Body, Remember, Wes Lee
Eyewear Publishing, 2017. £6
In this powerful pamphlet, Wes Lee investigates how the body can play the role of both subject and object, challenging Cavafy’s idea of the persisting body-memory of desire.
In her opening poem, ‘Body, did you know’, Lee directly addresses the body, elevating it into the poetic ‘you’ and transforming the reader into her subject. She questions various parts of the body (‘Lung were you aware, heart did you witness’), singling them out and holding them accountable. There’s a sense of frustration in this poem, perhaps from the accusatory tone. Which part of the body is liable? Lee perhaps hints in the final sentence:
Neck did you forget for a second
your graceful tilt?
A moment of hesitation; an admission of weakness. Lee further addresses the body throughout her pamphlet, such as in ‘Body, You Let Me Down’, continuing to create discourse between the body and the self:
where did you go you coward
But Lee isn’t afraid of breaking this narrator-subject relationship. In her poem ‘Lifesaving’ the narrator remembers a younger self learning now-redundant CPR practice:
They don’t do it anymore,
breathe into the mouth to save.
Lee observes the strangeness of CPR mannequins and how their purpose is to be practised on and learned from:
not even a ventriloquist’s dummy
is so exposed.
The mannequin — the body — effectively assumes the role of object in this poem, distancing itself from its owner. In the following poem, aptly named ‘Objects’, Lee notes ‘Their inconsistencies’, reminding us of the separation between subject and object.
If Lee is exploring physicality and the body in this pamphlet, then its dark shadow is surely a lack of presence. Revealing this for a moment in ‘Find & Replace’, Lee comments:
[… ] but of course it would not compute that I was
searching for space I had to have something to search for
It is this lack of being that Lee captures so well, this idea that everything’s present but something’s still missing. As she concludes in the title poem:
I want to know where you put
that part of me?