April 12, 2016

Friday, November 19, 2010

Poetry Friday: Poems of Adolescence

I was surprised to learn this week that a poem of mine, "Adolescence Prepared Me for This," is mentioned in an academic book.

Those of you who teach high school may want to check it out. The book is The Forms of Youth: 20th Century Poetry and Adolescence, by Harvard Professor and literary critic Stephen Burt. It came out in 2007.

The Forms of Youth has sections on modern British, American (one called, "Soldiers, Babysitters, Delinquents, and Mutants"), Irish and Australian poetry on the theme of adolescence.

My poem is mentioned in the notes as a "salient example" of "poems by women about girls and about the fear and risk," of growing up. I'd say, it falls into the "It gets better," category -- letting teens know that they won't always feel ugly, unwanted, marginalized or bullied.

Here is the poem, which first appeared in Paterson Literary Review #29

Adolescence Prepared Me for This

by Laura Shovan

Five months pregnant, I am not shocked
when my father says, "You've got a fat ass,"
having heard these words before.

I was sixteen, my face round and plain.
This bothered him enough to bribe me
one dollar for every pound I lost.
I shopped with my mother for clothes.
Those long, loose dresses, the boots I loved,
looked like they belonged on someone else.
Even my body didn't feel like it was mine.
The man I would marry said, "You will be beautiful
when you're 21." He could see it
in the bones of my face, beneath puberty.
Trusting him, I waited.

This waiting is the same.
My legs swell with the stillness
that I knew in my parents' house.
I busy myself washing tiny clothes
in super-mild detergent.
For you, I have put on a skin
that is uncomfortably familiar.
With you I will be born,
shedding this old self again.

I was super pleased that the poem is noted in the chapter, "Are You One of Those Girls? Feminist Poetics of Adolescence."

I have no problem saying I'm a feminist. Being a female poet is a political act. I'm proud to give voice to that sixteen year old girl, and her sisters -- now sixteen -- who need to hear that it does get better.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone. Diane at Random Noodling is rounding up the poetry posts today. Head over there for the poetry feast.


Kerry Aradhya said...

Hi, Laura. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier today. Your poem is very beautiful...and it is very timely with all that is going on in the media with bullying and such. Being a girl/woman is so complicated these days (I think), and your poem really speaks to the need to just "hang in there." Congratulations, too, on the mention of the poem in The Forms of Youth!

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I love how you have brought together waiting, loving, hoping, becoming a mother and giving birth into becoming beautiful - or revealing one's beauty. Thank you for sharing this poem!

Jeannine Atkins said...

This beautiful poem left me teary with its faith and tenderness and hurtful memory.

Just so you know, so you can change it, there's a typo in the second stanza: main instead of man to marry.

have a great weekend!

Author Amok said...

Kerry -- Thanks for your comment. It's been so long, sometimes I forget how heavily my loving parents' occassional criticisms weighed on me as a teen.

Andromeda -- yes. In fact, I had considered this more of a pregnancy poem until recently. It's amazing how we can come into our own selves when we become mothers.

Jeannine, thanks for the good eye. It's good to have friends who've got your grammatical back!

jama said...

I like the voice of defiance. A beautiful poem of suffering and waiting, but nonetheless one of hope. The "it gets better" message is more crucial than ever these days.

Tara said...

I love these lines:
"For you, I have put on a skin
that is uncomfortably familiar.
With you I will be born,
shedding this old self again."
This so captures the feeling one has, pregnant,waiting for this new person in our life, this transformation...thank you!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Jama. The defiant voice is connected to the idea that being a woman and a poet is a political act.

Tara, the poem still takes me back to that feeling of waiting. My eldest (the "you" in the poem) was two weeks late!

Tabatha said...

How fun to find that your poem was noticed and recommended! I've discovered my books mentioned in other books before -- it's a nice surprise. I can see why they would want your poem included. It's so right!

Carlie said...

What a wonderfully non-tolerant poem! Such a great thing to stumble on. Thanks.