The last thing on earth I ever thought I’d do was write about fashion.

I equated the industry with the worst of capitalism: defining human beings as consumers, tricking them into thinking they need the “new look” simply to make a profit. I equated the industry with patriarchy and women’s internalized misogyny: the command to dress as the object of the male gaze, the message that you are subhuman, at best, monstrous, at worst, if you don’t comply. Fashion, it seemed, was the perfect vehicle for what Louis Althusser called the interpellation of the subject by an ideological apparatus.

That is, until I read Valerie Wallace’s House of McQueen (Four Way Books 2018).

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Where did you get the idea for your book From the Belly?  

I realized that I was amassing poems about food, physical experiences like sex, disease, pregnancy, and abortion, and ekphrastic poetry about visual representations of the human body.   The word “belly” was coming up as a common semantic thread in many of these poems and also seemed to speak to the figurative registers of my obsessions.  The “belly” suggests that poetry comes from “the gut,” among other things, and I certainly strive to write “gutsy” work that provokes questions about gender, power, identity, family, etc. There are other kinds of poems in the book too, but because of my visceral need to write them, as well as intellectual, I decided this book had come From the Belly.

Mad Lib

By Virginia Bell

Poem

After Lyn Hejinian’s “I found a wing today when walking”

I found a young woman today when walking—
she was running in her bare feet on the hot sidewalk.

We chatted at the intersection’s red light—
it’s better not to run on the grass, she clarified.

The grass can hide glass, stone, or even
unevenness, surprise.