Sunday, January 18, 2009


Things are about to get more difficult for people with disabilities getting around. As reported in today's NY Times, fares for access-a-ride in New York may rise to $4-$5 a ride. It seems grossly unjust that people who are at a disadvantage in some many ways will pay more than their so-called able-bodied, employed brothers and sisters. One might argue that is unfair that PWD get a 'personal ride,' and this is a good argument, yet it is flawed. As I described before, one must order A-A-R 1-2 days in advance, pick-up time is not guaranteed and drop off time seems random. One would be better off taking a cab, if only they were accessible. 

Part of the issue, of course, is poverty. PWD are, without argument, the poorest of society. PWD have a 70% unemployment rate. If one is 'able' to work, one must overcome numerous prejudices in order to find a job. Unlike African Americans, there is no official Affirmative Action for people for disabilities. To my knowledge, there aren't many placement places either. Getting SSI or disability isn't easy either. Many people wait up to THREE YEARS in order to receive funds. SSI is for people who can't work at all, and like many welfare(s) it is a joke -- $900.  When I had SSI in my early twenties, I was given $600 a month. Supplemented with baby sitting and students loans, this was enough, but for most people it's beyond ridiculous.

Three years ago, I was pretty much forced out of my job with the New York City Dept of Education -- yea, another good teacher bites the dust! At this time, I was allotted about $2000 for SSDI. The difference between SSDI and SSI is that the former is for people who did work and 'became' disabled. 

I choose to work, when I can get it/do it. In this I forfeit my disability money. I have always wondered whether (morally) I should get that money because I am (mostly) 'able' to work. What is my moral obligation? Here is the problem, it is about 100 times more difficult for me to get a position than a so-called able-bodied person. This is even taking into consideration my lengthy publishing record, two Masters degrees, and seven years of teaching experience. The government sees SSDI as help for people who cannot work. And yet, aren't there two types on 'cannot work.' Here, many of us are dealing with physical and/or mental issues that disallow us to work. But, also we are dealing, more profoundly, with a society that 'disallows' us to work for you can't work if you can't get a job and you can't get a job if people judge you on how you move rather than your resume. 

The reason I've (usually) had a job is that I have such steel head persistence. For example, when I was excessed by the DOE, I sent my resume to about 50 schools. I also went door to door to many Manhattan high schools asking if there were openings. This was despite the fact that I was being paid anyway. I was glad that I was getting paid full salary for subbing, but I REALLY wanted my own class. Here, I got some interviews but no job. 

I can say, without a doubt, that the NYC Department of Education does not value teaches with disabilities in the same way that the university might. As a minority, I see my own 'limitations' as a plus, rather than a minus. As a PWD, I can teach different and tolerance and understanding as well as grammar and writing. Somehow, most folks don't see it this way -- or don't want to. They continue to see the body different as the the body weaker.  I have even had paranoid rumblings of dissatisfaction at United Cerebral Palsy from time to time because the staff often assumes that I am a client, not an employee -- I suppose this might be an easy mistake.

The exception for me has come in academia. At my current university, you will find teachers and students of all abilities and the campus gets my award for accessibility. I have been treated as a 'less than' by some students looking for excuses for their own bad grades, but luckily, my wonderful boss doesn't go for such nonsense.  We all know, however, that academia comes with its own contests and being a minority (and even more so, an unpopular minority) can only go so far.

I dive in periodically to blogs about people with disabilities, and I wish people would be more open, provide more of a framework for their daily existence. How many people have jobs (outside of Disability Studies) and how did they get them?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr. Leonard Cohen

I've finally found a way to put my disability to the greater good. I bought handicapped seats for my husband and to go see Leonard Cohen. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

MLK Day, Reb Livingston, and New Poem

Over at Home-Schooled by a Crackling Jackal, Reb Livingston has a wonderful post about the effect of the recession on poetry. Yes! Support Reb. She has wonderful books. Some of our other favorite presses are New Directions, Rope-a-Dope, Coconut Books, Shearsman, U of California, and, most of all, Kelsey Street

MLK is volunteer day...keep in mind people with disabilities.

Finally, here is a poem sample from my work in progress [Husband]. This is dedicated to my husband Jim and further parts are coming in New American Writing and possibly others.


standing before the closet
at the end of each night

a body full of light

your glowing from within

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Paris and Eleni Sikelianos

Next week, I'm headed for a short to Paris with my friend and neighbor Julia. What has become an intension to visit any number of museums has quickly become a shopping opportunity.

There are two poets that remind me of Paris. Of course, Alice Notley who has been a long-time resident and Eleni Sikelianos who lived there during her NEA year. Eleni is a one time friend, editor, and great writer. I picked up here Body Clock recently at Moes in Berkley.

Body Clock follows the recent trend of mother-poets using children as inspiration. This 'movement' for my money is one of the most important trends in poetics. It is, of course, hardly new. Levertov, Rukeyser, Notley, Mayer, Ostricker, and many others have written about their children in years past. But, now women are beginning to be more and more open with their experiences in a number of forms. Body Clock, for and about Eleni's daughter Eva Grace, is one such book and a splendid one it is.

Sikelianos's poetry to straddles many worlds -- it has qualities of academia and experimentalism. She is one of the few poets who has managed to find readers across communities. Yet, at heart, Sikelianos is a most talented lyricist. She is the kind of poet who notices, who sees the world and translates it into her own particular language. Here, the music is not just in language, but in images. This is what has always made me love her work. How to say it? Sikelianos so perfectly describes what is like to be pregnant -- to give birth to the other -- in the most base, romantic, violent ways. 

This house is a little haunted, it's
my body body-house  

How the mother's body splits.

Sikelianos says:

the soul with the body's first double

Finally, the book ends with my favorite lines:

in the quiet sleep of animals
from the balcony of a belly
say your speeches
no cow licked you 
I do

Sikelianos's work, to me, provides an opportunity. To my knowledge, so may young poets and male poets are hesitant to read poems relating to children. As with other 'feminine' issues the poetry of motherhood is often disregarded. This needs to change on all fronts. Writing about motherhood is the ultimate act of feminism. It means to speak ones experience. Resisters should know that poems about 'motherhood' are never just that. Particularly with the work of a philosophical poet like Sikelianos, motherhood is merely just the backdrop. The work is truly about philosophy, time and timelessness, death and lyricism. They are about body --all of our bodies.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If you are crippled, don't plan on getting milk

There are so many 'wrong' things happening in our world. Yet, for me, the primary issue is how grossly unaware people are on the plight of people with disabilities. Not only do PWD suffer from sigma, prejudice, unemployment, and general mistreatment, in New York, at least they deal with the issue other minorities take for granted -- movement.

Yesterday, at United Cerebral Palsy, one of my students simply wanted to go across the street to buy her favorite coffee. Yet, mobility issues and a lack of help prevented her. Since when should going to the grocery store be a privilege? Later, some friends and I had a discussion about New York's accessibility for people who use wheelchairs. I argued that the system is disrespectful and impossible to navigate. So, I called New York's access-a-ride to find out for myself. (Note: it is virtually impossible to use the subway in NY with a disability. There are very few elevators and these rarely work).

I got the reservation number for access-a-ride off the net. When you call, you have to push through two buttons to get to a person. Not bad. But, the first time, my call was disconnected. The second time I got someone right away. Here's the lowdown. You have to reserve 1-2 days in advance. There are no 'same day calls.' So, evidently PWD have to plan ahead. Say, if they are going nuts and need to get to a movie -- they are out of luck. Next, you can request a time, but there are no guarantees that the van will arrive on time. Also, this is a 'shared' ride, so when you are dropped off is up in the air. Evidently, PWD don't need to be on time. Finally, I asked if I could use the service daily to go to work. I was told I needed to call another department. The BEST thing was that the operator was nice.

Here is the message: People with disabilities are unlikely to need to be on time. They live in a timeless universe and yet, they should plan ahead, and they aren't expected to have jobs. 

I really would like people to see these problems. Why do we go on about so many problems and yet people right in our neighborhood are denied basic rights? 

Note: the bar that we were at is not accessible.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Deborah Garrison

There was recently a discussion on the Wom-po list of my review of Deborah Garrison's 'The Second Child.' Looking back at the review, it does strike me as particularly scathing, and I feel the need to perhaps amend some of my comments -- not in defense, per se, but further explanation.
The most notable comments was that my review was sexist. Although I have certainly been called sexist before, I am unsure how it relates in this context. I hope the review shows, not that I am critical of Garrison's content (domesticity), but rather her 'poetics.' As I pointed out, Garrison's techniques are sophomoric and her language avoids lyricism. Many of my own poems focus on domesticity as does some work of my favorite poets: Jarnot, Baker, Notley, Hillman, Graham, Zucker, and so on. My complaints, in fact, are primarily a defense of the aforementioned poets who, with the exception of Graham, are significantly ignored by the mainstream media. What I was trying to uncover is my frustration at the mainstream media lauding a poet, not because she is fabulous, but simple because she is part of the corporate machine. I mean, when was the last time a poet was in Elle? The review also was based off a portrait that the 'New York Times' did of Garrison portraying her as a hard working mother. 
When the media lauds wealthy people as 'hard working parents' it brings into question issues of race, disability, and class that make me uncomfortable. I tried to make this clear in the review by requesting that the media portray more women who 'have' to work versus those who 'chose' to work.

The review was not meant to insult Garrison nor 'drive a stake through her heart.' The review was meant to question poetry that I find incredibly weak and show that the emperor(ess) has no clothes.  I think that people read my comments and think that I am trying to be cruel. I am not. When I speak of poems, I speak of just those. The 'person' who wrote them is superfluous in a manner -- not in a mean way. 

One example that I might compare Garrison to is Jorie Graham. Jorie has has privileges that many poets will never see. Like Garrison, she has been lauded by the mainstream. Graham teaches at Harvard, publishes regularly in the New Yorker, and has a contract with Ecco Press. Those who know Graham's biography know that Graham didn't quite work from the ground up.  However, Graham's poetry is mind blowing. It shows a sophistication that few modern poets can match. Does one's lineage matter entirely? I am not necessarily arguing that it does. Ultimately, the poems are what matter.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Man on a Wire

as he lays down
suspended in light


beauty, sometimes must take the place of love
to have its own form
that certain brokenness

and after being released from prison
he fled into another

narcissism got the best of him
that lingering

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Wheelchair Bound

In my so-called stat counter someone asked is the term wheelchair bound politically correct?
Here's the answer: no. The only 'proper' word to refer to people with disabilities is thus, people with disabilities. Wheelchair implies slavery to a wheelchair. It implies that the wheelchair is  boss of the person, not vice versa. People always come first. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What kind of mother am I?

A few weeks ago in the NYT Lisa Belkin put up a quiz on what age would you let your kid...

Below are the questions & my answers.

See a PG-13 Movie- 6
Wait in the car -- in the West 6, in NYC, 10
Babysit siblings - 14 (but he's siblingfree)
Babysit Neighbors -14
Walk to the Store - 10 (only if he buys me beer!)
Have a Credit Card - Never
Ride a Bike to School - in NYC - Never
Stay up later than I do - 6
Use the stove - 5 (with supervision)
Stay out after I've gone to bed -- 17
Have a cell phone - I don't know (probably 10/but I'd rather not)
Watch TV without monitoring - never
Use a computer - 6
Use a computer w/o parental blocks - Never
Use a computer in room - 13 (no internet)
Date- 16
Wear make-up -- ?

It's interesting how much a few questions can tell you about your parenting priorities. Mine make me notice that I'm paranoid about injury, sex, and technology. I think the internet is the fall of Western Civilization. I'm pretty conservative about dating -- I think it's for adults.  I'm also conservative about money -- I hate credit cards. Cell phones and computers 'bother' me although I use them both. Makeup was a big issue for me too. Many of the parents listed that they would let their girl wear make-up at 13! I thought, what a scandal. Then, I realized that I don't really understand the meaning of make-up. I don't wear it, and neither do most of my friends. My 6 year old son recently asked me what it was. To my simple mind, make-up is to allure men, which 13 year olds certainly shouldn't be doing, but perhaps it has some other, secret meaning that I'm not privy to. 

They didn't ask the questions that would should my more liberal self -- Does my son know what sex & war are - yes. Does he know what it means to be disabled or gay - of course. Do I care if he he is always clean and well-dressed - not really. Do I insist he wear underwear - I probably should. Do I let him play with plastic -- only if it can't buy anything. Do I let him stay up too late- well, yes, only if he let's me sleep. 

New (ish) Poems

Please read new poems in Boog City

Monday, January 05, 2009

I have some comments on the old year/new year @ The Externalist.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Good Night New York

We arrived in New York late last night to what I consider unacceptable temperatures -- 20s. The entire crew is madly jet lagged. I hope we recover soon. Monday, I have to get these boys to school and figure out my life. 

Last night we got locked IN the house. The bolt lock snapped and we couldn't get out. We found this out at 1 AM after we ordered a pizza. The pizza guy had to slide the pizza through the window. We called the police and first there were two officers, then four, all working on our door. Luckily, it was a slow night for criminals in Brooklyn. They had to go through the neighbor's house to get to us through the back door at 2 AM. When I went to apologize to the neighbor, she told me 'o the police said, you really need to trim your tree.' I have come to the conclusion that my neighbors DON'T hate me, it is actually just nature they hate. Anyway, the entire show was over at 3AM. I was hoping for the firemen, but at least the door is open and my hardware store buddy (Simon) got a big chuckle out of the whole thing. 

Later, the upstairs neighbor told us 'why were you so noisy last night' as he was throwing donuts on the neighbor's roof. o New York.