If you're me, National Eating Disorder Awareness Week you doing some serious thinking about the role eating disorders have played in your life. OK, even if you haven't struggled with food yourself, odds are you know someone who has. Is anyone surprised by the stats? Twenty million women will have an eating disorder in their lifetimes, as will 10 million men, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
Still, as important as it is to acknowledge the very real complexity of the subject, it's no secret that many find reading about eating disorders triggering, especially for folks in recovery. I'm definitely not advocating for putting yourself in a problematic psychological headspace, but if you want to read about eating disorders in a less immersive way, turning to poetry may be a good option. Even though some of these poems are longer than most (and maybe more immersive than some you've read before), they don't demand the same sustained empathetic response that fiction or memoir does. (FYI: no science behind that, just one reader's report. #ScienceCatchUp)
What I love most about poems that address eating disorders is their willingness to deal in the metaphorical. After all, eating disorders are highly symbolic — food is so rarely what's at stake. These nine poems get it.
1"Thicket of Pins" by Nina Puro
We are all
so thirsty in the village
of what we once wanted. Don’t
you know where to hang
god’s eye, blueeyes? Don’t
you know language is useless? That
I stitched the blanket I wrapped
the wreck in?
2"Diagnosis" by Cynthia Cruz
Burn the body down
And, with it, out goes the pilot
3"Pinnochia on Fire" by Lo Kwa Mei-En
There is a line that could make you love me really,
but reeling, I spend the words like virgin coin for
a real girl on the line.
4"Fat" by Caroline Rothstein
I used to daydream about freedom;
I used to daydream about appreciating the abundance of food around me;
I used to daydream about eating dinner without wanting to kill myself;
and that like the society I wish to heal and explain I too someday would change.
5"Horoscope" by Michelle Chan Brown
We will miss being flesh.
says the press, pushing away
bowls dark with Jell-O, tray
after tray. Whatever
it is, I want to starve
or feed it. Optimistic,
6From "Please Bury Me In This" by Allison Benis White
Or is this what it means to be empty: to make no sound?
I pressed my mouth to the wall until I’d made a small gray ring.
Or maybe emptiness is a form of listening.
Maybe I am just listening.
7"Darkness" by Lord Byron
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left
8"Sylvan Instance" by Louise Mathias
Help me bury that
where-do-I-bury-the body look.
And the bullshit tree I was born in.
9"House of Joyce Leslie" by Monica McClure
Obsessed with achieving
the androgyny of my time
I cut when my boyfriend said
I had the figure
of an average Hispanic girl