Stinson’s “Belly Songs” and examining a self-deprecating stream of consciousness

While the title of this post suggests an exploration of a “self-deprecating stream of consciousness,” the poem I wanted to discuss isn’t necessarily an example of that. “Pretty Fat,” one of the poems I came across within Stinson’s collection of poems, is unique in that it reads like a stream of consciousness with an incessant repetition of words like “so fat,” “ass” and “lard.” The reason that I say this isn’t really self-deprecating is because Stinson is trying to reclaim these words, as we can see at the end where she calls it “gracious flab/gracious bone.” I find the poem quite interesting, and wanted to talk about how it both validates as well as counters the self-deprecating narratives we build for ourselves in our heads.

As someone who has dealt with anxiety/depression, I’m no stranger to relentless streams of negative thoughts like Stinson portrays here. At it’s core, it comes from a lack of self-worth that, in the case of this poem, would appear to stem from an internalized hatred of your own body. Personally, I’ve never had issues with body dysmorphia, but there are many who are transgender or perhaps even suffer from anorexia/bulimia who have those kinds of thoughts daily, and could likely see themselves in this poem. That being said, I feel I can relate to the relentless stream of internal negativity that comes with that kind of conflict since I’ve dealt with that to some degree in my experience with mental illness. This is exactly why I think the resolution to the poem’s central conundrum is so satisfying.

To counteract the negative thoughts, Stinson’s poem re-frames the meaning of these words. She suggests we think of “so fat so fat” not as a negative reminder of something society sees as a deficiency, but as “gracious flab.” It’s a matter of re-framing a “deficiency” into something that you can love and accept about yourself. The reason I like this resolution so much is that it is exactly the same tactic I learned from my therapist to deal with my anxiety disorder. Often times, my relentless stream of internal negativity can become overwhelming and my anxieties come to the forefront in a way that makes their prevalence unavoidable. Re-framing my anxieties is the best way forward because these thoughts can sometimes seem so unavoidable. I think being able to see your own self-perceived flaws as something you can come to love and accept in yourself is a very good message for Stinson to impart upon her readers, which is why I found this poem so personally interesting.

One thought on “Stinson’s “Belly Songs” and examining a self-deprecating stream of consciousness”

  1. Hi Chris! I really loved this take on this poem, as it was one of my favorites, as well! I appreciate how you speak to the power that we each have in rewiring how we want to think about things, especially having to do with our bodies. I think this perspective mindset is so powerful, and I can’t help but relate this poem to Audre Lorde’s Zami when she reflects on how her mother reframed the maltreatment that was placed on her family into acts that took the weight off of Lorde and placed it back onto whoever attempted to take advantage of her. This use of perspective-shifting was so vital in creating a more positive childhood for Lorde, all because of her mother’s choice in framing everyday situations. It just goes to show the power of how we choose to think can impact, not only day-to-day operations, but how we reflect on and experience our lives.

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