A well-travelled poem


Two things have prompted me to post the following. The first was some email correspondence with a younger poet about submitting work to magazines and how much attention to pay to their responses. This prompted me to recall that one of the first poems I ever submitted to a literary magazine was indeed rejected. It was then published in the ground-breaking Scottish women poets' anthology, Fresh Oceans. This was published by Stramullion, a group of women linked, I think, to the Edinburgh Pomegranate Women's Writing Group, a group I believe is still running strong today.

Carol Anne Duffy picked the poem up from there and it was published in 'I wouldn't thank you for a Valentine', an anthology from Viking. Rights to that anthology were then bought by Henry Holt in the USA. What's even more amazing is that the Carol Anne Duffy anthology has never been out of print in the UK and the US. I think the first edition came out in 90/91. The poem was then picked up by a South African publisher and has appeared in yet another anthology there.

And the second prompt? I've just discovered the poem is now to come out in an anthology in Australia. So thank goodness I never binned it after that first rejection.

So here, for anyone interested, is the well-travelled poem itself.

Anno Wreck Sick

I am anorexic I mean I
really think thin real lean
I mean I've been carried away to
the point where I've all but
disappeared

Poor virgin, pure maiden I was – oh
they wanted me fed up plump, full, fair oh
so femininely fattened for the
rutting rites – they wanted my sweet flesh to be
some sacrifice on the altarbed of adulthood

Anno Wreck Sick - I could
play around with the hollow sound
play frantic antics with semantics but
that's not what you want to know oh no let's
get right down to the nittty, dig to the dying bone
search in my shrinking skull the meaty matter of it

So you want to know why I don't
want to grow oh please think of what it –
sweet sixteen get preened for prodding, fumbling
grunting, mumbling while small child me inside
dies crumbling

scars will heal
shrink and heal
shrink my head
I wanna be dead


Cut off your nose, my ma
always said, to spite, she said,
oh ma, how right, how right

Please don't pin my body, man
lovely living butterfly, please
don't try I'd rather die

So I'll waste the flesh, ruin
your chances, forestall your advances

Anorexic, that's what I am
happy to be carried off
with a rattling laugh in my skinny throat
to my sweet deathbed

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