In my group today there were mixed emotions expressed as we read through the poems of Body by Percival Everett. We spoke about how technical and literal each poem was, laying the definitions of the specific body parts flat out rather than sugar coating anything. I mentioned how much I appreciated how Everett wrote in the way that he had, making the poems something more than just a medical definition. In my group there was a shared agreement that Everett has a talent for making his readers “uncomfortable” when discussing these kinds of topics, the intimacy of it all not often seen in other works of literature we have read. In my previous blog post I mentioned how Everett draws attention to parts of the body that can be overlooked-or not visible with the human eye and as we read through it again today, I’m confident to say that this book of poetry is a huge celebration of the body.
We see this in Obturator Internus, which is a part of the hip, and Everett writes with such confidence about this one part-it’s quite lovely. “Behind the pelvic brim, thrusting from the upper, arising also from the inner surface at the posterior, completing the arch, the canal for passage, where fibers converge rapidly, backward, downward (Everett 49).” Before reading this, I had no idea what the obturator internus was, and when I found out it was a bone in the hip, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself because of how well he detailed it. Everett highlights parts of the body that one might overlook because for one-they have intense names, and two-you can’t see them. I said to my group today, “Who writes a poem about the labia majora? Percival Everett apparently.” As he should. He’s celebrating these body parts by making individual poems about them, giving them their moment in the sun, and forcing people to acknowledge them.
My group also agreed that Everett’s Body could be connected with the blazon form. Blazon, defined by the Poetry Foundation states that it is, “French for “coat-of-arms” and “shield” also means the physical attributes of a subject, one that is usually female.” We see this in Body, referring to the body parts that a female can have as well as the pronoun “she” thrown around every once and awhile. Blazon favors the female body, like Everett does but not to the extent, keeping it more technical while Blazon’s examples are more romantic. Spenser’s “Epithalamion”as shown on the Poetry Foundation is an example of that, “Her goodly eyes like sapphires shining bright/ Her forehead ivory white…” is quite the contrast to Everett’s Nasal Fossae.
“I smell your sex, pressing through the outer nose, filling my upper and central septum, brushing my bone. Deflected from the mesial plane, one side increases, the other diminishes, unequal only spatially and deep inside, your sex still drives, finding the blind pouch the wall of cartilage, and more (Everett 51).” While Everett isn’t as romantic, his writing is sensual and full of emotion even though he’s talking about the nasal cavity. As many conversations started in our group at once Hailey and I started to talk about this poem, sort of confused as to why he mentions sex while talking about the nose. It occurred to me that he was being incredibly intimate when writing this, smelling someone’s sex isn’t something one does casually, but when two people are in a vulnerable setting. The naval cavity is more than just a body part, it’s a device that we use when engaging in sexual activities.
I noticed in today’s class the back of the book, where quotes from other authors and renowned newspapers are displayed, and one caught my eye. “…An author who dances with language as effortlessly as Fred Astaire”-Daniel Quinn. It caught my attention because of how true it was, Everett forming these beautiful pieces of writing, confident in his work because he knows what he’s talking about-just as how Fred Astaire is considered to be the most influential dancer in television history. To compare Everett to Astaire just feels right because of how well they both perfected their craft, leaving their audiences satisfied and yet, wanting more.
I’d like to end this blog post with my favorite poem from Body. The Fissure of Rolando. “…Carried across from the root of one auricle, passing up, curving back between fontanelle and parietal eminence, but near the lower end lie the controls for my mouth, for my tongue, the tongue she tells me she loves near, and in, and on, and around her sweet fissure (Everett 58).” I told my group today that I appreciated where Everett took each poem, going further than needed, letting us (the readers) know that it’s okay to talk about these things.
Everett’s celebration of the body should be talked about more and should inspire other artists to talk openly about the subject that’s usually not talked about as freely. Society has taken several steps back from making advancements of self-love and body empowerment that we don’t nearly see as many examples of in literature. Re: f (gesture) starts to have that conversation and I’m grateful for it.