In this week’s edition of Feature Friday, we’re pleased to bring you an excerpt from Mallory Tater’s debut poetry collection, This Will Be Good, which tells the story of a young woman’s burgeoning femininity as it brushes up against an emerging eating disorder. As the difficulties of her disease reveal themselves, they ultimately disrupt family relationships and friendships. These poems deftly bear witness to the performance of femininity and gender construction to reveal the shrinking mind and body of a girl trying to find her place in the world, and whose overflowing adolescent hope for a future will not subside.
CBC Books recently identified Mallory as one of 14 Canadian poets to watch in 2018 and her book has been receiving much critical acclaim since its early spring release release. Adele Barclay, author of the award-winning poetry collection, If I Were In a Cage I’d Reach Out For You, writes, “Tater’s dexterous language shreds the pink ribbons of nostalgia to remind that girlhood is both ‘sugared with fear’ and ‘diamond-hard.’” Dina Del Bucchia adds, “This Will Be Good details the truths of girlhood; how young women treat themselves with cruelty and tenderness, fend off and court desire, and brace themselves for a world that both expects too much of them and yet never enough.”
Tonight, Mallory and her partner Curtis Leblanc kick off their highly anticipated This Will be a Little Wild Book Tour, with a launch at Knife Fork Book in Toronto. Joining them tonight is Dominquie Bernier-Cormier. For more info on this event, visit the FB event page here. For more info on all the planned tour stops, visit Mallory’s website.
We hope you enjoy the following excerpts from This Will Be Good. Happy reading!
From This Will Be Good:
On my bedroom wall, a rainbowed Jesus
hung and sometimes forgave us.
The cross matched animal letters
across my bed, spelling my nickname.
M-A-L spewed into a plastic sticker of the ocean,
Noah’s ark by the window. To fall asleep,
we counted animals two by two. Giraffes,
“platypusses,” dogs and white sharks.
We always ended with cats and wood bugs.
Meredith would rise from her bed in terror.
She didn’t sleep sound as a child, dreamt of a man
coming to hurt her. She said the dark figure
carried matches, what we thought
were the worst weapon on earth. She’d wet
the bed as if she wanted to cry but her body
didn’t know how. A sleep therapist told us
to ignore her, to never stop her
if she left the room. One time, she trailed
onto the patio deck, crying for our neighbour
who’d recently died. Mr. Myers, she screamed,
come back. My parents added his name
to our prayer list and I remember
looking up at Jesus, his red and purple arms,
asking so much of Jesus, believing
this would fix her.
OTTAWA GENERAL: EATING DISORDER WARD
I am lost in a brown chair,
asked do I like ice cream
when I do not like anything—
My stomach remembers two answers.
It was Robin who told me
to lose weight for the first time
at Vanessa’s gymnastics birthday party.
Robin made me run in circles
while other girls held each other
on balance beams. I remember
the sweat in my palms, saying no
to birthday cake, girls pinching
their stomachs at me, not knowing
this would instill a morning habit in me,
not knowing their words would turn
my clavicles to metal. I remember my mother
looking at me through her rear-view
at a red light, saying stop pinching yourself,
why do you like to pinch yourself.
The answer I gave her:
The bigness of me was once so small.
And now it would be more present
than anything ever could be.
The doctor presents a cup
of Kozy Shack rice pudding, and I know
my mother sold me out, told him
it’s my favourite. All sugar has become
excessive and false. Bribes drip
with syrup, voices honeyed, premeditated.
I taste the doctor’s words and the buttered
weight of what health now means
to my withered body, lanugoed arms,
thinning mind. He offers me
a spoon, says you’ve earned the right to eat this.
In the stairwell, I eat three raisins,
phone my father. A nurse races
down the stairs gripping a needle,
freshly filled with another girl’s blood.
When can I rest in this body,
I’ve been dying to rest in this body.
Order your copy of This Will Be Good here.
Mallory Tater is a writer from the traditional, unceded territories of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg Nation (Ottawa). Mallory’s poetry and fiction have been published in literary magazines across Canada such as Room Magazine, CV2, The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, The New Quarterly, Carousel, Prism International and Arc Magazine. She was shortlisted for Arc Magazine’s 2015 Poem of The Year Contest, The Malahat Review’s 2016 Far Horizon’s Contest and Room Magazine‘s 2016 Fiction and Poetry Prizes. She was the recipient of CV2’s 2016 Young Buck Poetry Prize. She is the Publisher of Rahila’s Ghost Press, a poetry chapbook press. She lives in Vancouver.