Body Image Poems

Body image is a popular contemporary topic in poetry. It considers how individuals judge their own bodies and the bodies of others.

Poems about body image are often contemplative and sometimes hard to read as writers, and the personas they channel, dig into their emotions and depict startling judgemental and painful thoughts about their worth in relation to how they look.

Other poets take a different approach, choosing to use a poem about their body image, or someone else’s, to uplift their individual understanding of what they’re worth. Many contemporary poems celebrate the differences to be found in human bodies and remind readers of their own worth.

Ellen West

by Frank Bidart

‘Ellen West’ by Frank Bidart is a long poem capturing the life-defining moments of Ellen West, a woman who was the signature case for existential analysis in the 19th century. The poem is narrated majorly by West herself, with her doctor Ludwig Binswanger intermittently rendering a clinical analysis of her behaviour.

This poem focuses on the poet's persona, Ellen West, and her distorted view of her body image. It is this view that nurtures her desire to be thin and, later on, not to have a body. Throughout the poem, West's thoughts, especially about people she admired, involved some description of their physique. She also regularly shames her own.

I love sweets,—


would be dying on a bed of vanilla ice cream . . .

But my true self

is thin, all profile

Next Day

by Randall Jarrell

‘Next Day’ by Randall Jarrell is a confessional poem with a conversational tone that articulates the complex emotions of aging and change.

In 'Next Day,' the speaker's fixation on her physical appearance and aging face carries great meaning. While the speaker craves to be young, beautiful, and hopeful again, even at the cost of being miserable and poor, she has already gotten everything she has wanted from her life. Stuck in a feeling of meaningless ness and hopelessness, she fixates on the prospect of her death, seeing it in the wrinkles on her face.

Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,

I take a box

And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.

Teddy Bear

by Alan Alexander Milne

In ‘Teddy Bear,’ the titular stuffed bear frets about his chubby body. A chance encounter with a plump passerby helps Teddy realize that fat men can still be held in high esteem, giving him newfound confidence about his appearance.

This poem is a funny fable about body image that resonates today. Teddy is initially unhappy with his tubbiness but learns to love his body after a chance encounter with a plump stranger.

A bear, however hard he tries,

Grows tubby without exercise.

Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,

Which is not to be wondered at;

Still I Rise

by Maya Angelou

‘Still I Rise’ is an inspiring and emotional poem that’s based around Maya Angelou’s experiences as a Black woman in America. It encourages readers to love themselves fully and persevere in the face of every hardship.

Body image is subtly touched upon in 'Still I Rise' as the poem challenges societal norms and expectations. Maya Angelou's words encourage readers to embrace and appreciate their bodies, refusing to be defined by narrow standards of beauty. The poem celebrates self-acceptance and challenges the destructive influence of body shaming. It serves as a reminder that true beauty comes from self-love and acceptance.

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Vain and Careless

by Robert Graves

‘Vain and Careless’ exposes the superficiality and consequences of thoughtless actions, exploring the incompatibility of hearts in relationships.

The poem depicts body image as a deceptive and superficial aspect of human existence. The vain man's desperate pursuit of attention and the lady's carefree nature suggest the emptiness of prioritizing external appearances. The poem critiques a society that values surface-level beauty over genuine emotional connections, highlighting the need to look beyond physical attributes to understand and appreciate individuals truly.

Lady, lovely lady,

Careless and gay!

Once when a beggar called

She gave her child away.

Show It At the Beach

by Shel Silverstein

‘Show It At the Beach’ by Shel Silverstein addresses taboos in contemporary society. Specifically, the poem considers when nudity is appropriate and when it isn’t (on the beach). 

The poem highlights the issue of freedom of expression as it questions why some things are acceptable to be shown in certain spaces while not in others. It also suggests that people should not be ashamed of their bodies or any element of their personality.

Oh, they won't let us show it at the beach.

No, they won't let us show it at the beach.

They think we're gonna grab it if it gets within our reach.

And they won't let us show it at the beach.

Between the Breasts

by E.E. Cummings

‘Between the Breasts’ is a celebration of sensuality, desire, and the uninhibited pursuit of pleasure, using unconventional language and vivid imagery to evoke intense emotions and challenge traditional poetic norms.

The poem indirectly addresses the topic of body image through its celebration of physical attributes and sensuality. The poem portrays Marj's body as desirable and strokable, highlighting the appeal of different body parts. While it doesn't explicitly delve into body image issues, the poem contributes to the broader discourse on the perception and appreciation of diverse body types and the celebration of physical beauty in its own unique way.

between the breasts

of bestial

A Question

by Robert Frost

Frost’s ‘A Question’ is a powerfully emotional poem. In it, the poet paints a picture of suffering, pointing to the fact that life itself is filled with scars of the soul and body.

A voice said, Look me in the stars

And tell me truly, men of earth,


by Eavan Boland

‘Anorexic’ by Eavan Boland conveys the mindset of a woman determined to destroy her physical body through starvation and filled with hatred for her sinful past, as according to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve.

Explore more poems about Body Image

Got You

by Jackie Kay

‘Got You’ by Jackie Kay is an interesting poem about sibling jealousy and the strength of sisterhood. The speaker is a discouraged child who believes her sister is superior to her in every way.

Never Trust a Mirror

by Eric Hanson

‘Never Trust a Mirror’ by Erin Hanson is a poem about beauty and self-worth. The poet describes the untrustworthy nature of a mirror and how one shouldn’t take what they see in it for granted. 


by May Swenson

‘Question’ is a poem written in the form of an interrogation. Throughout this piece, May Swenson asks how she could hide her soul after the body dies.


by Judith Ortiz Cofer

‘Quinceañera’ appears in Judith Ortiz Cofer’s Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood (1991). This coming-of-age poem is about a speaker’s physical and mental changes.

The History of Red

by Linda Hogan

‘The History of Red’ by Linda Hogan describes the life of the color “red” and how it has represented humankind’s will to live through time.


there was some other order of things

never spoken

but in dreams of darkest creation.

The Pornographer

by Robert Hass

‘The Pornographer’ appears in Robert Hass’s Yale Series of Younger Poets Award-winning collection Field Guide (1973). This poem is all about an artist who finds it difficult to get rid of his thoughts.

The Same Note

by Jackie Kay

‘The Same Note’ by Jackie Kay depicts Bessie Smith’s musical ability and how she could unite people from all walks of life. 

The Youngest Daughter

by Cathy Song

‘The Youngest Daughter’ was published in Cathy Song’s first poetry collection Picture Bride (1983). This poem explores the relationship of an aging daughter and her mother.

when god lets my body be

by E.E. Cummings

‘when god lets my body be’ is a poem about the cycle of life and death. The poet E.E. Cummings describes how he wishes to be part of nature through death.

From each brave eye shall sprout a tree

fruit that dangles therefrom

Women and Roses

by Robert Browning

‘Women and Roses’ by Robert Browning conveys a man’s perspective on women throughout time. They are represented by three apples on his metaphorical apple tree.

I dream of a red-rose tree.

And which of its roses three

Is the dearest rose to me?

We're glad you like visiting Poem Analysis...

We've got everything you need to master poetry

But, are you ready to take your learning

to the next level?