Archive for November, 2013

weeping angel

‘Poetry Is Not a Luxury’ by Audre Lorde

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.

As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny, and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us.

For each of us as women, there is a dark place within where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, “Beautiful and tough as chestnut/stanchions against our nightmare of weakness” and of impotence.

These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.

When we view living, in the european mode, only as a problem to be solved, we then rely solely upon our ideas to make us free, for these were what the white fathers told us were precious.

But as we become more in touch with our own ancient, black, non-european view of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and therefore lasting action comes.

At this point in time, I believe that women carry within ourselves the possibility for fusion of these two approaches as keystone for survival, and we come closest to this combination in our poetry. I speak here of poetry as the revelation or distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean — in order to cover their desperate wish for imagination without insight.

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.

Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

As they become known and accepted to ourselves, our feelings, and the honest exploration of them, become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas, the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action. Right now, I could name at least ten ideas I would have once found intolerable or incomprehensible and frightening, except as they came after dreams and poems. This is not idle fantasy, but the true meaning of “it feels right to me.” We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.

Possibility is neither forever nor instant. It is also not easy to sustain belief in its efficacy. We can sometimes work long and hard to establish one beachhead of real resistance to the deaths we are expected to live, only to have that beachhead assaulted or threatened by canards we have been socialized to fear, or by the withdrawal of those approvals that we have been warned to seek for safety. We see ourselves diminished or softened by the falsely benign accusations of childishness, of non-universality, of self-centeredness, of sensuality. And who asks the question: am I altering your aura, your ideas, your dreams, or am I merely moving you to temporary and reactive action? (Even the latter is no mean task, but one that must be rather seen within the context of a true alteration of the texture of our lives.)

The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet-whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom. However, experience has taught us that the action in the now is also always necessary. Our children cannot dream unless they live, they cannot live unless they are nourished, and who else will feed them the real food without which their dreams will be no different from ours?

Sometimes we drug ourselves with dreams of new ideas. The head will save us. The brain alone will set us free. But there are no new ideas still waiting in the wings to save us as women, as human. There are only old and forgotten ones, new combinations, extrapolations and recognitions from within ourselves, along with the renewed courage to try them out. And we must constantly encourage ourselves and each other to attempt the heretical actions our dreams imply and some of our old ideas disparage. In the forefront of our move toward change, there is only our poetry to hint at possibility made real. Our poems formulate the implications of ourselves, what we feel within and dare make real (or bring action into accordance with), our fears, our hopes, our most cherished terrors.

For within structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, feelings were meant to kneel to thought as we were meant to kneel to men. But women have survived. As poets. And there are no new pains. We have felt them all already. We have hidden that fact in the same place where we have hidden our power. They lie in our dreams, and it is our dreams that point the way to freedom. They are made realizable through our poems that give us the strength and courage to see, to feel, to speak, and to dare.

If what we need to dream, to move our spirits most deeply and directly toward and through promise, is a luxury, then we have given up the core-the fountain-of our power, our womanness; we have give up the future of our worlds.

For there are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt, of examining what our ideas really mean (feel like) on Sunday morning at 7 AM, after brunch, during wild love, making war, giving birth; while we suffer the old longings, battle the old warnings and fears of being silent and impotent and alone, while tasting our new possibilities and strengths.

from “Sister Outsider: essays and speeches” page 36. Published by Crossing Press, 1985.


So, I am an average, ordinary, everyday woman of 30. As my body has slowly changed at the hands of time, I have given much thought to my outward appearance and what it means to age. Or, more specifically, what it means to age as a woman within our whole over-arching concept of beauty. There are, in my mind, a plethora of possible views on this subject. Beauty is at its core, subjective. Let’s explore a little together, shall we?

The first of my considerations in my theories of beauty being the biological imperative definition, in which our potential mates may be most, attracted to certain physical features in the most primal mating sense of the word. Reproduction. Our animal instincts take note of a woman’s features to assess their reproductive capabilities. Features like wide hips to bear children, supple breasts to nurture our young, bright whites of our eyes to signify health, cheeks that blush with attraction, and soft skin which creates an air of youthful fertility. Women are born with only so many eggs, whereas a man produces sperm on a daily basis for most of his life. Our eggs age, along with our bodies. It seems this frame of beauty has been distorted, augmented, and somewhat undermined in our popular culture. Non-selective mating and biologically contrary standards abound. I believe it may be due to environment we live in: hormones in our foods and in birth control, chemicals in our products, air and water, and a removal from our awareness that we are a part of nature. This most natural view of physical beauty is still there and sometimes evident but it is flagging.

The second definition of beauty may be found in our view of self. This is the woman we wake up with every day and face in the mirror as we prepare to greet the world. We see ourselves in both our best and worst moments. This woman and her perceived beauty of herself, has a constant changing appearance. We paint her face, and pluck, and pull, and tug her body into ill-fitting clothes and constrictive shoes, until we are satisfied that we appear, ‘just so’. When we do not feel good, we look bad. When we gain a few imperceptible pounds, we feel bad. When we wake up from a night of passionate love making, we feel beautiful. When we are happy, we feel beautiful. Women tend to take constant note of changes within our body as perhaps a means to self-regulate the monthly changes of our bodies, or as an emotional barometer of her inner world. We also have inner monologues in which we feed this image. Much of this self-talk, at least in my experience, has been from feedback received at one point in time in our lives. For each woman, I suppose this varies widely.

A possible third concept of beauty lies within our society and its concern for adorning ourselves to fit an ideal model. This is a concept based on unrelated components of beauty:  business, marketing strategies, sales, artificial images, and profit. This world of hair, and fashion, cosmetics, and trends, is also ever-revolving. A barrage of messages tells us: you must keep up with the Jones’ or be terribly unhip, and thus less attractive. This view of beauty bases its success on a woman’s inner fears; the lack of desirability. We are taught and conditioned from a young age that being desirable is one of the most important characteristics of being a successful woman and that it is your duty to comply to your assigned standard or risk not measuring up. A type of incessant emotional brainwashing and subtle ridicule. I believe every woman in her heart of hearts has a deep longing and need for love and acceptance. Without this she fails to flourish. But little does this industry tell us that those needs are fed internally, not externally. I often refer to my superficial appearance as the gift wrapping. It is my billboard to entice the opposite sex to want to look inside. Nothing more, nothing less. It is important, absolutely, but it is only the tip of my real beauty.

I am not physically perfect, by far, and I may not be every man’s cup of tea, but in certain lights and postures, or in the eyes of someone who loves me; I may be above average. Again, the subjective side of attraction. I have begun in the last few years consciously digging up the pieces of my internal monologue that has made me feel unattractive. I have stopped reading beauty magazines, stopped comparing myself to other women, started giving more compliments, and have cultivated more of my heart; which I feel is the essence of a woman.  And guess what? I look in the mirror and like who I see. I see a small frame but, with a spine strong enough to stand up for herself. I see a young woman that that has premature fine lines from a life fully experienced and the furrowed brows of deep contemplation. I have light scarring across my cheeks from that acne that I inherited from my beautiful mother.  I see a few extra pounds from all the times I have had a beer as one of the guys and all the food that was too good not to have seconds. My breasts are still firm and my body has never stood the test of childbirth. I have watched my hands create beautiful art and write long letters. My legs have become strong from all the times I have gotten up and walked away. My childlike sense of wonder will always give me a feeling of eternal youth. And my smile, that has been stolen many times but, somehow always finds its way back. I deeply love my sense of who I see now and who I am becoming.

Knowing and feeling all of this as background, I decided to do a bit of delving into the world of plastic and cosmetic surgery. A bit of investigative reporting, if you will. In my quest, I found that most doctors are more than happy to give free consultations to echo your fears, either real or imagined. Their profession is based on your submission to these fears, which ultimately leads you under their scalpel. I visited three offices for various procedures, concerning pieces of my exterior that do not fit society’s view of beauty. What I found was quite curious. Even though I am happy with my physical form, I lack congenital defects, and have been assumed by many as attractive; I am still a candidate for surgery.

To start the surgical “wish” list: with age, I have noticed the collagen under my eyes dissipating. During my consult with a highly trained and regarded expert, this can be corrected with several hundred pricks of a needle, injecting Silikon 1000 into my problem area. But, according to my doctor, I needn’t stop there. I also have a loss of fullness in my cheekbones, and my upper lip is out of proportion with my lower. In his expert opinion, all of these things can be corrected with three vials, to the tune of $3,000. I left his office unconvinced. I also made an appointment to speak with a doctor about some accumulated fatty deposits that make up my overall body shape, and prevent me from having the hourglass figure that is so desired. This, again, can be corrected. This time through the use of SmartLipo, in which a lasered cannula is inserted to liquefy and remove the fat, much like the oily residue seen after cooking meats. My upper and lower back, upper and lower abs, waistline, and of course my unsightly double chin, can vanish for the affordable price of $7,494, plus any accessory expenses. It won’t guarantee me a modeling career but it might make me love myself more. Hmm, not sure about that one. And because everyone knows, no great figure is complete without the addition of disproportionately engorged breasts, these too must be addressed. For this procedure I found it is a highly regionally based pricing structure. It is not the implant themselves that vary in price, it is mainly the surgeon fees. I live in one of the more expensive regions. My Double D’s will cost a mere, $6,775. I wonder if the artificial buffer placed between my potential suitor and my heart will cause me any less pain if he rejects me? Probably not. Of course, factor in all of the other things I would absolutely need to make my newly dissected life complete: trips to the spa for buff and polish, tanning to hide cellulite, acrylic nails and a pedi, and a new wardrobe to show off my new body. I would venture to say another $1,000 or so should do the trick. But then finally, my ego can rest and I will definitely find a man to love me and support me, right? So money shouldn’t really be an object at all. And besides this is a matter of self-love, and a means for self-acceptance, right? What a strange rationale. I can’t imagine why studies are now finding women whom, for example, have had breast augmentations their suicide risk are threefold. My once seemingly pretty face and body are in need of serious intervention. Like, $18,269 worth of intervention, apparently.

I don’t mean to be harsh, just to challenge ideas and the thought processes we have come to accept as our realities. I am an open minded person and do not deny my fellow woman her pursuits of pleasure. I also understand that there are ages, and times, and experiences, in which cosmetic surgery to remove the painful memories of a condition may be medically necessary. Furthermore, the doctors whom I met with to provide these services did address them with tact and professionalism, no matter what my snarky quips in my head chose to filter. My wish is simply that, both women and their doctor do it for the right reasons. Not to make up for a lack within.

So, the landscape of beauty is a treacherously multidimensional  one: from nature, to self, to society. There are many ways to see beauty. What are we to do? The truth is, I don’t know either. But, I have my guesses. The total package is, for me anyway, a fine blend and balance of all of the aforementioned. But, paramount to anything: health, happiness, and self-acceptance through inner peace, must be somewhere within the equation. These principles of true beauty will never lead you astray. Sure, I do, as all women do, have hormonal fluctuations and bad days where I feel fat, lazy, or unattractive. Taking things in stride and being adaptable is one of woman’s best attributes. I try to keep a broader perspective and not allow myself to fall down the indulgent hole of self-deprecation. As I look around at my fellow woman, it seems that more of us could benefit from self-love, no matter your method.  Thoughts?

And now, for a beautifully inspiring video: