blog post

The Story of “Beauty” – My FU Poem

Since it is national poetry month in Canada, I wanted to share some of my favourite poems and the reasons they mean so much to me.
“Beauty” is special to me for three reasons.

1- The act of writing

The first is for the simple act of writing the poem. It’s the first poem I’ve written in ten years and it kicked off my desire to reconnect with poetry. The poem came out of me

a table with a coffee cup, sunglasses, open journal with a pen laying on top of it and a croissant
My typical Sundays – I wish but I do try to write and create more


with no barriers, seemingly having a life of its own – the words drawn from spaces I had hidden and forming on the page in front of me. (Yes it was handwritten).  I can still describe the way I felt when I wrote it; a sense of relief, purpose
and joy.  I remember the room I wrote it in; the white walls, the shared office space. Half of the words hastily scribbled on a piece of paper I had found. Stolen moments at traffic lights, as I drove from one job to another.

“Beauty” would not stop. It pushed to be heard, and after I finished, I knew the words were powerful. They made me feel powerful.

2- The healing power of poetry

Writing for the first time after many years of not creating anything. A poem created as a response to an event that happened on International Women’s Day. I wrote it because, even though we had choreographed a fantastic dance performance for the women at the Centre where I worked, they could not help but compare us (the dancers) to each other. They knew us, we were staff, and had worked with and supported them. At that moment, we became reduced to our weights, our “beauty”; our bodies’ reflections of the standards that women and performers must live up to.
Manivillie holding a fence
Photoshoot in Nola – Photo Credit Kym

For me, someone who doesn’t check off traditional boxes of beauty, it threw me back to the teasing and bullying I got as a kid. I remember feeling so upset and frustrated because (and I said these words to myself) – none of it mattered. All my education, talent and effort to move past those words mattered.  I felt lower than I had in a long time, especially as I was coming off the high of creating such a great event.

I know the thoughtless comments meant nothing to the women who said them, but it forced me to look at myself and the impact of those words. This poem was a cathartic response to the hurtful words and more importantly, the power of those words to affect my psyche.

3- The power of “Beauty”

Naming the poem “Beauty” was essential to me. In media, in life, we see these prescribed notions of beauty – the “most beautiful men and women in the world,” as defined by magazines and media draw from colonial standards of beauty.  It is a weapon used to make us feel like we are less than and it’s elusive. The search for (physical) beauty seems to be ongoing – relentless.
Growing up, beauty equaled normal. My face was different and as a kid, different is the worst thing you can be (at least it seemed like it then). I wanted to be “normal” because then I would have the same canvas as everyone else and could create my beautiful self (or a version of it). Beauty was a weapon. One that kept me feeling like I would never be

Mr. Kanagasabapathy holding Manivillie (aged 3) and Manimolie (aged 5)
That’s me on the left. I think we were 3 and 5 in this photo


worthy of love, success, or joy. I would have to be more than “normal,” I would have to be stunningly beautiful – which seemed out of my grasp.

I thought I was doing well, until the incident on International Women’s Day. That threw me for a loop; however, creating the poem made me question what beauty meant to me and why the words still hurt.
I am still a work in process, but beauty is a word I am reclaiming.  Now, I think of being beautiful as owning all the things that make you unique. It is being comfortable in your skin and the space you occupy – no excuses, no apologies, no fear. Beauty is more than what’s on the surface. To be beautiful is to be you and to be you, is beautiful.
Now, when I tell someone they are beautiful, it is the highest compliment paid. Being elusive to me for so long, beauty means that you are comfortable in your skin; and for that, you deserve; or better yet own; the word, the term, the label. It says:
You are beautiful because you are you.

Beauty

You would be so pretty,
If you straightened your hair66f405d5-7b6f-4b5b-8412-840b27dbe063
You would be so pretty,
If you just wore some makeup
You would be so pretty,
If you walked like a lady
You would be so pretty,
If your skin weren’t so dark
You would be so pretty,
If you lost a few pounds

But Wait…

I would be so pretty.
If I stopped listening
I would be so pretty.
If I smiled at my reflection
I would be so pretty.
If I wore my own style
I would be so pretty.

But Then…

I would only be pretty
So keep your pretty petty words
Because
I am fresh, fierce and confident
I am me and I am beautiful

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

 

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