Singing the female body

Corporea, a collection of contemporary English poetry

Sabine Pascarelli
May 20, 2010

Corporea is an Italian edition of a bilingual collection of contemporary English and American poetry. This book features a wide variety of women's voices, including such recognizable names as Lucille Clifton, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Maxine Kumin, Marge Piercy, along with lesser-known poets.


What makes it different from most anthologies is its theme: the female body, ‘our primary polis,' as Liana Borghi calls it in the foreword, a most intimate subject, but one that cannot be seen separate from politics.


The four editors are women (could it be otherwise?) with the difficult task of choosing from a universe of material in original language, most of which has never been translated.


The collection has seven thematic sections, not the usual division into the main female seasons from birth to death, but a meaningful division into the psychological areas of womanhood: metaphors and myths revisited; the images of self-love and disaffection; desire; births and surroundings; aging and illness; violence and separation; the critical eye-clarification, resentment, manifesto.


We feel somehow touched when reading what Lucille Clifton writes in her Poem in Praise of Menstruation: ‘if there is a river/more faithful than this/returning each month/to the same delta...if/there is some where water/more powerful than this wild/water/pray that it flows also/through animals/beautiful and faithful and ancient/and female and brave.'


Drawing us forward, the images awaken our senses more and more to consciousness. Each poet explores the body from a different perspective, but all the poems are equally honest, equally unflinching, touching in their truth. Consider this from Anorexic by Eavan Boland: ‘Flesh is heretic./My body is a witch./I am burning it.' These statements break our hearts, catapulting us out of our usual comfort zones. Yet Boland writes of an experience women share.


What is not evident is self-pity. Out of immense joy or immense pain, these poets breathe life into their bodies and other women's bodies with all their personal, communal and cosmic experiences. This transcends boundaries, always allowing  space for the role silence plays.


In First Love by Mary Dorcey we read, ‘Our thoughts passed/through our blood, it seemed,/and the slightest pressure/of our hands/decided all issues wordlessly.'


I offer special praise for the transparency of these translations. Those who speak both languages will agree about the pleasure found in reading these wonderful, well-made and heart-felt translations by women who are also poets.


Indeed, the last lines of the last poem written by Marge Piercy reverberate throughout the entire collection, sending out ripples on the vast sea of consciousness: ‘In rain, the clouds disperse./Only water of connection remains, /flowing through us. Strong is what we make/of each other. Until we are all strong together,/a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.'


Corporea: Il corpo della poesia

femminile contemporanea di lingua inglese

Edited by Loredana Magazzeni, Fiorenza Mormile, Brenda Porster, Anna Maria Robustelli

Edizioni Le Voci della Luna Poesia, 2009



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