I have always been really recaletrant to define myself as a “handicapped poet” or a poet with a disability. This hesitancy has been based on a number of factors. For one, I do not necessarily enjoy poets who write as if trapped in their own minority experience. I also have a deep desire, perhaps instilled in me by my parents, to “fit in” on the world’s terms. I also want to note that the only other poet I know with cerebral palsy, Larry Eigner, never made disability a centerpiece in his work. When you do write directly about your “problem” (and we all have them) you risk becoming a poster child. Or James Galvin put it to me best: “One doesn’t need to write about being disabled. (or any minority) Disability will show through in your work no matter the subject.” i.e. One should not use poetry as a method to argue with their oppressors.
However, I have been thinking about movement, breath, voice, and disability in relation to poetry. I recently wrote the lines
An Ars Poetica
move faster than
Soon after, my husband and I went to see Norma Cole, who is arguably one of America’s most important, innovative poets and a good friend. I wasn’t aware that Norma had had a stroke, which had left her silent for a number of months. During the reading, she had difficultly reading. Rather than making a tragedy of the situation, Norma read an oft beautiful, oft-hilarious poem in which she used all the words that she had difficulty saying. The end result was a magical poem.
January 12, 2006