Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sharon Wachsler and Breath & Shadow

Though it is late, it is still appropriate to add Dispoet’s two cents to recognizing Sharon Wachsler, who has stepped down this year as the poetry editor of Breath & Shadow for health reasons. As Sharon tells it, the creation of Breath & Shadow was something that was more or less thrust upon her over five years ago. Once she had it handed to her, though, she pursued it with a passion which has made it one of America’s pioneering small literary magazines.

Breath & Shadow was the first quarterly literary magazine in the country to be totally written and published by writers with disabilities. Wachsler imbued the magazine with her own personality, drawing to her talented poets and writers with disabilities from around the country who were more politically vocal than those appearing in Kaleidoscope but did not always have the academic pedigrees or connections that sometimes seems requisite for Disability Studies Quarterly. Moreover, because of Wachsler’s hard work and creativity, B & S has always been free to anyone with access to a computer. Her ongoing dialogue with readers about just what disability is and the platform that she provided for writers, especially poets, with disabilities has and is continuing to help shape the genre of disability literature in the United States.

The job of poetry editor for Breath & Shadow has now been handed over to Arden Eli Hill, who comes with his own credentials. If poetry style of the editor is any indication, the magazine will be in for a change. While Wachsler’s own political-style poetry is about as subtle as a vaudeville pie in the face, Hill’s put a much greater emphasize on literary innovation. It should be an interesting transition to watch.