Much of our conversation revolved around the following poem. So, in order to present the notes, I put particular observations right next to where they occured within the poem.
“the withness of the body”
The heavy bear who goes with me,
A manifold honey to smear his face,
-There was a positioning of the bear (the body) vs. me (the self) vs. honey (appetite)
Clumsy and lumbering here and there,
-the depiction of the body came off as not smart, not balanced (ie: clumsy, lumbering). This led to a discussion about how body size is linked often with grace and intelligence
The central ton of every place,
The hungry beating brutish one
In love with candy, anger, and sleep,
-the intense emphasis on appetite in this poem (hunger, honey, love of candy)
Crazy factotum, dishevelling all,
Climbs the building, kicks the football,
Boxes his brother in the hate-ridden city.
–-notice of a lot of anger at the end of the first stanza
Breathing at my side, that heavy animal,
That heavy bear who sleeps with me,
Howls in his sleep for a world of sugar,
-The body as animal-like and instinctual
A sweetness intimate as the water’s clasp,
Howls in his sleep because the tight-rope
Trembles and shows the darkness beneath.
The tightrope imagery evokes feelings of skill, effort, and exertion that need to be used in order to discipline the body. Obedience is key here. This imagery also makes us think of the huge implications of danger and fear if you fall off that tightrope (or: what happens if you don’t carefully walk that line when it comes to body size)
—The strutting show-off is terrified,
-This part of the poem also seems to speak to vulnerability and weakness
Dressed in his dress-suit, bulging his pants,
–This part we noticed the phrasing of “dress up” as a cloak of civility that hides the real animalistic nature of the body
Trembles to think that his quivering meat
Must finally wince to nothing at all.
–-This could be alluding to sexual drive or masculine indulgence in sex. Coupled with this indulgence, was also a perception of fear of performance and failure as well as masculine virility.
That inescapable animal walks with me,
Has followed me since the black womb held,
Moves where I move, distorting my gesture,
–This part brought on feelings of fear in some because of it seeming as an unwanted presence, inescapable and hovering
A caricature, a swollen shadow,
A stupid clown of the spirit’s motive,
–Spirit’s motive equaling the real person while the stupid clown is the body. There is an inherent separation between the two here.
Perplexes and affronts with his own darkness,
The secret life of belly and bone,
Opaque, too near, my private, yet unknown,
–Stuck with the body, cannot escape it but also can never fully, truly know it.
Stretches to embrace the very dear
With whom I would walk without him near,
Touches her grossly, although a word
Would bare my heart and make me clear,
—Notice of the distorted intentions. This transitioned into a discussion about how weight can often be transformed into a caricature of themselves, so often the body doesn’t do what it “should” or what it was “intended to” and becomes a source of fault and error, perceptually at least.
Stumbles, flounders, and strives to be fed
Dragging me with him in his mouthing care,
Amid the hundred million of his kind,
The scrimmage of appetite everywhere.
Other aspects of the conversation that came from the discussion of the poem but were not directly related to a particular line in the poem were:
-how size is often directly related to perception of weakness/laziness.
-The denial of basic bodily needs such as sleep and food in order to discipline the body.
-The body is often presented as a barrier to intellect and true meaning and intention
-Perception of body, “i feel fat” fat is not a feeling