REVIEW: THE BODY MYTH – HANNAH LAND (THE HUNGER JOURNAL)


Hannah Land’s The Body Myth (The Hunger Journal) is the narration through an all too familiar painful story we didn’t know we needed.  

“The Body Myth (Part I)” introduces the collection, and then brings us to the end through “Part II” and “III”. Together with these poems Greek myths, sometimes revisited, accompany us throughout the story. We shudder from the first one, with a description of pain so physical we can feel it as we read that Zeus chose the slick fat…. Readers can Imagine then, the way your mouth would shudder, jaw clench, teeth chip, when you hit hard, hidden bone.

“The Body Myth (Part II)” starts with Evil springs from the uterus, is a truth that gods and doctors can agree on. It then tells us about Pandora’s jar, and how close hope and pain are, how we can’t have one without the other. As someone with endometriosis, who can relate to visiting too many doctors in the hope that that one will finally fix it, this is something I can understand and relate to almost too much.

The author’s struggles aren’t only her own anymore in “Silphium”; but rather they’re common to the whole of Ancient Rome, to everyone who wants to believe in their own invincibility, even when feeling sick, even when feeling the inherent human fragility, and the pain women, in particular, are seemingly destined to live through and with. 

“Of course, we have always been addicted to wellness. Aching for the reassurance that we are not as mortal as we were once told. Each time I try a new prescription, I think: this is it. I am finally in control. 

[…]

They never managed to domesticate silphium. 

[…]

In my mind it is always women collecting the seeds at night, under a huge harvest moon.”

In “Orchard” the author warns us against greed. Do you know the myth about the man who was so hungry/ he ate himself?, she says, proceeding with a narration of how hard it is, even for herself, to fight greed. I cannot rip/ the impulse out of me. Please be kind./ Hide the carving knives and close the kitchen/ blinds.

In “The day I decide I want a wheelchair”, Land teaches us about the cost, both physical and emotional, of providing oneself with a mobility aid. Representation matters, but even in fictional worlds it has a price. I see my lineage. Men whose strength comes from their ability to buy a new body. Does Batman know how lucky he is? She ends the poem with a reminder of how important friendship is even in these cases, of how we couldn’t succeed without helping each other in turns, and how we should be aware enough to call out the wrongs around us.

The Body Myth (The Hunger Journal) by Hannah Land is beauty in words, harmonic sounds and striking imagery, all to narrate an all too familiar painful story.

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