By Jessie Carty
Poet Jessie Carty has done something quite daring in Fat Girl, she has told the bare naked truth about eating, weight, body fat and the bastard child of an unhealthy relationship with food: the distorted body image. Our binging, purging, love and ultimate hatred of food is legendary and just like McDonald’s, it’s everywhere.
Just open any magazine and you will be assaulted with images of anorexic models, designed to make a normal person feel elephantine and gluttonous, let alone those who are genetically and therefore naturally predisposed to having a larger frame. The self perception gauge is faulty in us all with regard to self image, this much is true but within the scope of a poet such as Jessie Carty, an innate understanding of the human condition flexes it’s muscle to prove that we are stronger than our most powerful urges and that deep inside, we are not what we eat, we are merely people who eat to stay alive.
In Fat Girl, the poems are poignant, funny, shocking and brave. Ms. Carty’s poetic exposure is not titillating or embarrassing, but rather it is liberating, especially to all of us who have ever hidden a chocolate bar or pastry in the bottom of a hand bag under the weight of keys, cosmetics and guilt. I have read many books about dieting and the affects on the female psyche but nothing quite like this has been done. A great deal of thought and feeling went into the architecture of Fat Girl, and in a very clever design all her own, Ms. Carty builds a real female body with each poem, beginning with ‘Woman of Willendorf’: The Artifact’ then adding body parts and soul elements along the way until you have a fully constructed mirror image of yourself on the final page.
Through the art of poetry, Jessie Carty has done for fat girls what Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City, has done for female sexuality; she has not only opened the door to our interior lives but blown it off the hinges. With a razor sharp wit that cuts to the bone in the poem ‘The Artifact: ‘ Autopsy’ Ms. Carty continues on to shine a heavy duty light on the lies we tell ourselves in ‘I’m Trying Weight Watchers.’ After reading ‘The Banquet’ I wanted to reach into the page, pull the girl out and hold her to me to stop her from sipping the Ipecac tea. ‘The Greeter’ made me wince with the stark truth that our obsessions isolate us from each other. But the most moving of all, at least for me were two poems that pierced my heart: ‘And Then She Fell’ and ‘ToThe Fat Girl At The YMCA.’ Brutal honesty is the hallmark of both as well as this entire volume of Poetry. It is to Jessie Carty’s credit as well as her social and emotional genius that her words and vision didn’t stagnate into a ‘been there, done that’ mediocre testament to the average person. Instead she elevates it to the status of a social and spiritual statement of our era and the ramifications of obsession and vanity gone mad. Fat Girl is about our humanity as much as it is about our external needs and desires and for this reason alone it should be on the reading list of every adolescent girl, whether they struggle with weight issues or not. There is a specific insight between the covers of this book, a type of wisdom borne of poetic introspection and self acceptance and one we should all aspire to gain.
I’ve read Fat Girl five times and it is now my guilty pleasure. It makes me feel so good about being bad and a bit of the food rebel is let loose each time I consume the words. I can guarantee that this book won’t be hidden at the bottom of my hand bag under my keys or cosmetics but right on top with the M&Ms, BBQ Fritos and my shameless love of snack food.