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FALLING IN LOVE WITH MY BODY by Kai Coggin

Dear Women’s Spiritual Poetry Community, 

Happy Valentine's Day! This week, I was fortunate enough to lead two poetry workshops on Body Love, and thought I would share some of the highlights with you!

I believe that the first love you should always have is for the skin that you are in, the bones that make the frame for the house of you, the body that is the temporary vessel to your everlasting soul.  

I wanted to help my community of students at Words & Wine (my creative writing class) and the writers of the Hot Springs Writers League honor their bodies through poetry.  These are writers spanning all ages, 18-80+.

Through the beautiful poetry of well-known semi-contemporary poets we started on our journey together witnessing how these fellow writers paid tribute to their bodies. As the workshop attendees analyzed the poems for meaning, noticed brilliant imagery, and highlighted poetic devices, little by little, they became more comfortable and free.   

Today, as my Valentine’s Day gift to you, I would like to invite each and every one of you to honor your bodies and souls by writing yourselves a Valentine’s Day poem. If you would like to take this journey, here are the poems we studied to inspire us: “Heart to Heart” by Rita Dove, “Danse Russe” by William Carlos Williams,   “Homage to my Hips” by Lucille Clifton  and “A Storyabout the Body” by Robert Haas.

To bring present-day relevance, Spoken Word Artists and Slam Poets are also writing about the body, but sometimes in a more powerful, raw and visceral way than their predecessors.  So, as part of this exercise, I brought in the poem “I Know Girls (Body Love)” by Mary Lambert, and the poem that started a movement of radical self love, “The Body is Not An Apology” by Sonya Renee Taylor.  I played audio and video of these Spoken Word Artists reading their poems, which offered another layer of power.  Woo, did these poems light a fire!  You may experience them here, if you like:


Lastly, I shared a two of my poems that are centered in triumphant body image, “Constant Before Picture” and “Ode to my Bellybutton," from my book PERISCOPE HEART.  The participants could see that I, too, have been through the struggle of being comfortable in my body, of loving every inch of me, of accepting this house for my soul.  I told them,” You know, for my whole life I have struggled with my body image, and now, as a woman… I have just quit struggling.”

With LOVE in the air and Valentine’s Day almost in our lap, I offered my students three prompts, which I will share with this beautiful community here at Women’s Spiritual Poetry.  Maybe today is a day for you to write a body love poem. Here are your prompts:

1.  You are falling in love with yourself. Look at you body with dreamy, honeymoon eyes. Pick 3-5 of your body parts (knees, stomach, mouth, eyes, elbows…), and write a short love poem to each of them.  Start each line with “I am falling in love with my…”  For example:

            I am falling in love with my hands, matching friends, 
            how they touch every part of me that the night does not reach, 
            how they build, and hold, and break, and write, 
            how they soothe, and stir and intertwine with each other, 
            how every time I have turned them into fists thrown through windows and doors,
            they have returned to me, open and forgiving. 
          
            I am falling in love with my thighs, 
            thick creatures that rub against each other for constant warmth, 
            body hungry trees that offer skin and soft pillowy heat to the one who loves me.

2. Write the history of your HEART.  This is not a relationship list, or lack thereof.  Tell me about the lessons your heart has learned through triumph, disaster, relationships, friendships, family.  Start each line with “A history of my heart…

            A history of my heart starts 
            with that time in fifth grade
            when she smiled at me and it felt like 
            I swallowed the sun, 
            when the monkey bars
            hung stars from strings I tied,
            so she would remember my face. 

            A history of my heart
            is cast in iron, lockjaw lips, 
            quieted wanting, closeted tongue. 

3.  Write a poem to someone you love, or want to love, or loved in the past (romantically, or friend/family).  Use vivid imagery to paint a picture with your words.  Woo them with your poem.  Describe what drew you to them, what connected you.  Was is their dreamy eyes? Their crooked smile? The way that they eat spaghetti that is so charming?  Be creative and different, NOT CLICHE.  Think outside the box about what makes this person unique. Write the LOVE.  Write their BODY. 

I chose the first prompt and wrote alongside my students, which every good writing teacher should try to do every once in a while.  By the end of the two workshops and after a little more tinkering “Falling in Love with my Body” was born, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  

If you are reading this, take the journey inward today and HONOR YOUR BODY, whether it is by writing a poem, by consciously breathing and projecting love out into the shadows of yourself, by practicing yoga or going for a walk, by lighting a candle and sinking into a warm bubble bath, or by simply wrapping your two glorious arms around your glorious body and giving yourself a much needed long hug… do it for at least ten second and see how good it feels.  

Thank you for sharing this time with me.  Love YOU today. 
Falling in Love with My Body
by Kai Coggin

I am falling in love with my hands, matching friends, 
how they touch every part of me that the night does not reach, 
how they build, and hold, and break, and write, 
how they soothe, and stir and intertwine like vines of the most exotic wine, 
how every time I have turned them into fists thrown through windows and doors,
they have returned to me, open and forgiving, 
the ends of wings. 

I am falling in love with my eyes, 
dark chocolate orbs that meet the sky and shine, 
how they can see through masks, right to the heart of a person, 
how they are the beginning of every poem, discerning tools of observation, 
how they see the micro in the macro, how they make beauty grow, 
how they drink in the dance of life, 
how they inspect, understand, grasp, and discover, 
how the eyes are not only the beholders of lovers, 
windows into my spirit, with white silk curtains all the way open,
how they see, what they see, who they see 
with the vision of Soul recognizing Soul. 

I am falling in love with my breasts, 
how they stand like humble mountains on a terrain of many hills, 
how they ache and swell with the pulsing of want, 
how they long to nourish a life born from this body, 
how they fall, how they rise, how they softly spill into position,
mammary, glands of mamma,
how they will glow like full moons, clear beams only waxing light. 

I am falling in love with my feet, 
for every step they have tread in this life 
and the lives that led me here, 
the journey of the Soul that started with one meek step 
into the valley of shadows, one more step, 
and another, through and though and through, 
how the valleys have become this illuminating summit
under the soles of two persistent travelers. 

I am falling in love with my thighs, 
thick creatures that rub against each other for warmth, 
thunderous guards standing at the door of my lighted temple, 
body hungry trees that offer skin-pillow heat, 
how they are not defeated in their grand design, but aligned with 
planets that have yet to be seen with the naked eye.

I am falling in love with my skin, 
olive-brown stretch-marked  
highways of decadence and loss, 
of opening and close, 
come close, closer,
and see how you make my colors rise, 
how I can quickly become a reddened dawn
ascending over the horizon of you...

Falling in love with me. 


Kai Coggin is a full-time poet and freelance writer born in Bangkok, Thailand, raised in Southwest Houston, and currently a blip in the 3 million acre Ouachita National Forest in Hot Springs, AR. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Poetry and Creative Writing from Texas A&M University, and an honorary degree from the school of Hard Knocks. Kai has been published on Elephant JournalCliteratureThe Manila Envelope, Synonyms for Empathy, Catching Calliope and has an article on its way to publication in TIME Magazine.  She released her first chapbook, In Other Words, in August 2013, and is seeking publication of her first full-length manuscript, PERISCOPE HEART. Kai knows that words hold the potential to create monumental and global change, and she uses her words like a sword of Beauty.  She can be found most Wednesdays at a local venue, reading her poems into an open mic, hoping the wind carries her words out to the world. Find her on Facebook here, or support her project here. 

~If you are interested in seeing your poetry appear in this blog, or submitting a poem by a woman that has inspired you, please click here for submission guidelines. I greatly look forward to hearing from you!~ 

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring writing workshop with us today, on Valentine's day, dear Kai. I am definitely going to let one of these writing prompts pull a love poem out of me this morning. And I love the emphasis on the body, as so many people have a less than friendly relationship with their bodies: something so immediate to who we are as people, and the very container we're going to occupy our whole lives. (I love how you put it that way) So why not learn to really love it! Definitely! Thank you again, and much love to you, sweet sister, on this special day of celebrating LOVE! xoxo

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