The Fat Black Woman's Poems: From the winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2021 (Virago Poets)

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The Fat Black Woman's Poems: From the winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2021 (Virago Poets)

The Fat Black Woman's Poems: From the winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2021 (Virago Poets)

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Most purchases from business sellers are protected by the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 which give you the right to cancel the purchase within 14 days after the day you receive the item. Inevitably, those barriers come back up; the institutions of poetry and our cultures of taste are invested in maintaining them – but there was that productive moment when I was open and receptive to a slam poet affecting my work just as much as the long dead Emily Dickinson. These are the ways we support Cup of Jo, and allow us to run the site and engage with this community we truly love.

In the very next line of the poem ‘If Only Out Of Vanity’, Chin says, ‘I want to be the girl your parents will use as a bad example of a lady’. Of critical importance here is the critical language which we continue to use in reviewing discourse, words we offer up in our assessment of whether a poem or a collection is good or bad, words that pretend to be neutral but are burdened with so much history – words that I have hinted at before like subtle, quiet, restrained, elegant. Performance teachers are often brought in to teach poets how to read their own poems – how to let the words rise off the page, but back then I was learning the lesson in reverse.This legacy of slavery and oppression shapes the way black women were viewed based on their weight in a way that does not affect women of other races and Nichols uses her poetry to illuminate this fact. But to say these things, am I now judging her poetry through the same aesthetic lens that this essay has tried to challenge? but relieving the worry of whether we’d be kicked out upon arrival at a hotel was worth every penny.

It suggests, perhaps, that a committee somewhere decided on what would be considered sufficient quantity. There was this small productive moment in my emergence as a poet that the old and oftentimes false barriers between performance poetry and written poetry did not exist for me. Here in the present ocean of this essay are massive philosophical ideas about aesthetics and the appreciation of art – ideas that have carried on from Aristotle to Hegel to Kant, back and forth questions of whether beauty is inherent or socially constructed, on whether aesthetics as a discipline belongs to the sciences or to philosophy? What changed immediately was my performance; I would never read my own poems in the same way again, with an affected shyness that one was made to believe was the way serious poets read – eyes glued to the page on which we insist our poetry is rooted.Thus, she coined Trap Feminism, a contemporary framework that interrogates where feminism and hip-hop intersect. But by identifying my intersections are what make me an amazing person that deserves to travel the world.

Might also travel on red-eye flights when your body is accustomed to going without a bathroom break for longer periods. But this much is fair, that Brathwaite has been the poet-critic much more invested in challenging the very culture of taste and aesthetics that favoured poets such as Walcott. I have never shouted at the decibels of a Staceyann Chin and yet she affected the volume at which I both read and wrote poems. Deliciously inert and self contented, the fat black woman mocks oppression by the scandal of being herself.To believe in the progress of the victimised is to believe that only now have they advanced to the point of deserving greater inclusion. Is it petty and mean-spirited of me to admit this – that my victory over Hugo Williams that night, made me feel – to put it plainly – smug? If there is a poem that I do not read for fear of its volume, there is a poet in my lineage who I do not acknowledge enough for the same reason – the Jamaican poet and activist Staceyann Chin. NOT SO GOOD BITS: I wish there had been a foreward or introduction, as I didn’t know much about Grace Nichols and would’ve enjoyed some context.

The chief judge of the Forward Prizes that year was Ruth Padel, Walcott’s rival for the Oxford Professorship in Poetry. What is so wonderful here is not only that she casts her present self as her future lover but that the self that she transforms into is none other than the Fat Black Woman, this embodiment of so many of Staceyann Chin’s poetics – the impoliteness, the brazenness, the sheer volume of it.He is therefore interested in the ‘introjection of slavery into the realm of manners, civility, sense and sensibility’. The Fat Black Woman defies our expectations; she rejects the stereotypes that have been thrown at her like ill-fitting hand-me-downs that she should still be grateful to wear. While the majority of the members of the Fat Underground were white and most of the information found on the Fat Liberation movement is centered on white women, this does not mean the movement was exclusive. The Fat Black Woman when weighed beside and against the slim white everyman, embodies not only disobedience and unruliness but a necessary corrective, a sort of counter-aesthetic, a necessary rejection of the ways we have tended to valorise restraint and subtlety as markers of poetic excellence.



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