Friday, November 19, 2010
Poetry Friday: Poems of Adolescence
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.