gauzy hat.
If a cat ate a rat from an orange mat,
Would she get fat? So what? Extra to pat.
Hugging is better when one is fat,
whether a cat on a mat 
or a cat who has sat
on a rat.
Imagine that.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sixty One Years On continued (On the Occasion of My Parents' 61st Anniversary)

Sixty One Years On  continued (On the Occasion of My Parents' 61st Anniversary)


In the photo,
A panoply of smiles
And fifties makeup.
I miss the first generation
Who once lived within blocks
Of each other
And passed on
Late in the last century.
I could not imagine them
In this one, sitting zombie like
In front of screens
And zoning out what ran
In front of their eyes.

The second generation,
Grown humorously old,
Calls out my greed, an ache
for a home that is no more.
How selfish I am, to want them
To stay, to buffer time
And a wayward universe.
Depression, World War II –
They fought their battles.
In the photo, they stand,
Smiling wide,
Victors given peace
For a short space.

My mom got itchy
And my dad helped her
Rid herself of the long train
Which trailed on the Hall floor
And shadowed her steps.

In a photo
they head out
In the car, obligatory
Cans flailing,
The sign misspelled “maried”.

They’ll live in the city,
Suburbs, city, suburbs again,
Have two sarcastic children
Who distrust the very air
They all breathe,
But who somehow manage
To extract meaning
From the new unwieldy, dysfunctional

And if you see them stooping
In a recent photo
As they stand.
In the South Jersey driveway,
It’s a disguise.
They’re really flying, like sea birds,
Over water one hundred miles north
As the Sound and the River
Greet each other
And the waves from each
Fan slightly salty air.

A city hovers into being
In music that some say is lost
But which you can hear easily
On small radios
Held to the ear
When you listen between latest night
And the edge that flickers summer in,

Almost but not quite morning.