Today we have the first in a series of poets from Bad Betty Press; a press which is publishing some really interesting work from both established and in today’s case new poets. Check out their publications here (and if you can buy a publication or two, you won’t be disappointed). William Gee will have his debut pamphlet ‘Rheuma’ published late summer. Here he talks about his struggle with Fibromyalgia with some really interesting insights about how it affects our ability to work in a society driven by profit.
“For much of my life, I struggled with a range of symptoms which seemed to bare no correlation to one another. Chronic fatigue, an increasingly constant nausea level, violent aching without reason.
Early poems sought to connect these disparate symptoms without acknowledging them, through the general sense of depression and anxiety they unknowingly induced, and I think, as I attempted to distance myself from the experience of living in my own body, that distance found its way into my writing.
Coming to terms with my Fibromyalgia lines up pretty perfectly with the conclusion of my studies, as an MA student at Royal Holloway, and the beginning of my search for full time, meaningful employment.
It feels, at least in my experience, that living with chronic pain is more often than not an act of negotiating the desire to be seen and believed, with the hope that people won’t pick up on your vulnerabilities, and become predisposed in the way they think about you.
Disabled and chronically ill lives are, more often than not, unprofitable lives, and that is largely down to the perception of what it means to be self-sufficient. We are, at our most basal, a measure of our own output. Creatures of capacity. Bodies that need assistance to operate, fail to chime with that age-old capitalist ideal; that each and every one of us is capable of providing for ourselves. Earning our keep.
There’s also this feeling, particularly as a young man, that so much success and opportunity comes off the back of your ability to project virility. A sense of surety and assertiveness that comes with believing there are no limitations to your body’s capabilities.
As I searched for work, these preconceptions really weighed on me, and the value in concealing my physical difficulties became apparent, as did the need for me to be open about how unwell I often feel. The tension between the exposure of my symptoms leading to a depreciation in my perceived economic value, and the support I desperately needed to find and maintain work, became a key concern in both the way I started to lead my life, and in the way I was writing.
My poem, ‘young man,’ was really one of my first explorations of this tension between distance and closeness. It felt like an act of empowerment, as I initially struggled to find work, to admit defeat. To acknowledge flaws, and to ironise them. As it turns out, to be vulnerable in life makes it far easier to be vulnerable on the page, and soon a body of work began to form around the experience of living within my own body.
I was able to make connections between my chronic pain, and some of the traumas I’d been concealing, along with my symptoms, and produce a short collection of poems that have made me able to begin to understand my own life experience.
William Gee is a poet and writer based in East London. His work focuses on chronic illness, trauma, and the intersectionality between the two. His debut pamphlet, Rheuma, will be published by Bad Betty Press late this summer.
you are an expert in having lives to waste and how are we to love you like that
your body lacking in the confidence of your bedroom your body only faking
three-dimensional separate from its own politics incapable of sending its meats
to the right places of un-sending its acids and instead how hard
are you willing to work to get away from yourself young man take all
your beauty out from your natwest student account your beauty is modest as a box
room your beauty is always hungry in the same coat too small to be saved I’m sorry
come back when your body is its most successful factory when you’ve died
at all the punctured versions of yourself