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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 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.

These are words that have been attached to my own work but which I suggest act as a sort of dog whistle criticism. And I knew all the reasons why I shouldn’t let that stop me but it did and it made me feel lame and defeated. What is so wonderful here is not only that she casts her present self as her future lover but that the self that she transforms into is none other than the Fat Black Woman, this embodiment of so many of Staceyann Chin’s poetics – the impoliteness, the brazenness, the sheer volume of it.

Her 'fat black woman' is brash; rejoices in herself; poses awkward questions to politicians, rulers, suitors, to a white world that still turns its back. Her voice was her own – and this was what she gave to me – a voice, or at least the sense of it, and a range of performative gestures.

And that’s the problem: how do you get a rhythm which approximates the natural experience, the environmental experience? I am someone whose daily work tries to create beauty rather than dismantle the flawed systems by which we appreciate such beauty. Still it surprised me how, given voice, the poem was such a different animal from how it sat tamely on the page. She doesn’t discover her Queer identity until later on so there are some moments in which she navigates her life thinking that she is straight.In the case of this memoir, I really enjoyed many of the subjects that Bower touches upon and I love the way that it is organized since it keeps you wanting to learn more about her life. It was one of those incredibly large stages you would imagine for a rock concert rather than a poetry reading.

Which cultures, which counter ideas of beauty and wit, which alternative exercises of intelligence are (purposely or inadvertently) excluded from its small remit? There is something of the volume of that poem which seems out of place – even crude – in the supposed quiet of a British landscape.

My body was confused by all the climate changes – starting from the dry desert, going through the last strains of a European winter, and deposited at last into the tropical heat of the Caribbean.

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