How do the poets present femininity and relationships within ‘Eat Me’ and ‘Material’?
Ultimately, Ros Barber and Patience Agbabi both illustrate the intimate relationships; natural femininity and expectations that society has of women in their presentation of a toxic romantic relationship in ‘Eat Me’ and the overwhelming desire to emulate her mother in ‘Material’. These three convey the crucial themes which both poems hinge upon. The retrospective quality of both offer a sense of clarity which, tinged with poignancy, also offers an unclouded narrative of relationships and allows the speakers to appreciate and evaluate these connections in past tense. The presentation of femininity in a “mum’s embarrassment of lace” compared with her own “neglected-looking kids” and “too fat to be called chubby, cuddly, big-built” underscore the societal pressures placed upon women and how this often manifests itself in the physical. This is reinforced both in the presentation of the body: “watch me swell like forbidden fruit…I was a tidal wave of flesh” and through objects, the handkerchief for “fencing tears” and “smudge the rouge from little dears”. Both the body and the handkerchief become a symbol of femininity and thus motherhood. However, the retrospection illuminates how both poems are touched by a nostalgic pathos of guilt; an inability to meet society’s expectations: “what awkwardness in me forbids…?” and a desire to fulfil their roles yet feeling inadequate in their attempts.