Image © Chefpy
Eat Me is by Patience Agbabi and is centered around the theme of a husband that force feeds his wife. He is a feeder who dominates his wife but the poem concludes with her rolling over him on their bed and killing him by suffocation. You should also consider the context of the pressure put on women in the media, especially surrounding their bodies and their weight – provoking sympathy.
Agbabi uses the relationship between the feeder and feedee to explore issues of gender and power.
The poem has a very strong structure made up of 10 tercets (stanzas of 3 lines). There is consistent use of half rhyme which suggests uncertainty in her life.
- It is an ‘audacious dramatic monologue’
- Agbabi rhymes words such as ‘cake’ and ‘weight’. This creates a sense of uncertainty and vagueness. Alternatively it could create a suspicious tone because the rhymes don’t quite add up.
- There are sound patterns within the poem such as the repetition of the ‘c’ sound “called chubby cuddly”. This creates emphasis on this triple and allows the reader to understand that the husband
- There is also assonance of the ‘o’ sound in the 8th tercet, “poured olive oil down my throat” creating the sound of choking.
- The rhyme/half rhyme scheme of aba further increases the sense of claustrophobia in the poem. The subject’s physicality is enacted at the level of language and structure. The half rhyme creates uncertainty and when the rhymes don’t add up, it seems suspicious
- There is the use of personal pronouns “And I ate, did what I was told. Didn’t even taste it.” This shows how she is not enjoying it. She is following orders whilst still thinking about herself. She is allowing herself to be selfish
- There is also a tercet written in italics which shows us dialogue from the husband. This alternative speaker allows us to get first hand evidence of his dominant personality. He likes “soft girls”, inferring that he wants something that he can shape/control/manage
- The concerns of the poem are not confined solely to sexual politics but through langage we can interpret some the language that describes the woman’s body: “forbidden fruit”, “breadfruit”, “desert island”, “globe”, “tidal wave” as a post-colonial viewpoint in which the colonial authotiy – identified with he male protagonist – is ultimately overwhelmed by the power of the former colony
- Narrative voice – alliteration, assonance and repetition combine to convey a cloying sensuousness which mirrors the excess described.
- Euphamism – ‘cuddly’ is a word often used to mean ‘fat’ by being less harsh
- “I was his Jacuzzi. But he was my cook, my only pleasure was the rush of fast food” Even though he is not friendly, she still appreciates the food and this could suggest why she is weak and unable to rebel (until the end) against him
- There is lot of water imagery in this poem too, “His desert island after shipwreck. Or a beached whale on a king-size bed craving a wave.” Water is submerging and engulfs (it can change into whatever shape it needs to, it is adaptable). She has no strength of character. She is hidden power that brings about death, powerful yet destructive. The use of the word “shipwreck” is confusing because on one hand it’s good because one is alive on an island and on the other bad it’s bad because one is alone
- “I was a tidal wave of flesh” it foreshadows the end for her husband, as a tidal wave is destructive but cannot be stopped. It is too late once the wave is approaching
- There is contrast of the body sizes with use of a metaphor, “my globe of a cheek”
- There is also a euphemism when the poet uses the word “chubby” instead of “fat”. Everyone who reads the poem will know what the word suggests and that the woman is obviously more overweight than “chubby”
- The tone throughout the poem seems quite melancholy and submissive. As if she could never tell anyone how she truly felt bout her situation – this provoke great sympathy from the reader as we see that she has been affected not only physically but mentally.
- The personal pronouns in the final few tercets highlight the change in tone as the woman gains more control over the situation and gets her own back on the man who force fed her for his own enjoyment.
- As the poem concludes, there are more personal pronouns, suggesting a sense of regaining control
- He gets his ‘just desserts’ ironically!
- There is also a change in vocal tone (more on this above)
- The ending is quite shocking and you could think of it in terms of consumption – where this eventually might lead
I again hope this provides some ideas when it comes to understanding the poem. It can at first seem quite a humorous poem because of the explicitly and the supposed taboo of depicting women’s bodies in such a grotesque way, but as you look closer you will realise that the poem deals with an almost mental illness. Patience Agbabi (who I personally I have watched in performance) is a dynamic poet, so it doesn’t surprise me in the least that she has chosen to write about such a graphic topic.