Live Virtual Group Session: 7pm EDT May 7th 2020

A warm thank you to everyone who joined us this Thursday for our session! We welcomed many familiar faces and many new faces from across the country and the globe.

Despite the physical distances that may have separated us, we were able to form a close-knit group in our virtual space and dive into a close reading of Danez Smith’s “a note on the body,” posted below. Participants discussed how bodies are regarded and treated, and how their dignity and privacy must be maintained, especially during the current healthcare crisis. Participants also commented on the distinction between “the body” and “your body,” and how the self inhabits the body and lives through it. We discussed how the text can be seen as an anthem to the critically ill patient, a testament to the struggle between body and identity in the context of illness, or a description of illness as a betrayal of the flesh. Participants were struck by the presence of the blank spaces in the poem, and how this forces the reader to confront the poem in a particular way. We also pondered whether the speaker of the poem was speaking to his/her/their self or to an audience, or both.

During the writing portion of our session, participants wrote to the prompt: “Write a note to yourself beginning with ‘you have all you need’”. This prompt led participants to consider the weight of illness on the body, and how those with Covid are somehow regarded and treated as different from bodies with other illnesses. Participants wrote about how the body is related to both the inside and outside, how it has both an interior existence and an exterior existence. Several participants drew from the poem’s tone and incorporated the self-referential aspect, writing as if talking to themselves in a nurturing way. Others played with satiety, identity, and popular culture references. 

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please join us for our next session: Saturday, May 9th at 7pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

a note on the body
Danez Smith

your body still your body
your arms still wing
your mouth still a gun
          you tragic, misfiring bird
you have all you need to be a hero
don’t save the world, save yourself
you worship too much & you worship too much
when prayer doesn’t work:      dance, fly, fire
this is your hardest scene
when you think the whole sad thing might end
but you live      oh, you live
everyday you wake you raise the dead
          everything you do is a miracle

From Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017) Copyright © 2017 by Danez Smith.