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‘On Women Poets and Nourishment’: Cynthia Cruz at VIDA
At VIDA, Cynthia Cruz documents her struggle to publish an anthology that collects new and formally complex poetry about eating disorders. “My main criterion was strong poetry. This might seem obvious, but it isn’t. Each time I submitted the collection for possible publication, it became clear that strong poetry was not among the criteria people expected.” More:
In 2010 I began to construct an anthology of poetry written by women who had and/or continue to struggle with an eating disorder. The initial germ of this project was my own desire for such a collection to exist. There was, and continues to be, no such anthology, which is not to say there are no anthologies of writing about women suffering from eating disorders. There are, in fact, plenty. If you visit the self-help section of any bookstore you’ll be shocked by the number of memoirs and self-help books written about this exact subject. Likewise, there are a number of anthologies of poetry about eating disorders as well as anthologies of essays written by published female writers. These anthologies tend to collect work addressing the symptoms of an eating disorder such as weight, food, and body image issues. But none of these are what I was seeking.
The two main impulses behind the creation of the anthology were my desire to trouble the public’s limited understanding of eating disorders and to compile a collection of poems written by women sufferers of eating disorders. In order to make such a collection, my main criterion was strong poetry. This might seem obvious, but it isn’t. Each time I submitted the collection for possible publication, it became clear that strong poetry was not among the criteria people expected. What people seemed to want instead were poems “about” eating disorders and with the limited understanding of what an eating disorder is—this meant poems about food or the body. This is akin to expecting an anthology of poets who suffer from bipolar to consist only of poems about shoplifting and compulsive sex. In other words, in order to publish an anthology of poems written by women who have suffered from an eating disorder, I needed to compile a collection of poems that fit the public’s limited understanding of what an eating disorder is.
The one thread connecting nearly all of the existing collections is the narrative. The memoirs tend to tell the narrative of how the speaker suffered and then how she got better. They are redemption stories. The trouble is that nearly all of the stories we hear about eating disorders in the United States tend to be structured around one basic narrative: a young white woman succumbing to an eating disorder because she wants to be thin to attract male attention.
Continue at VIDA.