This post is part of our series in honor of ADA Awareness Month. While on a national level the focus is disability employment awareness, CKP is focusing on artists.
Maybe you saw the following conversation published in Poetry magazine last December 2014, but in case you missed it, it’s worth reading now. Titled “Disability and Poetry” this is a panel discussion between four poets who have physical disabilities. They talk about how they write, what they write, issues of getting published in a world of ableism poetry, and accessibility problems encountered at reading venues.
The writers involved are Jennifer Bartlett, coeditor (along with Sheila Black and Michael Northen) of Beauty Is A Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (2011); John Lee Clark, DeafBlind poet, essayist, and editor of Deaf American Poetry (2009); Jim Ferris; chair of the Disabilities Studies Program at the University of Toledo, Ohio, and author of Hospital Poems (2004); and Jillian Weise, poet and playwright, author of The Amputee’s Guide to Sex (2007).
Just to give you an idea of the insights this candid exchange reveals about these writers’ thoughts and personal experiences, here are a few excerpts.
“English poets are especially fond of romanticizing and demonizing both deafness and blindness, equating these with silence and darkness—and death.”
-John Lee Clark
“And the metaphors. The moon is blind. The sky is deaf. My love is lame. Your death is a phantom limb.”
“Disability brings with it a wonderful range of remarkable and powerful vantage points . . .but mostly what we perceive isn’t peculiar to disability—it’s peculiar to human life.”
“Despite passage of the ADA. . .disabled people are not broadly recognized as a real minority group in the ways we’ve come to recognize racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities.”
“Disability holds little, if any, weight in academic hiring and securing grants in the way that race, gender, and sexuality can make a poet stand out. [. . .] I really do wish there were grants exclusively for writers with disabilities If we had such a thing, there might be a larger variety of work.”
“What would a [poetry] reading look like if it were accessible to all people? Poetry readings tend to be inherently for a select group of people . . . geared toward people with excellent hearing (in fact uber-hearing because many readings now occur in noisy cafes or bars), often non-wheelchair accessible places. ”
If this whets your appetite, read the full article at the Poetry Foundation website.
-Karyn Lie-Nielsen, CavanKerry ADA Advisory Board