Friday, March 18, 2005

Disabilities Poetry Contest

The annual Inglis House Poetry Contest is now underway. Now in its third year this contest is open to both writers with disabilities and able-bodied writers. There is one new twist to this year’s contest. In the past all writers were asked to submit poems somehow connected to the top of disability. This year there are two categories. The first is open to all writers and the topic, like last year is disabilities. The second category is open only for writers with disability and seeks poetry on any topic. Information about the contest can be found at

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Kaleidoscope and Mindprints

To my knowledge there are only two nationally disseminated hard copy magazines that dedicate themselves to work of writers and artists with disabilities - Kaleidoscope and Mindprints. These magazines provide a chance to look first hand at how individuals with disabilities view themselves and the world through literary essays, fiction, poetry, photography and art. One of the oldest and most respected forums is Kaleidoscope, a magazine that seeks high quality literature and art from the disabilities community. In the mission statement included at the front of every issue since 1979, the editors state it is “not an advocacy, rehabilitation or independent living journal.” Instead it expresses the experiences of disability and seeks to challenge and overcome “stereotypical, patronizing, and sentimental attitudes about disability.” A second and newer literary journal featuring writing/photography by and about individuals with disabilities is Mindprints which comes out of the Learning Assistance Program at Allan Hancock College. Mindprints is no Special Ed workshop project. Under the editorship of Paul Fahey, it is an exuberant, high quality production that is starting to get the wider readership it deserves. It is, as its cover proclaims, a literary journal.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Don't Turn Away

It is not often that you pick up a small, rather unassuming book of poetry and immediately get hooked, but this is precisely what happened to me with Patricia Wellingham-Jones’ Don’t Turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer. As one reviewer implied, this is a book that should be carried around in the hip pocket of many more nurses. I would add – by husbands, boyfriends, sons, and fathers of women with breast cancer as well. It’s a book that neither feels sorry for itself not puts on shows of self-bravado. From the first poem in which the author’s initial diagnosis appears almost from the margins like Icarus in Breugel’s landscape to the last page, this book is an honest chronicling of one woman’s experience with breast cancer and subsequent mastectomy. The poems range from the ironic humor of “Put a Sock in it” to the taut title poem, but they are never self-indulgent. In their very concreteness, they lend themselves to universality – something most of us wish more of our poems do. Don’t Turn Away deserves a wide audience. Another poet who writes of her experiences with breast cancer is Susan Downe. These are featured in her book Little Horse which includes poetry on a variety of other topics as well. I have only seen Downe’s poetry on the web, so I can’t vouch for the entire book. Still, I like the spare, direct style of what I’ve seen so far and think it definitely deserves a reading.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Poetry Read at Penn State

On April 4 there will be a poetry reading of Dancing With Cecil at the Penn State Campus at State College, PA. The reading is being sponsored by the Penn State Library Disability Services. Dancing with Cecil is a collection of poetry about disabilities that resulted from the top work submitted to the last year's Inglis House Poetry contest. When the book was distributed last fall, it met with such an enthusiastic reception that this reading was organized. Readers include nationally known poet Barbara Crooker. Another reading is in the works for Kutztown University on April 16.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Magazines for Writers with Disabilities

Several online magazines have popped up on line within the last few years. One that I particularly like is Audacity magazine. What is great about Audacity is that it is looking for writers for the magazine. If you e-mail the editor, she'll get right back to you with what you need to do. You'll need to be willing to submit a photo, though. Once she gets your work, she'll get it into the next month's edition if she decides to use it. The format is attractive too, so its a great place to get started if you want to get your work out there. Another good looking on-line magazine is Breath and Shadow. Once again, the editor gets back to you quickly. This magazine is a little tougher to get into because its gives first preference to writers from New England in general and Maine in particular, but if you have quality work, they may use it anyway. Take a look at these venues. Let's support the people who are trying to help us get our work out there.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


In the belief that even an old fart can learn new tricks, I am casting these words into the blogfield to see if anything grows. For the past seven years I have been the facilitator of a group of poets with physical disabilities and, though, in a meagre way we have had some successes, its time for a sea change. Other than me, everyone in the group is in a wheelchair and many have limited use of their hands. Chapbooks have been great, but their reach is limited and it’s a one way conversation. The Internet has opened new territory for those of that can use it, as has adaptive equipment like Johnston switches (aka clickers) that allows one or two members to write poetry on the computer using their head. Still, the group is trying to connect to others. That’s one reason for this post. I personally would like to know how other writers with disabilities feel about their work – the purpose, the process or the product. That’s another reason.