Belly Song

Apr. 14th, 2007 08:25 am
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As I walked in Boston last weekend, I kept having waves of feeling about the fact that when I moved there twenty-four years ago (I was only twenty-three at the time), what I wanted with ferocious intensity was to be a serious writer. Remembering the desire of that much younger self, it moves me that being a novelist is, in fact, what I do and who I am.

In honor of both the fact and the feeling, here's "Belly Song," from my book Belly Songs (which I published with Sally Bellerose and Janet Aalfs -- we did their books, too -- and which is now selling used for $45 on I've got boxes full, but am not really set up to sell them.) I wrote it in Boston, and it describes working on the fire escape that I went looking for last weekend. Writing it was also an important moment in the ongoing process of coming to love and truly be in my body. There is some explicit content.

I sit naked on a chair with my legs slightly apart. I hold my bones very straight. My belly pours, hangs, moves, grows hair, shines in marks that fall like fingers curving up around its sides.  )
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Unless there's an unexpected revival, December '04 is the last issue of the Women's Review of Books. At some point, I might come up with something thoughtful to say about that -- it's a complicated loss that's part of the crumbling over the past decade and a half of the highly imperfect but vital networks of women's presses, magazines and bookstores which shaped my early vision of what I could imagine saying as a writer.

And there's a review, by Mary Titus in this last issue, of Venus of Chalk along with The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe and Other Stories of Women and Fatness, edited by Susan Koppelman. There are a couple of factual errors. Venus of Chalk, as those of you who have been playing along at home may know, is my third novel, not my first. "Magnetic Force," my story that is in The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe, was originally published in Belly Songs, which came out in 1993, and isn't associated for me at all with Venus of Chalk, although it does draw on swimming pool experiences that I've had at fat feminist conferences over the years, which have also inspired new work. (What can I say, those pools are intense.)

But I love the review, especially that she calls the novel "an able and lovely work of picaresque fiction" and says that the book convinced her "that fat hatred could be completely overcome." And her comparison of Carline, the narrator, to a heroine in a gothic novel is pretty funny, if you happen to be acquainted with Carline.

Hit the link, click on the table of contents, and scroll down past a bunch of great stuff -- including a review by Rebecca Johnson of both a new biography and a collection of conversations with Audre Lorde -- to find the review.

Okay, now I've really, really, really got to pack.
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[ profile] misia's review is lovely, lovely, lovely -- specific, attentive, and gorgeous. She starts with the language, the writing, which makes me feel -- sure enough -- as if magic has occurred, as if what has seemed invisible has been made visible, has been seen, acknowledged, and praised. Hard to say how much that means to me -- a lot. It'll be in the summer issue of Bitch.

My father has sent me beautiful letter about the book, in an envelope also stuffed with his account of the early roads of their county in Texas, complete with Polaroids of an old railroad underpass on the old Fort Worth line, and two former filling stations which have been converted into houses; a family history by my mom; and a bunch of newpaper clippings: a cowboy riding a bucking horse at the annual rodeo at the junior college across the street from their house, an ad for a Willie Nelson concert (he'd shaved his beard), and a bunch of articles about the poor officiating at the end of the last game of the season by the Baylor Lady Bears basketball team. Hard to imagine anything better.

And here's an old poem of mine for fat girls and also for anyone willing to take the sweet, reckless leap to identify with a fat girl:

A Practical Guide to Successful Living

Fat girls let your shirts ride up
Lie down on the cold spring dirt
and get mud on your fat backs.
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This is a new anthology of fiction about women and fatness, just released from The Feminist Press

It's got a great cover by the British artist Beryl Cook, which doesn't show up very well online. "Magnetic Force," one of the stories from my chapbook, "Belly Songs," is in it.

Here's a link to an excerpt from the title story.


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May 2009



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