Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Short History of Disability Poetry

Like African-American and feminist literatures, disability literature has a shape and a history to it. Unlike those genres, however, very little writing about disability literature is available. Perhaps the greatest amount writing has come in the region theatre. Published last summer, Victoria Ann Lewis' first of its kind anthology of disability drama, Beyond Victions and Villain is certain to have an impact on thinking in the field. When it comes to disability poetry, though, despite the growing number of individual writers, there has been very little done to look at disability poetry as a genre in itself. There is, of course, the writing of Jim Ferris; Petra Kuppers' work is also beginning to make its way into the public eye. Still much more is needed, especially for the beginning or casual reader. That's where Michael Northen's
A Short History of Disability Poetry published in last month's issue of Wordgathering is useful. While it may not have the academic rigor of Kuppers or the poet's play of words that Ferris' essays achieve, "A Short History..." gives the average reader on the street a good feel for the trajectory of disability poetry: how disability poetry came into being, what it is trying to accomplish, and some of the key players in the field. It won't be surprising to find out that some of these latter include Kenny Fries, Steven Kuussisto, Floyd Skloot, Karen Fiser, Sheila Black, and, of course, Ferris himself. What may surprise readers a bit is the role some of the almost invisible pioneers of disability poetry like Josephine Miles, Larry Eigner, and Vassar Miller. Northen's essay certainly needs to built upon. His insights do not run as deep as those of Ferris or Kuppers, but for the unitiated or those who just want to try get a basic grasp of what disability poetry is and what it seeks to offer, it is a good place to start.


Blogger Jennifer Bartlett said...


I don't know if you've seen my work yet. My first book is Derivative of the Moving Image. Although I don't consider myself exclusively a 'crip poet,' I do have cerebral palsy and write somewhat in the vein of Eigner and Duncan. Thanks for your great posts.

Jennifer Bartlett

January 31, 2009  
Blogger Marie said...

My name is Marie Kane and Mike asked me to write a review of Beauty is a Verb for Wordgathering. I was excited to read this extraordinary book! The review will be published in the September issue. A bit daunting, but I enjoyed doing it.
I enjoyed your work in the book very much, especially the line breaks and indents in "Selections from Autobiography." Lack of punctuation works so well. I have MS and intimately know the sensation of falling.

A pleasure to get to know you through your work.


September 01, 2011  

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