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Everything is Anatomic

Everything is Skin Deep

We’ve heard it our whole lives. “You are what you eat.” “You’re a product of your environment.” On the most basic sense, these statements make sense. We eat, we drink, we breathe, we move, we live. Underneath our skin, our bodies are much more than transports for our brains.

It was this bridge that Brock University Professor Adam Dickinson wanted to cross with his fourth book of poetry, Anatomic.

On the back of the book, the tagline reads: “We talk a lot about what we’re doing to our environment, but what is our environment doing to us?”

By drawing 76 vials of blood, swabbing bacteria and sending both stool and urine samples for testing, Dickinson began the process of learning what his body is comprised of.

“I had uranium in my blood, dioxin – which was a chemical that was used to try and assassinate a Ukrainian politician, which is also tied to Agent Orange as well […] How did I get them inside me?” said Dickinson.

“In some cases it’s simply from being alive; breathing, eating food. The milk I’m drinking probably has trace amounts of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl). That’s interesting because all PCBs are made by Monsanto (an agricultural biotech corporation). That means you have Monsanto in you. That chemical has a direct relationship to that company. That is disturbing. It’s something that I want the book to evoke and create conversation.”

Using his varying reports, Dicksinson crafted Anatomic, consisting of stories of his journey into his insides, and poems that are both literal and metaphorical in nature.

The constant, ‘Hormone’, rides through the book, along with poems about indigenous communities and Chemical Valley, but the overarching theme is placed on the microbes within his body.

“This book is really about me and what is going on inside of me,” he said. “But everything that’s inside me is inside everyone else as well.”

Anatomic is released on April 14 at the Niagara Artists Centre.

MOUTHFEEL
Catenibacterium mitsuokai
Bacteroides

The tongue map
is wrong.
There are buds down
to the commonwealth.
What was the bliss
point of African blood
in the table sugars
of Europe?
Every year,
spinach produces
a sugar
in its leaves
comparable
to the world’s
annual output
of iron ore.
Without hurting
the taste, a young child
can stand
to keep a hand
in cold water
longer
with a sweet mouth.
The faster starch
converts to Christianity,
the quicker each outreach
over police radios.
O my sweet tooth,
my oatmeal raisin,
my poisoned tipped
candy apple cart.
Pleasure from food
is the air waving goodbye
in heat,
distorted
like an inherited empire.
In this way,
we are closest
to people who touch
what we eat.
Captives of loneliness
stare into icing.
I know enough
about the cherry on top
to lick around the sides.

NOTE: “Mouthfeel” responds to microbial changes caused by the Western diet. High sugar and high fat have resulted in gut microbiomes commonly dominated by the phyla Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. This poem concerns sugar specifically. While its precise effect on the Western diet remains unclear, there is research that suggests the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes is influenced by sugar intake. In particular, the abundance of Catenibacterium mitsuokai and Bacteroides appear to be affected. I found these microbes inside my body after analysing my microbiome.

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