If My Body Could Speak by Blythe Baird, published by Button Poetry is an exploration of eating disorders, sexuality, and coming of age. The collection is one about the female body as a public space. The body here for Blythe is a negotiated space between almost anyone but her — her school, her father, boys at school, her mother. Here’s a snippet from an early section:
The style of these poems is of youthful confession, and the anger of realising your voice can only be used for confessions. The reader is confided in, in plain terms for the most part — because to speak plainly about any of the ideas here is taboo. Reality here is one where the body is dressed up in owning language, repeatedly, in layers — a seen and observed object that is changed by its cataloging and description. So the directness of the language here is a search for a cleaning/purifying effect — to let the body just be the body and belong to that one person. This is the attempt to move away from the objectifying reality to the subjective — that is to move ownership from public to private.
It reminds me, again, of a central struggle in Feeld by Jos Charles — a searching for ownership of the self. Here it is presented linearly, but we are aware that the poet is working against forces from all directions similarly to the way Jos uses the metaphor of the “feeld” as a space that isn’t just
The later sections of the collection formalise the struggle, with the poet on more even ground with the world — instead struggling with her own personal definitions of self without the more obvious pressures we see in adolescence. Here instead there is a struggle with the ghosts of her abuse, and the officialness of her new position. Here’s a poem about that sexual violence, and the haunting:
It’s not all about the pain though. Ultimately this is a book about forgiveness. The title of the collection comes from a short poem which simply reads:
If Your Body Could Speak
And the forgiveness here is found in tender, touching poems about love and family where the bonds are obvious. Conversations with her father about missing cigars, the poem that I shared last week What I Couldn’t Explain Via Text, a soft poem about losing the ability to speak during sex, and Pruning Into Art:
Which is heart of the thesis of these poems, how people form and shrink themselves against the world to exist.
This week’s song was listened to on repeat on the way home from work which I was blissfully released from early today, Drake’s Nice For What
Thanks for reading Etch to Their Own. I escaped early today, and this is nearly early too. I loved this story about an elephant’s foot and a selfie. Is this furniture abuse? This is my new nickname and desired body type.