On Body Weight and Weddings

(Why I was so happy to be a ‘Plus Size’ bride.)

I’m a woman who wears a size 16 / 18, which puts me firmly into what is described as the ‘plus sized’ bracket, although I’m fairly sure it’s decidedly average. (Seriously, I’m tall and thick and I’ve got plenty of bits that wobble, but I’m pretty sure I’m an average sized person. The High Street refers to 14+ as above average size, which is bollocks). I’m also, incidentally, a woman who got married this summer.

I have been, plenty of times in my life, what the media and fashion industry would have us call ‘average sized’, and definitely even ‘skinny’. Bereavement, escaping from an abusive relationship, work anxiety, heartbreak, mental ill-health – going through all these things over the years has made me thinner, and of course, miserable. My body is this size and shape right now because I am happy and active and busy and hungry, so I eat well. This, in turn, is due to the support of brilliant friends and family and my (now) husband.

Perhaps this is naivety on my part (on the whole I make as much effort as possible to avoid the more insidious messages of the diet and fashion industry for my own wellbeing) but when I started sharing with people that I was going to be getting married, I was completely bowled over by how far-reaching and certain and presumptuous the idea was that, as a woman, I would of course be going on a diet ahead of my ‘big day’. What I mean is, it was such a powerful and clear message, and one that was coming from all directions (films, TV, wedding magazines and websites, some friends and associates, bridal advertising) that I genuinely didn’t even question it at first. My thought process was something like: I probably should make an effort to lose some weight if I’m going to be wearing a dress, and people will be looking at me all day.



But here is the thing: dieting, for me, is dangerous. It is a narrow, winding mountain path, which I can drive down easily, but it is almost impossible for me find anywhere to turn around, or reverse back up it. Diets are a way of controlling the food I eat, which gives me a false sense of control over the rest of my life. So I control it some more, and then some more, in smaller and smaller portions. Going on a diet whilst doing something as stressful as planning a wedding? Bad idea.

Moreover, there is a bigger picture to be considered here. I suppose it’s great that I have reached a stage in my life where I am able to recognise those dangerous patterns in my own eating habits, and try to avoid them. But then real question is, why is it such an accepted narrative that we should try lose weight for our wedding day? I know for certain that some people will read this and think ‘but it’s your wedding, don’t you want to look your best?’ I know some people will think that, because sometimes I thought that aometimes, too.

It is so difficult, in the face of messages coming from every angle of the media (and our own selves, sometimes), to remember and accept the idea that our bodies are ever changing, evolving vessels for us to live in, and that we are allowed to feel good about them whatever shape, size or state they happen to be right now. My body is this shape, at this stage in my life, because I don’t spend much time thinking about what it looks like. I eat food and drink beer and go dancing and camping and hiking with my friends and my family and my husband, I work hard and write poems, and I don’t have much time to obsess about every line and shade of my silhouette. This is simply the way my body is right now, nothing could be less complicated.

There will, no doubt, be hard or sad or stressful times to come in the future, and maybe this will cause my weight to fluctuate again. Maybe my weight will fluctuate just because I’m a 21st century woman, and my work and life and lifestyle changes from year to year. The point is, I don’t want it to matter. I don’t want it to mean anything. I don’t want any value to be placed on the shape that we are, or are not. And for me, making this idea into a reality meant starting with my own wedding day.

Last thing. Obvious but important – most of the diet, fashion and beauty industry is basically negging on us, like a desperate night club sleaze. And it’s working. They have got us believing that our entirely average, healthy bodies are ‘plus-sized’, ie ‘above average’ size, to keep us feeling like outsiders; meek and subservient, and buying into their narrow concept of what beauty can be (both idealistically and financially).

So I didn’t going a wedding diet. I was what wedding magazines would have us believe is a ‘plus-sized’ bride. Right now – the dimples on my arms, and the squashy bits of flesh by my armpits, that catch the light in photos? The rolls of my belly which hang over the waistband of my leggings? The second chin that pops out to say hello when I’m laughing? They are all bi-products of me being happy. They are me looking my best. And I hope the photographs of my wedding day to document that happiness.


Me and my husband and all my chins having a great time gettin’ hitched at glamourous Doncaster Registry Office. (Photo by Duncan Stokes.)


Note – of course there are exceptions to the insidious wedding industry media that I’m complaining about! It’s not all bad. I loved apracticalwedding.com and thefeministbride.com

‘Boys’ review // BBC show // news


This week I was thrilled to receive a copy of the September issue of the very beautiful Doncopolitan magazine, with a lovely review of my recent poetry collection ‘Boys’ by Ian Parks, a poet who I very much admire.



At the end of last month, I also wrote and performed a commission for BBC South West as part of their Massive Attack Re-interpreted show at The Cube in Bristol. It was all a bit of a rush to meet the deadline, so I wouldn’t say its a piece that stands up to much scrutiny (!) but I very much enjoyed writing something for such a big occassion and of course I love any chance to celebrate Bristol’s cultural history. You can listen HERE to my piece and to the whole show, which included brilliant artists such as ThisisDA, Kayla Paynter and Stephanie Kempson.


This Sunday (18th September) I’m running a poetry workshop for 8 – 11 year olds for Hurst Festival, in the very cool setting of Holy Trinity Church, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, BN6 9TY, surrounded by the new installed Reflections art exhibition. If you know a small person that might like to come along, tickets and details are HERE!

In a few weeks on Monday 26th September I’m performing BLAHBLAHBLAH at The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol with Soweto Kinch and Toby Campion. They are both artists who I admire ALOT so I think it will be a great show, I am also planning to perform some extracts FOR THE FIRST TIME from the piece I was working on during my residency at Skriduklaustur, Iceland earlier this year. AAAAAGH.

Upcoming shows – Aug, Sept, Oct 2016

Quick update of upcoming poetry readings and workshops that I’m doing in the next few months!

  • Sat 27th August – Shambala Festival, Wandering Word Stage, 3.40pm

Beloved Shambala Festival, hands down my favourite festival in the whole world. Its sold out this year, but if you’re gonna be there, make sure you come and check out the Wandering Word Tent – bringing you the very best in poetry, spoken word and hip-hop!

Featuring Andy Oliveri, Jilk, Kayla Painter and ThisisDA as well as ME and Stephanie Kempson, re-interpreting tracks from Blue Lines. SO exciting. This gig will take place the night before Massive Attack’s live return to the city.

  • Mon 26th September Blah Blah Blah @ The Wardrobe Theatre, BRISTOL. With Soweto Kinch and Toby Campion. Gonna be lovely! Details here and tickets here.

If you want to book me for a gig, please do get in touch- sallyjenkinsonpoetry@gmail.com

Notes from Skriduklaustur #5 – on being alone

I have got 4 days left of my writing residency at Skriduklaustur, in East Iceland.

I feel bowled over with gratitude for such an amazing and rare opportunity to take so much time to work on my writing, and in such a uniquely beautiful place.

The Fljotsdalur valley is one of the most beautiful places that I have seen in real life. Despite getting to travel more through writing and performance work in recent years, I still would not call myself a confident traveller, and I must admit I was daunted by the idea of coming all this way on my own, and staying in a place with no transport links or nearby amenities (I’m 39k from the nearest town).

People have been super kind and friendly, and in truth it has not been as scary or isolating as I was worried about, but still a challenge for a woman who grew up in a big,  noisy household and has always lived in cities!

I’m still ruminating on the effects of being alone on my creative process.

On the one hand, I have undeniably got lots of work done. I have managed to not only fully draft, but also start to edit and appraise and re-edit, this piece ‘Like The Water’ (mentioned in my previous post) which I have been trying to carve out the time to work on for years. I feel excited and intrigued by the results, and confident that I’ve got an interesting body of work which I can continue to work on back in the real world (it so much easier to work on and develop something which already exists than it is to create fresh work, in our busy lives). I have also finished a few articles (more on that later) that I had been commissioned to write, and had the creative time and space at explore other new writing – not attached to any particular project, just for the joy of making new poems, notes and ideas and squirreling them away until they’re ready to see daylight or be worked on later.

On the other hand, I have been second-guessing myself at every turn of the creative journey. Is this any good? Is it actually completely awful? Am I wasting this precious time by working on the wrong thing, weighting my time wrongly, pursuing work which is not high enough quality? In some ways, I still have no idea of the answer to these questions, and I don’t feel like I will know until I am back in my real life. It is as though being away from my reality – my friends, family, artistic community, and indeed any people at all, for the most part, has switched off my calibrator of what is and isn’t good writing, in my own work. It is interesting to realise, as a poet (ostensibly a very lonely pursuit) how actually collaborative my writing-mind is. I listen to and discuss and engage with other people at every step of the process of gathering ideas and creating work, often implicitly, and much more than I had realised.

There have been three undeniable advantages to working here, and working in solitude, though, and for those I am most definitely a better writer after this experience; this incredible setting (this house, the people who curate it, its resourses and this landscape around me) and the chance to explore it, the time and space to read everyday (and so much)*and of course, the lack of real-life distractions, meaning that I have now got those precious actual words on actual paper (and MS Word files) to work with, going forward!


Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe’s 2010 collection ‘There’s an Island in the Bone’. I bought this copy in Columbo in 2011 and it has been everywhere with me on my travels ever since; south-east Asia, Australia, Iceland.

*I have re-read Jackie Kay’s collection ‘The Adoption Papers’ and Ramya Chamalie Jirasinge’s ‘There’s An Island In The Bone’, two of my favourite books of poetry, both of which remind me what kind of writing I might one day create if I keep trying and learning. I have also read ‘The Good Shepherd’ and ‘Black Cliffs’ by Gunnar Gunnarson, two very different styles of novel, but both full of rich, loving, scary, and awesome descriptions of the Icelandic landscape, making them so brilliant to read whilst staying here, in the Fljotsdalur valley and in Gunnarson’s house! I  borrowed the english translations from the library here at the culture centre, and should you ever come across a translation in your own language then I really recommend both novels.

Notes from Skriduklaustur, East Iceland #4 -Like The Water

So the main reason I came here, apart from looking for waterfalls and falling off my bike, was to work on a piece I’ve been trying to have a proper go on for almost ten years. It has gone through so many configurations in that time, and is still forming itself really, so everything I say about it here can basically be prefixed with the sentence-starter ‘at the moment’.

Here goes. At the moment it is a long story / very short novel (piece of fiction, at any rate) in verse. It is broken into poems, like a collection of poems, but with a strong narrative throughout. It is set in Morecambe (or any northern seaside town where your imagination chooses to take you), and the voice is of a young woman who has been recently bereaved of her sister (step-sister, I suppose, but more on that later). To tell you any more would be giving too much away, but the themes I’m trying to deal with are; sexuality and mental health and grief in young people (especially young women), the ways in which a family can grieve seperately and collectively, and most importantly for me, it is a love letter to the non-nuclear family.

I will be editing and re-apprasing it for a long time to come, but it seems rude not to share a tiny peek at it, seen as we’re here.


Excerpt- ‘Like The Water’, early draft.


Notes from Skriduklaustur, East Iceland. #3

This week I climbed up to Hengifoss, the second highest watefall in East Iceland. There is a tried an tested tourist path all the way up, but I’ll be honest I felt like an intrepid explorer, or Benedikt going to collect his sheep. There were parts where I couldn’t see another living soul, or even sign of life (house, car, road, shed) anywhere, which was an amazing feeling. The landscape up there reminded me most of the yorkshire moors, though obviously the mountains are much bigger. The floor is springy dry grass, mosses, low plants and rocks, and completely rough, no flat spaces.

I’ve also been cycling around the Fljótsdalur valley a lot, and fallen off my bike atleast twice from staring at the mountains instead of looking where I was going.

I visited The Wilderness Centre in the Óbyggðasetur Íslands (about 10k from where I’m staying). I was lucky enough to have a tour of the museum exhibit, even though it won’t be properly open until June. It is such a beautiful and special place, every detail of the place is restored in the old style, as though you are stepping into the past. Have a look here for more details http://www.wilderness.is/

Lastly, I have actually finished the first draft of the thing that I came here to work on. I’m going to share a tiny peep of it in a seperate post. Look out!

‘Boys’ – new poetry collection readings

In June and July I’ve got some lovely gigs coming up where I’ll be reading from my new collection ‘Boys’, published by Burning Eye Books. London (twice!), Bristol, Winchester, Bournmouth, Cambridge, Glastonbury Festival, Larmer Tree Festival and Brighton. Do come along if you’re interested!

Copy of Fashion Poster Template

Dates and places where I’ll be reading from ‘Boys’