This literature review features resources on disability poetics, including, but not limited to, poetics that are identified or labeled as crip/cripped/crippled, d/Deaf, m/Mad, pain, sick, chronic, psycho, disordered, and more, as other categories and definitions continue to emerge. Also included are published essays and articles with differing perspectives, interpretations, theories, or forms of analyses such as poetic inquiry, form, narrative, meditations, performance, embodiment, “found” poetry, and eco-crip poetics, as well as analyses of works by disabled poets or poets who may or may not have identified as disabled which might be read or perceived as disabled.
Alshammari, S. (2022). Disability as metaphor or resilience: A Palestinian poetic inquiry. In H. Shafeeq Ghabra & W. Adel Afifi (Eds.), Writing occupied Palestine: Toward a field of Palestinian communication and cultural studies [Special Issue]. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 15(4), 362-373. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17513057.2022.2114528.
People’s attitudes toward illness and disability are a product of how they are informed culturally. Most studies on disability offer quantitative views and apply Western disability models. In this paper, through a series of invoked conversations (morphed into poems) with my Palestinian maternal grandmother and my mother, I examine the concepts of resilience, survival, and historical trauma. By using autoethnography and poetic inquiry, I consider the impact of the Gulf War on Palestinian families and treat survival as a tool informed by Palestinian resilience. Circling back to the attitudes of disability, the disability war metaphor has indeed become real. Rather than dismissing disability metaphors as ableist and harmful, taking due account of the situation of cultural attitudes toward disability and resilience is necessary in Global Disability Studies.
Anonymous 1, Anonymous 2, Anonymous 3, Herd, N., Anonymous 4, & Kalifer, D., with support from E. Kuri & A. Fudge Schormans (2020). Justice vs. injustice: Poetic dialogue about the meaning of disability justice among people labelled/with intellectual disability. In P. D. C. Bones, J. Smartt Gullion, & D. Barber (Eds.), Redefining Disability [Personal/Public Scholarship, Vol. 12] (pp. 84–89). Boston: Brill. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004512702_013.
The DiStory project is a multi-year, multi-generational inclusive project in which co-researchers labelled/with an intellectual disability have been collaborating with non-labelled academic and community-based co-researchers to design, develop, and conduct a project whose primary purpose is the co-production of knowledge and development of teaching materials for postsecondary students about the lives of people labelled/with intellectual disabilities. (We use the language labelled/with in recognition of the heterogeneity of people understood to have intellectual disability and of the hurtful impacts being labelled can have on people’s lives.)
Co-researchers labelled/with intellectual disabilities include survivors of Ontario’s large-scale institutions, as well as younger generations of people labelled/with intellectual disabilities. This was by design. It is a means of preserving and sharing survivors’ history of institutional “care” with younger generations of people labeled with intellectual disabilities who, while never incarcerated in these institutions, nonetheless experience institutionalized care and ongoing experiences of discrimination and violence. It was intended as well to challenge perceptions that the closure of institutions has meant that life is now “better” for people labelled/with intellectual disabilities. Instead, it makes plain that while large-scale institutions may, at this moment, be closed in Ontario, institutions and such forms of care continue, and living “in the community” is no guarantee of a “good life” of one’s choosing.
In what follows, the co-researchers labelled/with intellectual disabilities re-define disability using a framework of disability justice. They do so by using a form of poetic dialogue to contrast meanings of disability (in particular, “intellectual disability”) as articulated in their understandings of “disability justice” and its converse—“disability injustice” (pp. 84-85).
Atkin, P. (n.d.). ‘All the living I have left to do’: A disability poetics of dwelling. In Z. Brigley, K. Evans, & R. A. Mackenzie (Eds.), Dwelling [Feature Issue]. Magma 79.
“What might a disability poetics of dwelling in a time of pandemic look like, feel like, or say? I have found a poetics of resistance and perseverance, of anger, negotiation and joy.”
Barrett, K. U. (2022, January). To hold the grief & the growth: On crip ecologies. Poetry, 219(4), 310-322.
“Crip ecologies, crip time, crip ingenuity, crip spirit radically aim to question root systems that keep our imaginations limited and starved. How can we channel joy within our own skins before there is the stethoscope, the specialist’s jackhammered interrogation, before all the stigma we battle? I am not asking to look beyond it, because these constraints in our beings are here and ever-present. I am asking, as poets, as curious people who want liberation, how do we revel in the grief and also the growth we experience? In what ways does this unpack how we are taught to perceive place and nature?” (p. 312-313).
“Grief and the growth is a term used by Bilen Berhanu and Kay Ulanday Barrett during a panel discussion at the 2021 Sick Concert, an event for newly sick, disabled, and spoonie communities, including people with long-haul COVID-19 and more” (p. 310); this is one of two essays adapted from the “Crip Ecologies” reading and lecture series held at the Poetry Foundation.
Bartlett, J, & Black, S. (2023). Disability Poetics: Poetry of Liberation [Website]. Chicago: Poetry Foundation.
“Disability poetry resonates for us because it is fundamentally a poetry of liberation. As the preface to Beauty is a Verb expressed in 2011, ‘the frangibility of the body, the intersection of body and machine (or body and technology), [and] the commodification of the body’ are all topics disabled poets use to examine the idea of what being human and exploring the vast complexity of that humanity means. Although that preface and its sentiment are still accurate, we might now replace the word body in that quote with the word body-mind. Disability poetics speaks powerfully because it articulates the resistance of bodies and minds to the erasure, commodification, convenience, and disposability articulated all around us and that we struggle against. In this collection, we mean to resist.
This collection is on a rolling launch. Texts, audio, and poets will be added up to the end of 2023; revisit for more included poets, poems, and voices!”
Bartlett, J., Clark. J. L., Ferris, J., & Weise, J. (2014, December). Disability and poetry: An exchange. Poetry, 205(3), 271–284.
In this exchange, several poets discuss disability and poetry, specifically publishing and accessibility as well as form and embodiment.
Best, A. (Ed.). My body, my house: Disability poetics, A poetry mixtape [Website]. Montreal, PQ: Poetry in Voice.
“Disability poetics foregrounds the experiences of people with disabilities. Through poetry, disabled people define, shape, and maintain their relationships with disability. I have actively followed the poets in this ‘Disability Poetics’ mixtape and gathered their poems like talismans; keeping a disabled body moving in an ableist world can feel impossible, but these poets, and their works, have been guideposts.”
Poetry in Voice publishes “Mixtapes” which “provide a playlist of poems for when you want to dive into a subject, idea, or theme.” Each Mixtape includes “liner notes” which share “the thought process behind each Mixtape as well as recommended readings if you want to go even deeper.”
Campana, A. (2022, November). You forbid me to walk: Yokota Hiroshi’s disability poetics. positions, 30(4), 735-762. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-9967331.
This article explores the work of the poet Yokota Hiroshi, a leader in Japan’s disability rights movement, and how he used his experiences of having cerebral palsy to create a new kind of disability poetics. Like in much of the world, Japan in the 1970s saw the emergence of disability movements that aimed to challenge the inaccessibility and cruelty of a society made by and for nondisabled people. Yokota was involved with two key groups of this kind—the literary coterie Shinonome and the activist group Aoi Shiba no Kai—and over several decades published multiple books about the ideologies that justified killing disabled people and the construction of disabled society and culture, as well as several books of poetry. In his poems, he aimed not only to shed light on the oppression and dehumanization of disabled people but to rethink dominant conceptions of embodiment and “able‐bodiedness” itself.
Chong, C. (2023, February 28). Writing my way out: A poetics of illness and disability. The Polyphony: Conversations Across the Medical Humanities [Blog].
Reflecting on their pandemic life living in communal halls as a PhD student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Cat Chong considers their practices involved in continually negotiating a chronic illness within the context of Singapore’s circuit breaker measures. [paragraph] The Polyphony is “an online platform for those aiming to stimulate, catalyse, provoke, expand and intensify conversations in the critical medical humanities,” hosted by the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University.
Cosantino, J. (2022). “Now don’t say we didn’t warn you”: A poetic meditation on the (im)possibilities of Mad trans time. International Mad Studies Journal, 1(1), e1–14. DOI: https://doi.org/10.58544/imsj.v1i1.5240.
This poetic meditation explores the (im)possibilities – including imaginaries and dreams, longings and desires, wonders and exhilarations, fissures and fractures, heartbreaks and heartaches – of Mad trans time via the conduit of Mad trans poesis. By placing the complexities of Mad trans subjectivities, meaning making, and knowledge production in relationship to the archive and its residual traces and hauntings, Mad trans time unfolds as a deeply embodied theorizing, challenging and actively disrupting normative temporalities, blurring the artificial boundaries between past, present, and future; knowing and (un)knowing; being and becoming.
Davies, A. W. (2023). Maddening pre-service early childhood education and care through poetics: Dismantling epistemic injustice through mad autobiographical poetics. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14639491231155555.
In this article, the author forwards the importance of mad autobiographical poetic writing to challenge and disrupt epistemic injustice within pre-service early childhood education and care. They explore their own mad autobiographical poetic writing as a queer, non-binary, mad early childhood educator and pre-service early childhood education and care faculty member, and argue that mad poetic writing can methodologically be used as a form of resistance to epistemic injustices and epistemological erasure in early childhood education and care. This article argues for the importance of autobiographical writing in early childhood education and care, and the necessity of centralizing early childhood educators’ subjectivities and histories when addressing – and transforming – issues of equity, inclusion and belonging in early childhood education and care. The personal and intimate mad autobiographical poetic writing of this article – written by the author – focuses on how personal experience with madness as it pertains to working within pre-service early childhood education and care can challenge norms that govern and regulate madness. Ultimately, the author argues that transformation in early childhood education and care can take place by reflecting on experiences of mental and emotional distress, and considering poetic writings as starting places for imagining new futurities and a plurality of educator voices and perspectives.
d’Evie, F. (2022). Post-humanity. In M. Reason, L. Conner, K. Johanson, & B. Walmsley (Eds.), Routledge Companion to Audiences and the Performing Arts. New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003033226-44.
We call to you with vibrational poetics…
This Short will describe an iterative creative project Essays in Vibrational Poetics that addresses post-human audiences. Informed by radical access principles allied to blindness, and consultations with xenolinguists, the collaborative project unfolds by blundering through a series of experimental trials in embodied and inscribed writing, sensorial translation and performative texts. The essay will operate both as an exercise in critical reflection, especially regarding the significance of disability-led practice for engaging with post-human audiences, and an active thinking-by-writing, allowing the narrative to inflect work currently in development.
Davidson, M. (2012). Disability poetics. In C. Nelson (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of modern and contemporary American poetry [Oxford Handbooks]. Cary, NC: Oxford Academic. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195398779.013.0022.
This article presents an overview of disability poetics that addresses not only poets associated with the movement but also a wide range of poets not typically associated with their disabilities. It argues that disability poetics does not describe a movement or an aesthetic so much as a spectrum of positions around embodiment—from poets like Eigner who seldom referred to his neurological condition to self-consciously “crip” poets for whom poetry is an arm (or leg) of the disability rights movement. It also describes the degree to which poetry is constituted by and within ideas of embodiment, from the “oral” tradition to the foot metric to the most recent versions of stand-up (or sit-down) performance. The twin terms resonate loudly in the U.S. context where ideas of embodiment have been synonymous with antinomian positions of self-reliance and independence, and for which dependence and communality are deemed threatening or, in the worst case, un-American. A disability poetics, while forged within the liberating ethos of the Independent Living movement, creates a site where the putative normalcy of bodies, sensations, and agency can be understood differently. If this has been poetry’s ancient heritage, it is also disability’s utopian horizon.
Davidson, M. (2022). Distressing language: Disability and the poetics of error [Crip]. New York: New York University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.18574/nyu/9781479813858.001.0001.
Distressing Language is full of mistakes—errors of hearing, speaking, writing, and understanding. Michael Davidson engages the role of disability and deafness in contemporary aesthetics, exploring how physical and intellectual differences challenge our understanding of art and poetry.
Where hearing and speaking are considered normative conditions of the human, what happens when words are misheard and misspoken? How have writers and artists, both disabled and non-disabled, used error as generative elements in contesting the presumed value of “sounding good”? Distressing Language grows out of the author’s experience of hearing loss in which misunderstandings have become a daily occurrence. Davidson maintains that verbal confusions are less an aberration in understanding than a component of new knowledge.
Davidson discusses a range of sites, from captioning errors and Bad Lip Reads on YouTube, to the deaf artist Christine Sun Kim’s audiovisual installations, and a poetic reinterpretation of the Biblical Shibboleth responding to the atrocities of the Holocaust. Deafness becomes a guide in each chapter of Distressing Language, giving us a closer look at a range of artistic mediums and how artists are working with the axiom of “error” to produce novel subjecthoods and possibilities.
Day, A. (2017). Chronic poetics, chronic illness: Reading Tory Dent’s HIV poetry through disability poetics and feminist bioethics. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 11(1), 83-98. https://www.muse.jhu.edu/article/649381.
The article examines the work of Tory Dent, an HIV-positive poet who completed 3 volumes of poetry from 1993 to 2005. Specifically, the article analyzes two poems that capture Dent’s intertextual poetic, cripped sonnet, and bleeding free-form lines, form that mirrors her imagery of pregnancy, miscarriage, and nursing at a time when HIV was understood as an alien invader. Dent’s poetry can best be understood through a disability poetic, highlighting the relationship of the poem to the page and to the embodied reader. Utilizing disability theory from poets Jim Ferris and Petra Kuppers, alongside Hillary Gravendyke’s conceptualization of chronic poetics, the article argues that Dent creates an intertextual poetic that allows for the poem’s form to replace the poet’s body; she also creates a temporal space that allows for multiple accounts of unknowing. The importance of this intertextuality and chronic poetics is explored through feminist bioethics.
Durgin, P. F. (2009, Winter). Post language poetries and post-ableist poetics. Journal of Modern Literature, 32(2),159-184.
This essay brings together the discourses of contemporary disability studies and radical modernist poetics. Reading the textures of subjectivity in the recent work of post-language poet Laura Moriarty, I elaborate on a tradition in U.S. American poetries whose tenets were pivotally formulated in and by language poetry. My central argument is that such poetries contribute methods and materials key to furthering debates within disability studies concerning “dependency theory.” With regard to the latter, special reference is made to Bradley Lewis’s work on “post-psychiatry,” contemporary articulations of “crip” poetics, and the hermeneutic ramifications of “psycho-social disability.” It is post-language poetics that I find first disclose the promise of post-ableist poetics.
Durgin, D. F. (2008, December). Psychosocial disability and post-ableist poetics: The “case” of Hannah Weiner’s Clairvoyant Journals. Contemporary Women’s Writing, 2(2), 131-154. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/cww/vpn014.
“While Weiner never self-identified as disabled and her brand of poetic self-awareness conflicts with the tenets of contemporary ‘crip’ poetics, her work has been read as dependent upon other postmodern identity categories, such as her Jewishness, her gender, and her position relative to American paracolonialism (especially the American Indian Movement). This essay aims to utilize the conflicts and confluences between Weiner’s ‘clairvoyant’ work and disability studies’ salient findings and frameworks” (p. 134).
Eales, L., & Peers, D. (2021). Care haunts, hurts, heals: The promiscuous poetics of queer crip Mad care. In S. Snider (Ed.), Lesbian Lives, Disabled Lives [Special Issue]. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 25(3), 163-181. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10894160.2020.1778849.
Care is a dirty word for many in our communities. “Caregiving” has become a euphemism for often-indifferent, under-funded labor that is done to our bodies to (barely) enable our continued survival. Care is a dirty word in many of our leftist-feminist communities. Care work is a classification of highly gendered and racialized labor that remains largely unpaid, underpaid, and deeply devalued. Care is a dirty word in our Mad, disability, queer activist communities. “Taken into care” often refers to indefinite confinement, forced extraction from communities and families, and the removal of one’s right to self-determination. Is care even worth reclaiming? In this creative duo-ethnography, a Mad fat femme and a crip ill non-binary queerdo wander through various moments when care has most impacted our lives, our relationships, and our communities. We have each held one another with care on the precipice of dying. Our bodies have shouldered the love-labor of care in the most intimate, exigent, and banal of moments: consensual and playful medication reminders, postsurgery tampon changing, literally squeezing out another’s breath to stay alive—and then repeating—hundreds of times an evening. We have also experienced care that was much too careful, and anything but full of care. We have shared care promiscuously with our crip and Mad (arts) communities in ways that have been life affirming, life changing, sometimes life making, other times life threatening. Through this wandering with ideas, moments, and communities, we reflect upon multiple dimensions of Mad, queer, crip care. Whom is the caring for? What is our care about? And how can our care be given or giving, taken or shared, offered, enabled, and co-created with flourish?
Eugene, N. C. (2016). Misfits in the front of the classroom: Poetic narratives of teaching with a hidden disability. Kaleidoscope: A Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research, 15, Article 3.
Instructors with a hidden disability may choose to talk with their students about their disability, they may choose to pass as normal, or they may deal with their disability in ways that challenge the binary of showing/hiding. Communication about disabilities occurs in contexts that provide a range of possible cultural values that can work to reinforce an individual’s sense of belonging to a group or organization. To examine how graduate students negotiate their disability or illness in the classroom context, I conducted three interviews with graduate instructors addressing how they communicate their disability in the classes they teach. I learned that these instructors often do not explicitly discuss their conditions with their students. Rather, they performed hidden disabilities in both verbal and nonverbal messages. I perform excerpts of these disability narratives by using poetic transcription to highlight the cultural values that surface in each narrative. I then discuss some implications of how hidden disabilities are expressed in university contexts.
Fenge, L. A., Hodges, C., & Cutts, W. (2016). Performance poetry as a method to understand disability. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(2). DOI: https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-17.2.2464.
The Seen but Seldom Heard project was a performative social science (PSS) project which used performance poetry to illuminate the experiences of young people with physical impairments. Two performance poets, a group of young people with physical impairments, and academics from social science and media/communication backgrounds worked together to explore various aspects of the lived experience of disability exploring issues associated with identity, stereotypes, stigma and representation. In this article, we will present an overview of the project and consider how PSS offers a method to engage seldom heard voices, and illustrate this through two poems which shed light on the lived experience of disability. The article will consider the impact of these poems as PSS, and how this method allows the audience to develop a deeper understanding of the “lived” experience of disability and to reflect upon their own understandings of disability and discrimination.
Ferris, J. (2004, Summer). The enjambed body: A step toward a crippled poetics. Poetry and “Poiēsis [Featured Issue]. The Georgia Review, 58(2), 219-233. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41402415.
“Body metaphors abound in discourse about poetry. From the basic unit of meter to discussions of language and form, from the long, skinny finger of the dactyl to the poems beating heart and loping flesh, the body is not just an important image in poetry, it is also an important image of poetry” (p. 219).
Gillies, J. L. (2007). Staying grounded while being uprooted: A visual and poetic representation of the transition from university to community for graduates with disabilities. Leisure Sciences, 29(2), 175-179. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01490400601160838.
Visual and poetic representations are used to illustrate how recent university graduates with disabilities experienced the transition from university to the community. As part of a qualitative research project, I interviewed ten recent graduates, analyzed their stories and created a theoretical model/metaphor of a tree within an ecosystem as a form of creative analytic practice. Two poems were also created using transcripts of two graduates who had polarized transitional experiences. The visual and poetic representations work together to illustrate how imperative it is for university alumni with disabilities to be included in, and connected to, various communities upon graduation to facilitate a smooth transition.
Gould, D. (2021). Disability aesthetics and poetic practice. In T. Yu (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Twenty-First-Century American Poetry (pp. 106-119). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108699518.009.
American poets increasingly began to bring disability into their poetry in a more direct way in the 1980s and 1990s. Along with their embodied experiences living with disability, the work of many of these poets represents their involvement in the disability rights movement and disability culture and puts disability at the center of the poetry by writing primarily for disabled (rather than nondisabled) readers. I call the twenty-first-century poets who continue this tradition of disability culture poetry “crip poetry.” Examples discussed include Meg Day, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Amber DiPietra, Denise Leto, Petra Kuppers, Neil Marcus, Constance Merritt, and Molly McCully Brown. In contrast, I call the twenty-first-century poets who develop disability poetics that are not written primarily for disabled audiences, and that are often based in other aesthetic movements and/or identities, “disability poetry.” Examples discussed include Bettina Judd, Airea Matthews, David Wolach, and Brian Teare.
Gravendyk, H. (2014, Fall). Chronic poetics. In J. Lyon (Ed.), Disability and Generative Form [Special Issue]. Journal of Modern Literature, 38(1), 1-19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2979/jmodelite.38.1.1.
This essay examines the late work of one poet strongly identified with disability studies in order to offer an account of disability’s role in poetic practice at the turn of the twentieth century. A phenomenological engagement with Larry Eigner’s work demonstrates how traditions of disability studies and formalist discourse can produce a more flexible mode of criticism that incorporates both. What I’m calling chronic poetics extends the reach of disability criticism’s relevance to all bodies, not the disabled body alone. Chronic poetics is a phenomenological account of perception and artistic practice that allows the shared conditions of embodiment to emerge from the text. Thus chronic poetics fulfills the imperatives to significantly address the fact of disability and further to determine whether disability is a meaningful critical frame for thinking about literature.
Hall, A. (2015). Voice and poetry. In A. Hall, U. Heise, & G. De Ferrari (Eds.), Literature and disability (pp. 149-163). New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/97813157265950.
“By focusing on poetry and voice, this chapter addresses an area in which disability studies criticism, with its close attention to narrative, has often remained surprisingly silent (Schweik 49). Recently, scholars such as Michael Davidson, Susan Schweik, Jim Ferris and Petra Kuppers have sought to emphasise the importance of attending to the presence of disability in poetic traditions and to celebrate contemporary works by poets with disabilities through their scholarship. Kuppers, for example, is both a poet and a critic; she suggests that poetry can be socially valuable as a creative and pedagogic practice in its own right: “poetry can perform the binding of community and the singularity of experience” (“Performing Determinism: Disability Culture Poetry” 90). In an image resonant of the tapestry in Titus Andronicus, she suggests that “reading poetry and weaving myself into myth rehearse these pleasures of texts for me…an undoing and doing that binds me to a story, to a people, to a land. In that land, I can lose myself, unbind, and gather again” (“Disability Culture Poetry: The Sound of the Bones. A Literary Essay”). Here, Kuppers seeks to celebrate a sense of collective identity through the recuperation of shared myths, stories and poetic traditions relating to disability, but she also celebrates her own capacity to actively reinvent them in the present day. [paragraph] The poetic examples discussed in this chapter are connected through their concern with questions of voice and voicelessness. The poets discussed draw on different intertextual threads, recalling a long concern with categories of disability and ability in poetry from Milton’s “On Blindness” (1655) and Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric” (1867) to Wilfred Owen’s “Disabled” (1917) or Emily Dickinson’s embodied aesthetics. The first section of the chapter explores conditions of physical and social voicelessness in poetry, particularly in relation to the frequent representation of the natural world. The second part focuses on the ways in which the “crip poetry” movement can be understood as a means through which poets with disabilities can find a voice through an interconnected body politics and poetics. Thinking about disability poetics adds to the existing rich tapestry” (pp. 151-152).
Hart, G. (2010). “Enough defined”: Disability, ecopoetics, and Larry Eigner. Contemporary Literature, 51(1), 152–179.
This essay discusses the ecopoetics of disabled poet Larry Eigner.
Hart, G. (2021). Finding the weight of things: Larry Eigner’s ecrippoetics [Modern and Contemporary Poetics]. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
Larry Eigner (1927–1996) wrote thousands of poems in his lifetime, despite profound physical limitations caused by cerebral palsy. Using only the thumb and index finger of his right hand, Eigner generated a torrent of urgent and rich language, participating in vital correspondences as well as publishing widely in literary magazines and poetry journals.
While Eigner wrote before the emergence of ecopoetics, his poetry reflected a serious engagement with scientific writing and media, including Rachel Carson’s seminal Silent Spring. Eigner was writing about environmental disasters and climate change long before such concerns took on a moral incumbency. Similarly, Eigner was ahead of his time in his exploration of disability. The field of disability studies has expanded rapidly in the new millennium. Eigner was not an overtly biographical poet, at least as far as his physical limitations were concerned, but his poetry spoke volumes on the idea of embodiment in all its forms.
Finding the Weight of Things: Larry Eigner’s Ecrippoetics is the first full-length study of Eigner’s poetry, covering his entire career from the beginning of his mature work in the 1950s to his last poems of the 1990s. George Hart charts where Eigner’s two central interests intersect, and how their interaction fueled his work as a poet-critic—one whose work has much to tell us about the ecology and embodiment of our futures. Hart sees Eigner’s overlapping concerns for disability, ecology, and poetic form as inextricable, and coins the phrase ecrippoetics here to describe Eigner’s prescient vision.
Hodges, C. E. M., Fenge, L., & Cutts, W. (2014). Challenging perceptions of disability through performance poetry methods: The ‘Seen but Seldom Heard’ project. Disability & Society, 29(7), 1090-1103. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2014.9077.
This paper considers performance poetry as a method to explore lived experiences of disability. We discuss how poetic inquiry used within a participatory arts-based research framework can enable young people to collectively question society’s attitudes and actions towards disability. Poetry will be considered as a means to develop a more accessible and effective arena in which young people with direct experience of disability can be empowered to develop new skills that enable them to tell their own stories. Discussion of how this can challenge audiences to critically reflect upon their own perceptions of disability will also be developed.
Holowka, E., Salazar, R., & Turner, L. (Eds.). (2022, Spring). Sick Poetics [Special Issue]. CV2, 44(4).
“Sick Poetics is an issue dedicated entirely to exploring the limits and boundaries of sick, crip, mad, and disabled poetry. The work within this issue comes from emerging and established poets, writing through a wide variety of styles and experiences. Their pieces both contradict and complement as they weave through the complexities of harm and healing, fear and safety, death and life. There is hurt and anger, but there is also joy. As Tanis MacDonald writes, “This is supposed / to be grief; / but so is everything.”
Hoyer, J. M. (2022). Thinking inconveniently: A neuroqueer project on mathematics and lyric poetry. In S. Pfleger & C. Smith (Eds.), Transverse disciplines: Queer-feminist, anti-racist, and decolonial Approaches to the university. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3138/9781487538262-012.
[To the reader: I (the author of this essay) am a non-linear thinker. Convention would have me correct this in written expression by laying out ideas one by one, spatially distant from one another; yet for me, comprehension comes when all the ideas are visible at once in an interconnected fashion. The object shown in Figure 8.1 is, I hope, a helpful visualization of what I mean: while there are some pieces of the sphere that are right in front, all the other pieces, and the scissor joints and nodes that connect them, are all always visible. Figure 8.1 is a snapshot approximating how this essay is meant to function–a transverse text to the academic essay. As Transverse Disciplines aims to draw attention to different ways of thinking, and because the subject matter of this essay is my research and the neuroqueer mind that makes it possible, I thought it fitting to construct an essay that allowed the non-linear way in which I perceive and relate information to be visible. The different style and formatting features of the essay are dynamic pieces, joints, and nodes of intentional, consistently potentially visible connectivity, within and beyond this essay.]
Kuppers, P. (2007, April). Performing determinism: Disability culture poetry. Text and Performance Quarterly, 27(2), 89-106. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10462930701251066.
‘‘Performing Determinism’’ discusses the performance of disability through poetry: the instability of language, the ability of words to clasp both generic and specific meaning, and the gaps that surround the performances of self. Disability culture acts as a frame for the inquiry, as the essay discusses crip aesthetics, crip critical practice, and the embodiment of language. In the reading of poems by Jim Ferris and Stephen Kuusisto, disability culture emerges as an impossible horizon of desire, and as the ground for contemporary performances of criticism and writing. Citation becomes performative, and creates repetition in difference.
Kuppers, P. (2013). Decolonizing disability, indigeneity, and poetic methods: Hanging out in Australia. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, 7(2), 175-193. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3828/jlcds.2013.13.
The article witnesses encounters in Australia, many centered in Aboriginal Australian contexts, and asks what arts-based research methods can offer to intercultural contact. It offers a meditation on decolonizing methodologies and the use of literary forms by a white Western subject in disability culture. The argument focuses on productive unknowability, on finding machines that respectfully align research methods and cultural production at the site of encounter.
Kuppers, P. (2022, January). Crip ecologies: Changing orientation. Poetry, 219(4), 330-336.
In this essay, the author discusses embodiment and their orientation to “‘crip’ ecologies”—the environment and world around them—and how this orientation “fuels [their] … creative practice,” including personal interactions and creative writing, including poetry. This is one of two essays adapted from the “Crip Ecologies” reading and lecture series held at the Poetry Foundation.
Kuppers, P. (2014). Trans-ing disability poetry at the confluence. TSQ, 1(4), 605–613. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/23289252-2815120.
This essay offers a poetics of trans-ing at the confluence of disability culture and trans cultural expression, indigenous naming of the land and performance trance. It discusses work by genderqueer poet Eli Clare and by Anishinaabe poet Margaret Noodin before analyzing the process of a translatory videopoem collaboration between Denise Leto and Petra Kuppers. One difference is not the same as another, but between experimental poetics, assemblage, and occupied land, we sound in the waters.
Kurt, E., et al. (2022, Fall). Coalition-in-progress: Found poetry through phone calls with people labelled/with intellectual disability during the COVID-19 pandemic. In A. Patsavas & T. Danylevich (Eds.), Crip Pandemic Life: A Tapestry [Special Issue]. Lateral, Issue 11(2).
For institutional survivors and their younger peers labelled/with intellectual disability, the COVID-19 pandemic and its related lockdowns carry over past experiences under government-directed isolation and mandatory medical interventions. The sudden convergence of past and present necropolitical ableism in labeled persons’ lives colours this crisis, as we—a group of survivors, younger labeled people (who have not lived in institutions), and researcher/allies—attempt to simply stay in touch amid digital divides that cut off our once vibrant, interdependent in-person activities. No longer able to gather, and with limited Internet (or no) access, we resist social abandonment through phone calls. During phone conversations we discuss the affective contours of this time: grief over the past, loss of agency, restrictive rules in group homes, the dynamics of protest, fear sparked by public health orders, and a mix of anxiety and hope about the future. Taking this telephone-based dialogue as evidence of our lives in these times, we present a brief body of collectively written found poetry, a form of poetic inquiry composed of phone call snippets. This piece, coauthored by twenty members of the “DiStory: Disability Then and Now” project in Toronto, Canada, offers a snapshot of coalition-in-process, keeping in touch amid a crisis that threatens our togetherness and—for some more than others—our lives. Following Braidotti, we couch this found poetry in a brief commentary on our slow, in-progress attempt to “co-construct a different platform of becoming” with one another amid a divergence of historical and contemporary inequities. [paragraph] Note: Each of the authors of this paper made their own decision as to whether to use their full name, first name only, or initials.
Li, R. (n.d.). Sonnets fragmented: The poetics of disability [Website]. Ann Arbor: Author.
“The inspiration for this sonnet webtext arose from Melanie Yergeau’s Digital Disability course at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. I recast ideas and language from the readings discussed in the class into poetic form and convey the insights I have gained from the course. Each sonnet is followed by the same sonnet fragmented, the breakage of form mirroring/echoing the disruption of disabled experience by the built physical or digital environment. As disabled experience transcends constraining environments, the line breaks, akin to curb cuts, illustrate the tensions, frictions, and fissures of design. I conceptualize fragmentation as productive, critical, and disharmonious in its intentions and instantiations.”
Loth, L. (2019). ‘The natural elements unchained’: Trauma, disability, and Gisèle Pineau’s poetics of disaster. In J. L. Frengs (Ed.), Le désastre naturel au féminin: Women Writing Disaster in the French-Speaking World [Special Dossier]. Women in French Studies, 27, 34-48. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/wfs.2019.0018.
The present article takes the theoretical frameworks of trauma studies and disability studies to consider Guadeloupian author Gisèle Pineau’s use of disaster as a metaphor for mental illness and trauma, while at the same time commenting on historically and materially situated catastrophic events that mark and alter the bodies and psychological conditions of Caribbean women and their communities. In two recent works that shift between figurative and literal imagery of catastrophes, Folie, aller simple (2010), and Les voyages de Merry Sisal (2015), Pineau intersperses disaster imagery and the complex psychological trauma of catastrophic events in what I am calling here a “poetics of disaster.” Whether disaster becomes the metaphor through which trauma and mental illness are articulated, or whether her text explores the lived experiences of survivors of historic disasters, these two texts plumb the depths of a discourse that is rooted heavily within the lexical field of disaster, a linguistic terrain where expressions of psychological trauma and physical disability are often inextricable. Pineau’s work insists upon the necessary inevitability of eruptions, earthquakes, and storms in the Caribbean islands, and by using these events as foils or metaphors for the trauma and psychological disability that result from socio-economic, often gender-based oppression and violence, she brings the question of “natural” and “disastrous” cycles of human behavior into stark relief.
McGrath, J. (2023, March 31). Poetry and stimming. The Polyphony: Conversations Across the Medical Humanities [Blog].
In this blog for World Autism Acceptance Week, James McGrath, an autistic poet and academic, advocates the value of “stimming” and explores how it relates to poetry.
The Polyphony is “an online platform for those aiming to stimulate, catalyse, provoke, expand and intensify conversations in the critical medical humanities,” hosted by the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University.
Mintz, S. (2012). Lyric bodies: Poets on disability and masculinity. In D. Nelson (Ed.), Twentieth-Century Poetry: Expanding Archives and Methods [Special Section]. PMLA, 127(2), 248-263. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1632/pmla.2012.127.2.248.
This essay extends the study of disability and masculinity representations by exploring the transformational possibilities of poetry as exemplified in the work of Tom Andrews, Floyd Skloot, and Kenny Fries. It argues that lyricism as a process of invention and play enacts both disability and male identity as equally unfixed and that through an “accidental poetics” each author engages with maleness as a continually renegotiated experience necessitated in part by the conditions of disability. Challenging norms that pertain to them as men with disabilities, resisting the imposition of controlling ideological narratives, Skloot, Fries, and Andrews revise themselves as textual bodies whose unruliness is instantiated and celebrated in the unique structural and figurative moves of verse.
Mironescu, D. (2022). Poetry, disability and metamodernism: Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic. In L. Milesi & R. Vancu (Eds.), ‘Make It New’ Once Again: Experimental Trends in 21st-Century Poetry in English [Feature Issue]. Word and Text, A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics, XII, 95-109. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.51865/JLSL.2022.07.
Based on Ilya Kaminsky’s poetry volume Deaf Republic (2019), this article aims at placing contemporary disability poetics at the crossroads of modernism and metamodernism. The first part makes an assessment of the modernist poetics of disability created against the background of the prevalent ableist ideology as it is found in the American and Romanian traditions, and examines the ways in which disabled poets react, creatively and politically, to the tradition of marginalization to which they were subjected. A particular place is given to Deaf poetry and to the limitations it had to surpass socially and creatively. In the second part of the essay, I introduce metamodern affect to sketch out a poetics of disability in the 21st century which overcomes the predicaments of modernist writing and reading codes through a new way of conceiving corporeality, oppression, and relationality.
Mishra, A. (2021). Disability as an existential challenge: Reading the body in Sarah Ismail’s poetry. How Bodies Matter [Special Issue]. Tête-à-Tête: Journal of French and Comparative Literature, 1, Article 5.
“Sarah Ismail’s poetry is against the binaries of life. It is also a questioning of the ideas that are associated with normalcy which in fact are privileged when thought of from the point of view of the disabled individual. The simplest activities of life become difficult for a person with disability. The inability of the disabled person is often blamed on fate and bad luck. But, the disastrous impact that it has on the disabled person cannot be brushed aside. It is very important that the disabled person is able to keep one’s persona intact. It need not be compared with the so-called normal and pushed to feel a sense of lack within. It is only when we as a society will be able to inculcate behavioral changes that we will be able to accept disability as a natural state of being. It is only when this normalcy is restored that we can behave equally as individuals and as a society with people with disabilities. The aim should be to get over the sense of patronization that inadvertently enters the psyche of the ‘normal’ people. There is no scope for excessive sympathy in an exchange between the normal and the disabled subject. This must be done away with in order to ensure that optimal respect and decency is meted out to the disabled subject.”
Mullaney, C. (2019). “Not to discover weakness is the artifice of strength”: Emily Dickinson, constraint, and disability poetics. J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, 7(1), 49-81. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/jnc.2019.0002.
This essay explores how Emily Dickinson’s impairments influence the composition of her poems. From remaining skeptical of medical care to refusing to acknowledge the “Names of Sickness,” Dickinson considers how she might convey disability in ways that challenge diagnostic frameworks. I show how Dickinson’s early fascicle and late scrap poems translate physical impairment into textual form through representations of constraint: a term that both poetry and disability share. The essay begins by assessing the poet’s reclusion (what the field psychiatry termed “agoraphobia” at the close of the nineteenth century), proposing that her references to material enclosures and use of space on the pages of her poems implant spatial constraints that temper feelings of expanse or openness. Next, I explore poems that make explicit reference to blindness and consider how Dickinson’s eyestrain in the mid 1860s influenced the presentation of her poems in bound form. I conclude the essay by positing that Dickinson’s preoccupation with death influenced the unbound form of her late scrap poems. In adopting Tobin Siebers’s “theory of complex embodiment,” the essay reckons with the reality of the poet’s bodily and cognitive constraints to reveal how Dickinson registers disability via textual form.
Nance, S. (2023). Inhabiting duration: Contemporary poetry, chronic illness, and environmental time. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, 17(1), 59-75. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3828/jlcds.2023.4.
In examining poetry about chronic illness from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the article investigates how poets assess and complicate the durations that mark illness. Within the technology-studded healthcare spaces of the 1990s and 2000s, these poems navigate the various scales and technological feats at the forefront of their treatment: the visibility of cancerous cells on an image, the transplantation of an organ, or the amputation of a breast. Although medical technology helps these writers initially traverse the alternative temporalities and scales to which illness draws attention, the poems ultimately move outside of the healthcare realm, instead engaging with environmental spaces. In so doing, these poems come to rely on the expansive timeframes of large-form ecological scale to represent the experience of chronic illness.
Neilson, S. (2020). Getting there: Pain poetics and Canadian literature. In A. Hall (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Literature and Disability. New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315173047-22.
The preference for narrative within disability studies itself – perhaps more broadly, the privilege of prose over poetry as a substrate for scholarly analysis – is one of the reasons why pain lacks a poetics within the field. In addition to the field’s preference for narrative, another reason to account for the lack of disability pain poetics might be what Mark Osteen has identified as the social model’s “neo-Cartesian duality – its separation of body from mind, of impairment from disability” leading to inadequate theorizations of pain as an experience. A hierarchy is thus established in a formative anthology, though it is a hierarchy shared in disability studies scholarship too. The poem remains in the zone of damage metaphor but the representational strategy is alternative in that the wound is foregrounded in a framework of healing. Trying to determine the bodily location of pain through listening to a patient history is, in medical sense, the point of taking a history.
Nielsen, E. (2016, Fall). Chronically ill, critically crip? Poetry, poetics and dissonant disabilities. Disability Studies Quarterly, 36(4). DOI: https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v36i4.5124.
In this hybrid critical-creative paper, I explore disability poetry and crip poetics via my manuscript, Body Work. Poetry provides a site to explore crip experience because, as Petra Kuppers (2007) argues, “poems and their performance of meaning clasp something of crip culture’s force” (p. 103). Here, the “instability of language” (Kuppers, p. 89) provides a way of understanding chronic illnesses as “dissonant disabilities” (Driedger & Owen, 2008). In placing chronic illness in a disability studies framework, and via crip theory, which critiques the common sense naturalness of ability and heterosexuality, I investigate how chronic illness demands ways of understanding that intelligently address mind and body unpredictability. In close, I will revisit Robert McRuer’s notion of “critically crip” arguing that any claim to crip be enacted with intentional criticality.
Nielsen, E. (2021). Chronic poetics and the poetry of chronic illness (in a global pandemic). In C. Kim (Ed.), Pandemics [Special Issue]. Canadian Literature 245, 47-63.
In this paper, I query what the poetry and poetics of chronic illness might offer now, in the time of a pandemic. In doing so, I take up Hillary Gravendyk’s “chronic poetics” which brims with generative potential especially when focused on the poetry and poetics of chronic illness which presents unique insights—not to mention poetic forms—into how to live with uncertainty. Specifically, I turn to Fionncara MacEoin’s Not the First Thing I’ve Missed (2014), Anna Swanson’s The Nights Also (2010), and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Bodymap (2015) in order to illustrate why chronic illness is a poignant site of living in precarity but also in “collective affinity” (Kafer 10). The poetry and poetics of chronic illness provides a crucial site to explore feminist, queer and crip experience in giving voice to the intensity of living with mind, body, and/or bodymind unpredictability.
Nygren, A., & Bertilsdotter Rosqvist, H. (2022). Theorizing autistic sexualities as collective poetic experiences. In R. Rozema & C. Bass (Eds.), Sexuality [Feature Issue]. Ought: The Journal of Autistic Culture, 4(1), Article 6.
This article is a palimpsest emerging as part of a project of collective autoethnographic writing on the theme of sexuality. It draws on the intensification of friendly writing, friendly as in friends with benefits. We write as autistic and neuroqueer subjects, writing until our textualities becomes sexualities. We write until the text becomes a room – call it Earth or call it Body, call it Brain or call it Heart – in which one could crack meanings―but these are not the most important ones. Instead of meanings and positions, we want to write about movements in time. The time it takes to read a body that is never a body of your own but a part of a tiny orchestra. The time it takes to formulate a voice that speaks through mutism. This peculiar collection of letters works with our writing subjects as moments of memories. Reliving sexual moments – renaming sexual moments as sexual moments. Writing becomes an act of embodied and embrained tension and fusing. Maybe the text will revive in your hands—by reading it, you will write another version with us, of you. We are sensory strangers fucking through texts. Come play with us.
Owen, A. (2023). Brotherhood of the Wordless: Voiceless wonders. In L. G. Phillips & T. Bunda (Eds.), Storying social movement/s [Palgrave Studies in Movement across Education, the Arts and the Social Sciences]. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-09667-9_5.
This chapter stories the movement of The Brotherhood of the Wordless, a group of creative writers formed in 2003. The members of this group live with a diverse range of disabilities, the most disabling being their inability to use oral speech to communicate. However, when given the opportunity and individualised assistance to communicate via typing they could clearly and consistently demonstrate their hidden capacity to not only communicate fluently but write creatively. Through meeting, writing, publishing, and performing, Alice Owen, Speech Pathologist and Dance Therapist, and various poets and creative writing tutors have worked with the Brotherhood (see http://brotherhoodofthewordless.com) to facilitate the joy of using words creatively and sharing the extraordinary results as widely as possible with spoken word performers at festivals and community events, social media and publications. Alice shares how through the Brotherhood’s creative writing, members have at last been recognised as people with something to say. When the members move into the Arts world as opposed to the labelled Disabled world, their talent is applauded and valued and they now self-advocate individually and as a group for changes in the way the Disabled world operates to keep people captive in a system with low expectations, learned helplessness, and lack of choice and control. The Brotherhood meets multiple times each month driven by the urge to continue to connect, create, and support each other and to fight for change in the systems that denied them the means to express themselves and participate fully in society. Through the movement, they have collectively transcended these difficulties and are determined to keep telling their stories.
Pafunda, D. (2012, March). The subject in pain: A poetics. In J. Carr & J. Rivera (Eds.), The Shape of the I: The Response Issue [Special Issue]. English Language Notes, 50(1), 93–98. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/00138282-50.1.93.
Petra Kuppers writes about the feminism/embodiment/disability/poetry/performance (FEDPP) research project, an arts-based inquiry conducted with a number of experimental feminist poets who see themselves in relation to disability. The essay uses a cultural studies lens to trace how acts of poetry-making situate themselves in community building and experimentalism. How can poetry-ing speak to experiments at the level of sociality? How can we find accessible forms of being open to one another? How to create art in the presence of pain and alienation, without causing it? How to provide artful comfort without closure? These are the FEDPP project’s core questions.
Pérez Casanovas, A. (2023). On the borderlands of Madness: Narrative tactics of resistance in C. P. Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and Disability Justice. In Pragmatism and Feminism. Epistemological, Social, and Political Spaces of Resistance Symposia [Special Issue]. European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, XV-1. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/ejpap.3250.
Storytelling is a central device in cultures of resistance, which enables us to trace back such cultures to precedents in the history of literature that in turn can furnish new strategies of resistance by providing narrative tactics. This paper argues that Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper develops narrative tactics of resistance which can be fruitful for contemporary Mad Pride activism and poetic practices. To do so, I borrow a Foucauldian approach to account for how Gilman challenges the psychiatric industrial medical complex in her writing. First, the story is contextualized in nineteenth-century American psychiatry, and some critical warnings on the writer’s position concerning liberation movements are offered. Subsequently, I focus on three narrative tactics of resistance deployed in The Yellow Wallpaper: (1) an indetermination of genre, (2) a tension between form and dementia, and (3) a double subjectivity in the oscillation between the pronouns “one” and “I”. Finally, the reassessment of Gilman’s writing from the lens of Disability Justice is summarized in two results: first, it strengthens the grounds of Mad Pride by imbricating it in American literary and philosophical canons and, second, it provides tactics to open spaces of resistance for contemporary authors in the movement.
Pickens, T. (2021). Ghosts of disability in Naomi Shihab Nye’s Transfer. In C. Wu, C. Y. Lie, J. Kupetz, & J. B. Kim (Eds.). Sex, identity, aesthetics: The work of Tobin Siebers and disability studies (pp. 77-80). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.11769364.
“In what follows, I explore the ghosts of disability within Arab American poetry. Broadly speaking, ghosts feature as a trope within Arab American literature, symbolizing and working within a liminal space that muddies the demarcations of past, present, and future and, often, intervening in characters’ or speakers’ lives to wild effect. Given the tradition’s emphasis on memory—historical and cultural—this particular trope gains political resonance as a way to reckon with or launch a critique. Ghosts of disability are an intriguing form of said trope since they insist not only on the murkiness of temporality and memory but also question the unimpeachability of disability as corporeal. To be clear, ghosts of disability are distinct from disabled ghosts—those rattling chains for madness’s sake or those haunting the places or people responsible for a crucial (possibly fatal) physical or mental injury; that is, ghosts of disability are those that lived with disability such that their memories or their legacies would be incomplete without incorporating the complexity of disability into their narrative. These ghosts create afterlives of disability then, where despite disability being noncorporeal, it remains complex, mercurial, and influential. I examine Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry collection Transfer (2011) for how Nye’s father, Aziz Shihab, a displaced Palestinian who died of cardiac and renal failure, becomes a ghost of disability and, withal the unruliness that entails, shifts the poetics of the collection itself.”
Quinlan, M. M., & Harter, L. M. (2010). Meaning in motion: The embodied poetics and politics of Dancing Wheels. In H. Rose & J. Ferris (Eds.), Emergent Poetics [Special Issue]. Text and Performance Quarterly, 30(4), 374-395. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10462937.2010.510911.
This essay examines poetic sense-making and illustrates the significance of numerous story forms, including dance, for organizations that do the work of social movements. We demonstrate how meaning emerges through motion, even as it is expressed and negotiated in language in two vital ways. First, we engage the early work of Kenneth Burke to explore the poetic nature of storied forms and connect it with contemporary studies of dance that emphasize the agency of bodies. Second, we illustrate the efficacy of this position by bringing into focus the efforts of The Dancing Wheels Company & School, a modern dance company integrating professional stand-up and sit-down (wheelchair) dancers in performances that seek to transform public understandings of disability. We construct an account of how the studio and its members rely on movement and other signifying practices to engage, orient, and motivate contemplators, remember history, and enlarge possibilities for individuals marked as disabled.
Roberts Bucca, K. (2023). A schizo-poetic inquiry of a first-year doctoral Experience. Art/Research/International:/A/Transdisciplinary/Journal, 8(1), 100–124. DOI: https://doi.org/10.18432/ari29652.
Undertaking a doctoral program is a significant commitment involving sustained effort as an individual engages in academic work and scholarly identity formation. As a graduate student with a psychiatric disability, I face an added layer of challenge: dealing with symptoms as I navigate an academic system that is not designed for bodyminds like mine. This poetry and visual art collection offers a glimpse into my experience as a first-year doctoral student with schizoaffective disorder as I navigated Zoom classrooms, considered academic timelines and campus mental health awareness week, and wrestled with symptoms during the summer session. Through a schizo-poetic and visual inquiry informed by disability poetry and schizo-poetics, I present an embodied, multi-sensory exploration to highlight similarities and differences in the experiences of doctoral students with mental illness and their neurotypical peers, as well as to expand the conversation around disability and academia.
Rodas, J. M. (2018). Autistic disturbances: Theorizing autism poetics from the DSM to Robinson Crusoe [Corporealities: Discourses of Disability]. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.9365350.
While research on autism has sometimes focused on special talents or abilities, autism is typically characterized as impoverished or defective when it comes to language. Autistic Disturbances reveals the ways interpreters have failed to register the real creative valence of autistic language and offers a theoretical framework for understanding the distinctive aesthetics of autistic rhetoric and semiotics. Reinterpreting characteristic autistic verbal practices such as repetition in the context of a more widely respected literary canon, Julia Miele Rodas argues that autistic language is actually an essential part of mainstream literary aesthetics, visible in poetry by Walt Whitman and Gertrude Stein, in novels by Charlotte Brontë and Daniel Defoe, in life writing by Andy Warhol, and even in writing by figures from popular culture.
Autistic Disturbances pursues these resonances and explores the tensions of language and culture that lead to the classification of some verbal expression as disordered while other, similar expression enjoys prized status as literature. It identifies the most characteristic patterns of autistic expression-repetition, monologue, ejaculation, verbal ordering or list-making, and neologism-and adopts new language to describe and reimagine these categories in aesthetically productive terms. In so doing, the book seeks to redress the place of verbal autistic language, to argue for the value and complexity of autistic ways of speaking, and to invite recognition of an obscured tradition of literary autism at the very center of Anglo-American text culture.
Rogers-Shaw, C. (2021). Enhancing empathy and understanding of disability by using poetry in research. In N. Dickson & D. E. Clover (Eds.), Adult Education, the Arts and Creativity [Special Issue]. Studies in the Education of Adults, 53(2), 184-203. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02660830.2021.1920740.
Research poetry, valuable for its poignancy and creativity in analysing and presenting data, can enhance comprehension of research content, move political policy by drawing on readers’ emotional connection to participants, inspire social justice activism, and increase accessibility to disability research. The field of adult education acknowledges and strives to address issues of social justice by amplifying voices that are often unheard. Using research poetry, scholars can challenge hegemony not only through research content but also through their writing format, particularly in disability research that considers society’s traditionally accepted view of an ideal human body.
Salerno, C. (Ed.). (2022, August). A Forum on Disability Poetics — curated by Christopher Salerno. Tupelo Quarterly 27.
An expansive, curated folio of poetry focusing on intersectional disabled experiences.
Savarese, R.J. (2013). Toward a postcolonial neurology: Autism, Tito Mukhopadhyay, and a new geo-poetics of the body. In M. Wappett & K. Arndt (Eds.), Foundations of Disability Studies (pp 125–143). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137363787_7.
In the preface to his best-selling book An Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks contends that he is no ordinary doctor/author. “I have taken off my white coat,” he declares, “deserted, by and large, the hospitals where I have spent the last twenty-five years … feeling in part like a naturalist, examining rare forms of life; in part like an anthropologist, a neuroanthropologist, in the field—but most of all like a physician, called here and there to make house calls, house calls at the far border of human experience” (xx). The case studies that make up the book are thus intended less as explorations of neurological pathology than sympathetic portraits of human diversity. Yet the good doctor wants it every which way. His shifting metaphors and anachronistic fantasy work to humanize the scientific authority required to tell these stories, but the authority itself is never renounced, nor is its connection to a pathologizing impulse. Indeed, both remain in the kinder, gentler figure of the physician or anthropologist. Apparently oblivious to the oppressive history of anthropological endeavor, Sacks, for example, reinscribes the center/margin binary that makes colonialism possible, exactly as he would have us believe in his folksy goodwill.
Scheuer, C. (2011). Bodily compositions: The disability poetics of Karen Fiser and Laurie Clements Lambeth. In E. Donaldson & C. Prendergast (Eds.), Disability and Emotion: “There’s No Crying in Disability Studies!” [Special Issue]. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, 5(2), 155-172. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3828/jlcds.2011.13.
The article focuses on the poetry of Karen Fiser and Laurie Clements Lambeth to examine how poetic language and form are shaped by both the poets’ bodies and the way that their bodies relate to their environments, to spaces and institutions both private and public. Poetic language allows these writers to articulate the layered, enigmatic relationship between the particularity of somatic “feelings”—the body’s experience of itself and the spaces and objects with which it interacts—and emotional expression. Both poets develop an aesthetics that reflects the body’s particularity and that explores the tension between the limits and possibilities of communication in speaking about emotion and illness. As aesthetic objects that bridge the gap between the sayable and the unsayable, these poems can be circulated, not only forging new communities of poets and critics, but also extending or changing the terms of the conversations that people are having about disability, the body, aesthetic theory, accessibility, and communication. Through the creation of new, startling, and nuanced metaphors and images, disability poetry can begin to alter the “objects of emotion” that circulate in public discussions of disability.
Schumer, L. (2018, May 18). Finding communion in disability poetics. The Ploughshares Blog [Website].
A personal essay discussing disability poetics and how the genre helped the author understand and cope with systemic ableism and “enables readers with different abilities to see themselves portrayed in a clear, unsentimental way. It also gives voice to a population that mainstream society often tokenizes, while acting as a driver toward social change. I found the genre, like I suspect many do, at the very moment when I needed that guidance the most.”
Smith, P. (2001, October). Inquiry cantos: Poetics of developmental disability. Mental Retardation, 39(5), 379-390. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1352/0047-6765(2001)039%3C0379:ICPODD%3E2.0.CO;2.
Postmodern thought is increasingly critical of foundations central to modern, positivist research into the lives of people labeled as having so-called developmental disabilities and mental retardation. This approach has brought about changes in how developmental disability is both understood and, ultimately, created. Responding to what has been called the postmodern turn, some disability studies scholars are choosing to represent their work in alternative textual formats, including poetry and fiction. These texts, representing multiple subjectivities, offer ways to explicate, problematize, and reconstruct new ways of understanding so-called developmental disability that are complex and plural. Examples of alternative research texts are provided from a recent qualitative research project with self-advocates and their construction of choice, control, and power.
Smith, P. (2018). Writhing writing: Moving towards a mad poetics. Fort Worth, TX: Autonomous Press.
“To dive into Phil Smith’s writing – a dazzling blend of poetry, ethnography, social critique, and gleefully mad wordplay – can feel more like taking a psychedelic drug than like reading the work of a distinguished scholar. And yet, a distinguished scholar he is. For two decades, he has been a bold trailblazer and innovator in the realms of education, disability studies, mad studies, neurodiversity, and poetry, and in exploring how these realms can interconnect and inform one another Each chapter of this book is a poetic thought experiment that shreds cultural norms and assumptions, points the way toward new creative directions in scholarship, and might make your brain explode” (Nick Walker, Author, educator, and neurodiversity scholar).
Swafford, S. (2023). On a scale of one to ten: A lyric autoethnography of chronic pain and illness. In M. S. Jeffress, J. M. Cypher, J. Ferris, & J. A. Scott-Pollock (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Disability and Communication (pp. 129-144). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-14447-9_9.
This chapter layers poetry and prose in a lyric autoethnography to explore and exemplify the “crip time” of living with chronic pain and illness. Through poetic personal narrative, the author illustrates her disjointed, nonlinear experience of disability. Building upon the work of scholars who have turned to autoethnographic and poetic inquiry for doing disability studies research, this chapter demonstrates the possibilities of lyric autoethnography for humanizing sterilized medical discourses and constructing textual representations of crip time. The author uses the pain scale as a framework for assembling poetic narrative fragments in a nonlinear layered account, turning the restrictive numerical measure into a heuristic for writing with and through chronic pain and illness.
Tierney, O. (2020, December). Disability poetics: Media, performance, technology [Special Issue]. Amodern 10.
“In this special issue, contributors attend to the intersections of the body-mind with poetry, media, performance, and technology to unpack the meanings of disability and being disabled. The poetics – and politics – of disability makes possible multifarious forms of invention, while challenging received cultural assumptions about body-mind functionality. The contributors engage disability as it informs and is informed by embodied experiences of race, class, kinship, gender, sexuality, and location. Their essays approach the poetics and politics of disability to apprehend the body and mind, while thinking through how language, performance, and technology critically shape both representation and situated experience. This special issue underscores that to stage poetry – and the language we use to examine, describe, study, write, or imagine the poetic object – in relation to a wide spectrum of embodiment and cognition is to critique and reimagine the representations that reduce the disabled body and mind to clinical protocols. How does new media reimagine the interiority of the body-mind? How do sensory experiences expand into technological spaces? Where do ideas of body and mind collide with the transformative context of textual and physical bodies?”
Tsaplina, M. (2020, July). Bodies speaking: Embodiment, illness and the poetic materiality of puppetry/object practice. Journal of Applied Arts & Health, 11(1-2), 85-102. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/jaah_00020_1.
The theoretical turn to object ontologies in the social sciences and the humanities brings puppetry work related to illness, disability and health to the forefront of artistic practice-as-research, disability studies and the medical/health humanities. Articulating chronic illness and disability through the tools and practice of puppetry animation can help form complex embodiment, where the person is empowered to value their embodiment as a site of knowledge. Puppetry pedagogy can train the bodies of medical students and clinicians to develop the capacity for embodied attunement and may decolonize both the knowledge of the body and medical education by reunifying mind, body and imagination. By training to perceive materials both physically and poetically, puppetry allows silenced bodies and histories to speak.
Unger, M. I. (2013). “Dropping crooked into rhyme”: Djuna Barnes’s disabled poetics in The Book of Repulsive Women. In Women Writing Disability [Special Issue]. Legacy, 30(1), 124-150. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5250/legacy.30.1.0124.
“In the early decades of the twentieth century, Djuna Barnes envisioned modern poetry as perhaps the last space for the ugly, disabled, and unsightly in America—a metaphorical and imaginative space, of course, but a realm nonetheless open to ideological, physical, and aesthetic differences in American culture. While the rest of the country grew increasingly enamored with the standardizing ethos of the new century that sought to excise physical difference from public space, Barnes turned to avant-garde verse to imagine a new body for American women that celebrated rather than sterilized American difference. Scholars have hailed Barnes’s Nightwood for liberating the modern subject from racial, sexual, and gendered restraints, but it is actually her largely forgotten early poetry that places her at the center of disability discourse in the modern American scene. Her first published collection of poetry, The Book of Repulsive Women, rejects the principles of the American System—a national program of standardization that flourished in the early decades of the twentieth century—and instead indulges in the unsightly, the non-normative, and the vulgar. Published in 1915, this chapbook contains eight “rhythms” that feature ugly and disabled women and five drawings that illustrate human difference within US literature and culture, puzzling together a modernism out of American non- normativity rather than American standards of order, efficiency, and control. In this way, Barnes fashions disability as a modernist and particularly feminine aesthetic for American poetry, a cultural medium that in turn offers a place for the unsightly that national space no longer provided” (p. 124).
von der Weid, O., Monte do Vale, G. M. do S., Oliveira Gonçalves, C. C., & Guaraná Bello, R. de C. (2022). Corpogravure of a circle meeting: Poetics and politics of blind women in Brazil. In A. Allen, C. Penketh, & A. Wexler (Eds.), Thematic Issue on Disability Justice: Decentering Colonial Knowledge, Centering Decolonial Epistemologies. Research in Arts and Education, 2022(3), 65–74. DOI: https://doi.org/10.54916/rae.125087.
This text is an ethnographic report of shared authorship between members of the Brazilian Movement of Blind and Low Vision Women and the anthropologist Olivia von der Weid. We interweave embodied narratives about the unique ways in which the experience of being a visually impaired woman is expressed in their bodies and lives. Understanding that the bonds and connection established in a circle with other women is a fundamental link in the composition of this collective, members of the movement share their marks and what they have inaugurated in themselves, their ways of re-existing after the destabilizations experienced in their training and employment trajectories. Bringing the body, gestures, and movement as motivating elements of exchange and production of knowledge, treating skin as a map of our experiences, we compose here a live image of an event, a corpogravure, with the embodied words of visually impaired women and what they reverberate.