In this poem on pages 73 and 74 of Why Things Burn, Daphne Gottlieb describes how she chose writing poetry as a teenager:

“forgetful, I spent a year writing poems
feverish, as if each was the first
about girls, me, and all
the things that happened to those girls, me
and all those poems, monsters the way
adolescence is monstrous”

Using writing as a sanctuary from a “monstrous” adolescence, she reconnects with her self despite, “the isolation of the unfamiliar body / that no longer even remembers itself.” However, as the poem progresses the reader learns that she accidentally left her notebook out, which her father finds and reads. In describing her father’s response, she says that he witnessed puberty like a disease invading his daughter, and she was “a 14-year old host vulnerable to foreign bodies / the enemy, the trembling, the bodies”

By using the metaphor of an illness, a “wild, unchecked growth,” young Daphne takes on the role of the plagued and disease-ridden, being preyed on and used by the “foreign bodies,” both hers and – more importantly – others’.  However, the lack of symbiosis/healthiness in the relationship Daphne had with these invasive bodies escapes her father, the doctor, who responds to her confessional poetry by saying: “you know who / that girl is / don’t you? / that girl’s / a whore.”

In he language her father chose (“that girl” and “whore”) he distances himself from her, furthering her feelings of being misunderstood and preyed upon. Now, Daphne has not only been betrayed by a multitude of things: the invasive bodies of others, her own body during the turmoils of adolescence, her father, as well, in part, by her poetry. In an attempt to be honest and confessional, she is outcasted once again, which clearly has emotionally scarring effects on young women. Although she does not recall in this particular poem the specifics about her sexual encounters with other boys (or men), I assume they are intense and difficult for her to process at a young age. This sexuality seems to be placed opon her by Other Bodies and is now labeled as deviant by an outsider, her father.

As a woman, I could think back to the invasiveness of not only puberty but also young men who attempt to test their limits and take advantage of our “unfamiliar bod[ies],”  could remember feeling disconnected and unsure about my own sexual impulses and those of others. This sexual ostracization was difficult for me to read because it felt so real and personal, which is only one of the many reasons why Daphne’s poetry has such an impact on me each time.

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