Kara van de Graaf Southern Illinois University Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3622.A585358A6 2018 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Kara van de Graaf’s debut collection heralds the arrival of an essential new voice in contemporary poetry. Through poems that balance personal recollection with ekphrasis, science, and meditation, Van de Graaf searches for answers in the fluctuating relationship between the body and the self.
Taking as its primary theme the exploration of the female body in current culture, Spitting Image considers the myriad intersections of the body and gender, desire, relationships, and otherness. Van de Graaf interrogates underrepresented elements of the female experience, especially the physical, rhetorical, and aesthetic limitations of fatness in poetry and other arts. She then complicates those limitations through her use of innovative forms and imaginative verse, implicitly calling for poetry to engage with the female form in fresh ways. Throughout, Van de Graaf’s poems ask: In a time where we have more agency to define ourselves than ever before, what barriers still remain? What do our bodies mean to who we are?
At turns oblique and direct, Van de Graaf’s poems strive to create space for themselves not only in the field of contemporary poetry but also in a larger world that has been prone to ignoring or shaming women for their bodies. That these poems succeed on both counts is a testament to this remarkable new poet, who claims “That millimeter of space that means / all of us are apart, that means / we can never really touch / anything. . . . Yes, I want that, too.”