This mental health awareness week I present you my top five poetry collections around the theme of body image. I use this theme loosely, in my eyes body image is so much more than the relationship we have with what our body looks like. Body image spills over into our individual identities which may be shaped by things such as our experience of personal health and gender, amongst others. Therefore, this top five is a mixed bag of poetry that overtly and covertly tackles body image, health (physical and mental health) and identity.
Hollie McNish – Plum
I love the work Hollie McNish for a multitude of reasons, particularly her head-on tackling of women’s experiences of their body. In her collection Plum, Hollie McNish gives a lighthearted nod to our avoidance of the word vulva with an appreciation of the power of the body to grow another human on the opposite page, what more could you need than this combination? This counter-cultural appreciation of a body being the home for the next generation is so important in a world where postpartum bodies are shamed and expected to shrink into something that they aren’t. Recently I read the poem Beautiful from the collection Plum at a group for young writers and they responded in the most brilliant way, taking inspiration from this they wrote their own poems about the beautiful things in their life beyond appearance.
Rupi Kaur – The Sun and Her Flowers
The Sun and Her Flowers is a poetry collection of growth, healing and identity woven together with great artistry. The beautifully self-illustrated second collection by Rupi Kaur is something you can keep going back to and get something different from it each time. The collection has an air of gentle rebellion against societies expectations of our bodies and the beauty industry’s dependence on us buying into this. To use her own words:
their concept of beauty
i am not
Nikita Gill – Wild Embers Poems of Rebellion, Fire and Beauty
I frequently read from this collection by Nikita Gill at workshops around creativity and well-being, with the most read poem by me being The Truth About Art which has such an important take-away message:
‘You can strive to be perfect.
Or you can strive to be art’
Wild Embers is the healing of body and mind, a redefinition of what is beautiful and words of survival. Wild Embers is the collection of words we all need to hear. To intercept your Instagram feed with beautiful words, give Nikita Gill a follow.
Rudy Francisco – Helium
Rudy Francisco challenges toxic masculinity in his collection Helium as it explores our identities and the idea of re-shaping these despite societal expectations of what a man should be like. I’m not going to say too much other than the collection is great and honest, with a vein of vulnerability that follows through it all. The performance of Rifle II below should be enough to convince you to buy a copy of Helium.
Hannah Hodgson – Dear Body
Hannah Hodgson is giving visibility to writers living with disability in an incredible way, her collection Dear Body is honest in tackling the inequalities of living with a physical disability and the impact of this. There is such an importance in open conversations about health be it physical, mental or an intertwining of the both. You can, and should purchase a copy of Dear Body here. Head over to Hannah Hodgson’s blog and vlog to read and listen to more of her brilliance.
Thank you to writers who continue to write words of rebellion against societal expectations; raise awareness of physical and mental health conditions and giving people the opportunity to read the words they need to hear.