Kate is a poet and co-organizer for The Body Project. She teaches poetry at UNCG.
A few years ago, I attended a lecture on writing about the body. One of the panelists said, “We have an Ipod, but we are a body.” I always took this statement to mean, we don’t own ourselves, we exist in ourselves. More terrifying however, I imagined we can’t escape the failings of the body (and continue to live), in the same way we can escape external objects that fail us: the Ipod that won’t charge, the phone screen that’s cracked, or the kitchen table with one broken leg. This impermanence, the complexity, and the constraints of the body as a compared to a machine haunted me.
Our failings seemed sacred, our impermanence sacred too.
When Gabrielle, Jini, Jessica, and I brainstormed for the Body Project, these ideas were on my mind. We wanted to explore the living body with an eye toward the complexity we exist in everyday, but never think about. For example, we never notice the cornea that controls the light that enters our eyes like curtains, unless of course, this part of us fails.
I imagined that perhaps we are only a little closer to understanding our bodies than the medievalists barbers, who were also the surgeons, offering haircuts and bloodlettings.
As a collaborative group, we began to think of the systems humans have used to understand bodies. We became fascinated by the four humors, yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm. Within these ideas, we found our lens for exploration.
We reached out to artists, writers, painters, dancers, film makers, and others who were interested in exploring the body with us.
When we brought our team together to talk about the idea, I knew that we found the right lens. We began our exploration with a game to define our humor through food. Each of us was paired off by humor and sent to a table with vegetables.
My group received blood, the humor of childhood, of summer, of fire. This idea brought us back to our childhood bodies and raw moments of discovery through touch and story.
We were told to build bodies and stories with our vegetables, to tear apart the eggplant or break the cucumber and we complied.
Our cucumber and cabbage canoes took off on a river of noodles and seeds. The onion bombs destroyed the eggplant catfish coming to attack our ships. We told stories, we played with our food, (our hands all smelling of the lemon we tore off for our sails) and as humans sometimes do, we collaborated.
We hope you’ll enjoy this exploration as much as we do. More soon.
May you be well in body & mind.