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Body, Pain, Self, and Sexual Desires as Themes in Poetry

The human body has always been an important topic for people. Its representation and attitude to it changed throughout the history of humanity, and the literature belonging to different epochs proves it. Writers tried to respond to topical ideas and speak about the topic from different perspectives. One of the essential aspects of the theme is the ideas of pain, transformation, sexual desires, maturation, and pleasure, which stay together with the concept of body and self of a person.

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In the 20th and 21st century, with the rise of feminist movements and tolerance, poets and writers started to use the topic of the body as a way to attract attention to some disputable issues and represent the women’s attitude to it. At the same time, the motifs of pain, aging, and pleasure also remained topical, which preconditioned the emergence of unique works.

Thus, the poems “Naked Girl and Mirror” by Judith Wright, “Monster Body” by Laura Hershey, and “31-year-old lover” by Kim Addonizio have a similar motif of a human body; however, they touch upon it in different ways. These poems raise the problems of pain, sexual maturation and sensory pleasure, aging, metamorphosis, and body as the representation of self affecting a person and his/her position in society. The diversity of topics associated with the concept of the body demonstrates its scope and importance for the literature and, at the same time, shows that it remains relevant in different epochs. The three selected poems speak about the outlined questions from the modern perspective, helping poets to manifest their ideas and thoughts, which is made through the prism of various physical forms and states.

The poem “Monster Body” by Laura Hershey introduces the concept of the body in pain. The first lines of the work set the mood for the whole story, “I mock the human form” (Hershey 1). The author shows her deep dissatisfaction and disappointment with her shapes and condition, and the poem embodies these thoughts. The vulnerability of the body and pain it might experience become the main problems emphasized by Hershey.

She continues, enumerating the issues “My back’s shell-sharp curve, my thin wrist bone, / limbs that do not twitch beyond the digits; / right lung so different from left” (Hershey 8-10) and finishes saying, “Monster mine, monster body” (Hershey 8-10, 14). The author accepts that she is different, her physical impairments can cause pain and make her feel vulnerable and suffer. However, it is still her body, “one I would not trade./ Not for gold, not for leading roles. (Hershey 15-16). Along with pain, her physical appearance gives her the vision of self, and it is the fundamental thought of the poem.

The work “Naked Girl and Mirror” by Judith Wright discusses some other problems, which are, however, related to the concept of body. It depicts an adolescent girl cogitating about her self-identity and being confused by it. She sees the naked body in a mirror standing for the metaphor of a stripped soul vulnerable to the world and betrayals. In such a way, the text presents the themes of self-esteem and metamorphosis.

The lines “This is not I. I had no body once- / only what served my need to laugh and run” (Wright 1-2) show that the physical appearance is closely linked to inner representations and self. Wright continues descriptions stating, “Smooth once-hermaphrodite shoulders, too tenderly / your long slope runs, above those sudden shy” (Wright 12-13). It shows the confusion and inability to select the right way, which becomes the main idea of the poem and helps to convey the message.

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Finally, the poem “31-Year-Old Lover” by Kim Addonizio introduces the theme of sexual pleasure and sensory pleasure. The author introduces detailed descriptions of a male body that are full of eroticism, and sexual desire “the high / tight pectorals, the new dimes of the nipples pressed / into his chest, the fan shape of the muscles underneath” (Addonizio 5-7). These precise descriptions are needed to show that a speaker is attracted by this young body and desires it. At the same time, there is a theme of maturation and aging “He is going to have a gut one day / and wiry gray hairs where the soft dark filaments /flow out of him” (Addonizio 15-17).

The woman is full of regret that she is not young anymore, but she sees sexual contact with a young man as the only way “to have it back” (Addonizio 23). In such a way, the poem revolves around sexuality and views the body as the object of desire.

Altogether, the concept of body has always been topical for the literature. Wright, Hershey, and Addonizio also use this motif in their poems and treat the physical appearance of a speaker differently, which is preconditioned by their motifs and ideas emphasized by their works. They discuss the problems of self, pain, and sexual pleasures, and view them through the prism of physical appearance and shapes. The body remains one of the central topics used by modern writers and helps to convey important messages to readers.

Works Cited

Addonizio, Kim. “31-Year-Old Lover.” The American Poetry Review. Web.

Hershey, Laura. “Monster Body.” Facebook. Web.

Wright, Judith. “Naked Girl and Mirror.” PoemHunter. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Body, Pain, Self, and Sexual Desires as Themes in Poetry." May 17, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/body-pain-self-and-sexual-desires-as-themes-in-poetry/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Body, Pain, Self, and Sexual Desires as Themes in Poetry." May 17, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/body-pain-self-and-sexual-desires-as-themes-in-poetry/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Body, Pain, Self, and Sexual Desires as Themes in Poetry'. 17 May.

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