Thursday, June 21, 2007

Journal of Literary Disability

In May 2007 the Journal of Literary Disability published its first issue and, to the great benefit of disability literature in general, dedicated its first issue to disability poetry with the subtitle “Disability and/as Poetry.” Edited by David Bolt and Jim Ferris – one of the pivotal figures in disability poetry – this issue of JLD should become one of the classic sources in the field. In his introduction, Bolt states that the purpose of this issue was to “introduce literary disability to disability scholars,” and, indeed, it is a primer for those interested in the field. In addition to Ferris, this first issue includes writing from many of “the usual suspects” including Stephen Kuusisto, Petra Kuppers, David Mitchell, Sharon Snyder and Susan Schweik. Styles range from playful work of Kuusisto and Kuppers to the more formal work of Mitchell and Snyder. Readers of this issue encounter not only reflection on works of well-known able-bodied authors like Wilfred Owen, William Carlos Williams and Robert Pinsky, but on the work of poets with disabilities that the general reader of poetry may not know such as Floyd Skloot, Josephine Miles, and Mark O’Brien.

The Journal of Literary Disability is a much-welcome contribution to a field which is just beginning to get academic recognition beyond its own discipline. It also provides a nice contrast to Wordgathering, which just put out its second issue in June. Both provide non-stereotypic, non-sentimental forums for disability poetry. While Wordgathering is more likely to appeal to the average poet, teacher or reader who is unfamiliar with disability writing, the JLD provides the kind of academic rigor disability scholar and historian Paul Longmore appealed for that lends academic respectability to the field and provides grist for future research.


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