Monday, July 16, 2007

Ona Gritz

Ona Gritz is a poet whose work deserves much wider attention. Gritz is mostly noted as a children’s author, but as a writer with CP, she also merits much more recognition from the disabilities community. Some of her strongest work deals directly with disability and what is particularly striking about her poems on disability is the lack of a surfeit of emotion that detracts from the experience of the poem. She is neither angry nor resigned, neither sentimental nor heroic, and, thankfully, does not pass a torch of responsibility or solution off to God. In “Hemiplegia”, she conveys her own experience.

Left, my bright half, gets all of it...
soft sharp prickly wet lined.
But press your head against my right shoulder,
I sense weight but no warmth.

Her prize-winning poem “First Anniversary”, written for poet Dan Simpson, she says considers a different aspect of disability,

One night, you asked the color

of my hair then repeated the word brown,

an abstract fact to be memorized.

The dark strands were splayed

on your chest

Gritz’s only published book of poetry, Left Standing, was put out by Finishing Line Press as part of a women’s writing series and is, unfortunately, not too readily available. Nevertheless, if you can get it, the search is well worth it. The book deals with her parents, one in each half of the book. One of he highlights of the book is her poem “Til Death” in which her mother finally escapes from her marriage to her father by being cremated rather than buried next to him. The poem ends:

Sealed from Jewish heaven, like Lilith,
she shrugged. She’d had enough of him in life.
Fifty years, shrill spats. Silent treatment,
separate beds. At last it was official, eternal.
The way she saw it, he dug this grave.

For those beginning writers who think that poets can only be successful through the use of $50 words and extra-textual literary allusions, Left Standing should be mandatory ready. Without pretense or fanfare, Gritz shows you how it’s done.


Anonymous Ona Gritz said...

Thank you for speaking so highly of my work. I'm honored!

July 26, 2007  

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