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"About the Work" with Jessica Poli

In our "About the Work" series, Olga Mexina and Tom Sokolowski ask recent contributors for insight into their writing or for current sources of inspiration. Read Jessica Poli's essay "Embodying Ruby" in SER Vol. 41.2.


I’ve never been comfortable in my body. When I started writing this essay for a memoir class in my MFA program, I hadn’t yet realized how central this fact was to writing it. In the ten years since that first draft, I have picked this essay back up, put it down, picked it up, put it back down again. I kept getting hung up on a detail I used in the first sentence: I described myself as a painfully self-aware girl with “frizzy hair and plus-size jeans.” In that early draft, there were no other mentions of my body or how I felt in it. But as I continued returning to the essay, I kept lingering on that sentence and thinking about all the ways I felt (and continue to feel) at odds with my body, a body in which I feel, paradoxically, both scrutinized and ignored. Jeannine A. Gailey calls this the “hyper(in)visibility” of the fat woman’s body—language I wish I had sooner, but which I am grateful to have now. Once I understood the need to embody this experience, the essay opened up, as did my understanding of why this strange, short chapter in my life left such an impact.


JESSICA POLI is the author of Red Ocher (University of Arkansas Press, 2023), which was a finalist for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, North American Review, Poet Lore, and Salamander, among other places. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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