Daisy Behagg explores the idea of the body’s conscious self

Francesca da Rimini, 1843, by Luigi Calamatta. Engraving.
Francesca da Rimini, 1843, by Luigi Calamatta. Engraving.

In ‘Four Essays on the Body’, I wanted to write a poem that treated the body as the whole being. Rather than, as we so commonly do, viewing the body as vehicle for a somewhat abstract concept of the mind, I wanted to communicate something of the body as a conscious entity.

The poem takes suicide and self-harm as its main focuses. Around the time it was written there had been a number of high profile cases of suicide or death by drug overdose in the media that had meant those subjects were in my mind a lot. As a writer it would be difficult not to identify with these acts as they are both forms of communication.

I’m here now
says the body to itself.

“I’m here now” was meant as a kind of vocalisation of the reassurance the body is giving itself, but I think it also quite literally expresses an experience of realness – I’m here. I am.

These are incidents that involve a pain or trauma of the mind being enacted by the body on itself. Something suppressed is articulated by the only means a person has at their disposal. I found myself drawn to these articulations as they demonstrate the extent to which our physical and emotional experience are interdependent, are part of the same conscious whole.

The question the poem asks: if pain lives in the body, if pain and the body are the same thing, must the body then be destroyed before the pain will stop? is not one I feel I have answered. As is so often the case with poetry, the most pressing need was to ask.

Daisy Behagg’s ‘Microscopic’, from the sequence ‘Four Essays on the Body’, was first published in The Poetry Review, 104:4.