This past week has legged it, leaving me to bring up the rear – and as I thought about what to post on this seventh day of this seventh month, I realised that it is seven years since I graduated in 2007. (Gosh. Where have those years gone?! I’m starting to feel old now...) I’d been in retail management for several years before going back to university to read English Literature with Creative Writing, and so I was twenty-seven when I graduated from Bath Spa University.
I have many good memories of university (as well as some not-so good ones...crit lit, anyone?!) and can honestly say that the Creative Writing half of my degree helped me find my Voice as a writer. One of the highlights was earning my place on a group exchange to Columbia College Chicago, where we studied, devised an anthology of student writings and solicited submissions from both universities, and eventually published it.
Inspired by a guest speaker in a poetry seminar, I’d already written Healthy, the poem that I submitted for the anthology, which was then critiqued and decided upon by the...yep, you’ve guessed it...seven other editors in our exchange group. I felt then and still feel now that Healthy is one of my best pieces; I’m proud of it and wish to share it with as many people as would like to read it.
So, being brave...er, okay, kicked-up-the-bum...I performed Healthy to an audience of about seventy people at an open-mic session during Columbia College’s Story Week (this was a big thing for me – and still would be! – as I’m not a lime-light seeker and am shy about reading to a large group, worrying that my West Country accent sounds way too Zummerzet!).
Well-chuffed was I that my poem had a good reception from this reading and then earned its place in the anthology; and well-chuffed were we with the final printed edition*...but, ironically, it is this that stops me seeing how much further this poem can go, because pretty much every competition or submission guidelines I’ve seen state that work must be unpublished...
However, on this anniversary of sevens, I can share the poem here on my blog, because I still own the copyright (and being posted on a blog also counts as being published...so in for a penny, in for a pound!).
So, here’s to Bath Spa University’s graduating class of 2007, the experience of Columbia College, Chicago, and actually creating our very own anthology: I hope we are all still as healthy as we can be.
you mass-media, advertising-junkie, money-making
rat-race culture, with your skinny white women and your
products to make beautiful more beautiful, and the rest-
of-us well, maybe, pretty. Your cosmetic surgery
creates a plastic reality. Your fashions change each
season, mid-season; if I have that look, that image, I will
be beautiful – how dare you, you image-addicted fallacy.
you demand, you desire, you pimp; more more
more we prostitute style, our beauty sold. You will kill
us with the gloss of your magazines, acid that corrodes
what is truly beautiful about all of us. I want
to throw my blood at you, to make you see, make you
think; make you taste me and know what you have
created. I will be cleansed. You will be taught.
you dare to presume to possess me with your
conformity. I possess me, my choices, my life, my beauty.
Take it all, take it in and know we are all beautiful,
know beauty has many faces. Yet you need to reduce
it to one – why? Beauty is genuine, innate. Who do you
think you are – God? Is this healthy, are you healthy?
Tell me you are and I will tell you, you are beautiful.
you disgust me. I will not make it easy for you.
I will breathe, shout, love, dance, naked around
the fire under a bright full moon; my freckled skin
will glisten with sweat, and you will watch and want me,
you fucked-up 21st Century Western World. I wanted
what you want once – but now I am beautiful.
*eds Corboy, Crentsil, Frogley, Henley, Hyatt, Melling, Morrison, Young; Open to Interpretation (Gateshead: Bath Spa University Press, 2008)
[There isn’t an ISBN number, and who knows if it’s even still for sale at our alumni?! Though there might be a box or two propping up a desk in an office somewhere...]
~ ttfn ~