The Fat Black Woman's Poems: From the winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2021 (Virago Poets)

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The Fat Black Woman's Poems: From the winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2021 (Virago Poets)

The Fat Black Woman's Poems: From the winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2021 (Virago Poets)

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It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it. The Fat Black Woman cannot help but hope that she could live in a world – in an England – that accommodates her, but isn’t so naïve to think it would ever happen. The Fat Black Woman when weighed beside and against the slim white everyman, embodies not only disobedience and unruliness but a necessary corrective, a sort of counter-aesthetic, a necessary rejection of the ways we have tended to valorise restraint and subtlety as markers of poetic excellence. This amount includes seller specified domestic postage charges as well as applicable international postage, dispatch, and other fees. Her 'fat black woman' is brash; rejoices in herself; poses awkward questions to politicians, rulers, suitors.

The Fat Black Woman would like to hear a good old-fashioned bawl – a screaming out – and then to be lulled by those sleepless droning red-eyed wake nights. The critic in me is saddened by the profound damage and erasures that these ideas of civility and beauty have done to us – the fact of black women who might never see themselves as beautiful, or the fact that the boyishly handsome dancehall artist from Jamaica, Beenie Man, can sing with such pride ‘Mi black and mi ugly, a Africa mi come from’.There is something of the volume of that poem which seems out of place – even crude – in the supposed quiet of a British landscape. If you’re flying Southwest, you can also ask the gate agent for an extra seat, if there’s one available, at no extra cost to you. It was the first time I hadn’t done all the work of planning a vacation myself, but I really needed the help because I was overwhelmed about where we would not only BE safe but FEEL safe. I had become a poet without flailing hands because those hands needed to hold on to the books that I was reading from.

It suggests, perhaps, that a committee somewhere decided on what would be considered sufficient quantity. Thankfully, therapy has helped unpack weight I should not have to carry, and traveling is now something I look forward to. I travel to some places that forces me to stay in my hotel room and that is incredibly annoying as I love to explore! The agency guaranteed that for us by only securing accommodations at places they have relationships with.You’re gonna get this skin, this body, this hair, and this gay lady all up in your face without apology.

The poems tell of a fat black woman's trials and tribulations, as well as her moments of triumph in a foreign land. A common attitude here in Europe is that you, as a Black American, are fine but them, the recent immigrants from African countries, are not and at least in Italy, those people will often sell things on the streets, have bad living conditions… I have no idea how it is in Croatia, mostly the touristy places try to hide all that but that might be something the average whit person won’t notice. Inevitably, those barriers come back up; the institutions of poetry and our cultures of taste are invested in maintaining them – but there was that productive moment when I was open and receptive to a slam poet affecting my work just as much as the long dead Emily Dickinson. This poem chosen for the BBC 100 showcase was a reading for the BBC programme Woman's Hour broadcast on 31st July, 1986. As someone who can’t even comprehend the dangers of travelling as a Black person (though I am aware of them, I will never know the feeling of threat at that level), this is something all white folks need to read and be aware of when travelling with Black friends.My flailing hands for instance, and the ways I would walk to a lectern with a batch of papers, glancing only at the first line before tossing it to the wind and reciting the poem instead from memory. Of critical importance here, as our cities and writing cultures become so much more diverse and cross-pollinated, is the extent to which such an outdated sense of taste unfairly disadvantages both black and white poets who don’t perform beauty or intelligence in expected ways, and on the other unfairly privileges both white and black poets who know how conform to these norms. Her much awaited first book, when it finally did come out and to great success, was in fact a memoir.

Yet, it was not enough to keep Heaney off the shortlist, and it was not enough to prevent him from winning eventually. Too much has been made about the supposed lines drawn between the two great Caribbean poets, Derek Walcott and Kamau Brathwaite. We feature only items we genuinely love and want to share, and this is an arrangement between the retailer and Cup of Jo (readers never pay more for products). Also, downloading offline maps from Google is a game changer in case you find yourself in an area without SIM card or wifi accessibility.The chief judge of the Forward Prizes that year was Ruth Padel, Walcott’s rival for the Oxford Professorship in Poetry. By the time I met her again in South Africa, it was as if she had accepted that she would never publish a collection, that she was more of an activist than she was an author. The Fat Black Woman, however, glories in her sexuality, the pleasure of her own soft centre, and also she relishes her mind – the sheer playfulness of her thoughts, and how she is able to bring strange and sometimes dissonant ideas into a productive relationship with each other.

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