Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Foust, Lambeth and LaFleche: Three Worth Reading

Wordgathering has just reviewed the work of three new poets whose work deserves further mention: Rebecca Foust, Ellen LaFleche and Laurie Clements Lambeth.
So here goes.

Foust’s Dark Card centers around the experience of the poet and her son, who has Aspergers. The title refers to the card of the “idiot savant” that she has to continually play in order to help her son navigate through the cruelty, both intentional and unintentional, that he encounters on a regular basis. Foust also explores the emotional terrain of the narrator herself. In both cases, the book is remarkably free of standard clichés of disability.

Freedom from clichés is also one of the many virtues of Lambeth’s Veil and Burn , a book in which the author explores the unravelings of her own nervous system. The book sandwiches poems with prose fragments to tell the story, but it is not a story in any conventional linear sense. Mix sexuality, optic neuritis, horses, hypothesthesia, Georgia O’keefe, Alfred Hitchcock and you get…well a book of disability poetry much too rich and complex to describe in this paragraph. It's better to check out the Wordgathering review.

Less structurally complex but equally as emotionally sophisticated is Lafleche’s Estella, With One Lung. While Foust’s invectives against the medical establishment occasionally border on rant, LaFleche’s more subtle accusations are actually much more cutting. Estella follows the life a blue collar woman and her family from the time of her refusal of further chemotherapy through her death. The major drawback of LaFleche’s work is that it is still in manuscript form – one that some publisher really needs to grab.

All three of these works presage good things for disability poetry. They are pushing the genre, each author in her own way. Surely bookstores can make room on the shelves for quality work like this, but they will only do it if college instructors recommend these to their classes and readers of poetry request them. Please do.


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