ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON POETICS AND DISABILITY

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  • May 24, 2018

Editor’s Note:

In the Spring of 2018 Sandra Beasley, Meg Day, Constance Merritt, Khadijah Queen and Jillian Weise presented the most insightful, moving and passionate panel conversation at the Split This Rock Festival in DC. Inspired by their presentation, we couldn’t resist asking them follow up questions for our first Online Roundtable Discussion on Poetics and Disability at Poetry International. A sample mini-anthology  of their wonderful poetry follows this conversation. It is my hope that this discussion will inaugurate an ongoing conversation about poetry and disability in the pages of Poetry International.

— Ilya Kaminsky

 

1) During your wonderful panel at 2018 Split This Rock Festival in Washington DC, one of you spoke on how “we arrived to live in these bodies,” and everyone on the panel spoke movingly about various perspectives that reflected in one way, or another, on this statement.  As you read your work, one couldn’t help but notice that your individual and very distinct poetics also seem to reflect this in the very language of your poems. Thus the question: how does your body impact your view of poetics, of English language itself?

 

Photo of Khadijah Queen

Khadijah Queen: I’ve been thinking about feeling as a kind of intelligence–feeling as a felt knowing. We come to writing because we love it. We love language and its arrangements in the mind and how the feelings poems instigate or invite live in our bodies. Even if there are limits to how much my body can do, poems hold an expansive sense of possibility. Kind of a roundabout answer to the question,    but I suppose what I’m getting at is that the body and the mind are not separate. We are whole people, however we physically or mentally present, whether our disabilities are apparent to others or not. That means perhaps that considering the body in terms of a poetics makes for what Muriel Rukeyser (a disabled poet herself, though I am not sure she publicly identified as such) called a total response–making the experience of reading and creating as varied as we are.

 

Constance Merritt: The body and the mind are not separate. We are whole people, Yes, absolutely. And yet, remaining and becoming a whole person has been one of the central struggles of my life, and it is rather bittersweet to have come to this: back around to the very things–identity, embodiment–I once imagined poetry could free me from. In the beginning, poetry was a door out of a problem body–wrong eyes, wrong size, wrong skin–into the glorious universal where disembodied souls and minds communed irrespective of all the lines that corral us and govern the distribution of power in the world. Back then, embodiment (and, yes, I am choosing this impersonal conceptual word over the intimate and messy “body” or “flesh”) seemed an incidental accidental that more often than not distracted and detracted from who I was and meant to be–what I thought, what I felt, what I did, the contents of my character, so to speak.  My first language was Black Southern and the KJV. Away at school I learned to talk “proper”–not necessarily a good thing back in my neighborhood or among extended family.

Photo of Constance Merritt

Scaffolded by the sensibilities of Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau, as a teenager I constructed an identity around the values of independence, conscience, and empathy. Stand in you own truth. Stand up for what you know to be right. Move toward what enlarges the self; away from what diminishes. As I began to feel my way as a writer, I surrounded myself with poets and artists who were also in retreat–from the body, from the world–and who, perhaps as a logical extension of that retreat, made well-crafted structures where bridled emotions could safely dwell. The promise of poetry was the miracle of transubstantiation: circumscribed body become “vast horizons of soul.”

All of this of course would turn out to be a fiction, albeit a necessary one, the mind in the act of finding what will suffice as I struggled with the ultimate questions of whether and how to live and of how to be whole in a world that contested my value and hijacked my identity through what Laura Hershey calls “members-only thought processes.”  How else to stand in one’s truth than to stand in a particular body that experiences a particular world in a particular way. In an effort to name that particularity, left to my own devices, I would have titled my first book Ears, Hands, Belly, Mouth, naming the essential ways I take in and give to the world. This preference for the aural, the tactile, and the gustatory, by which last I mean hunger broadly conceived, permeates all of my work. When it comes to the visual, my focus is on what is close at hand, what I see in my mind’s eye, and of course I am a fool for color.

“Separation,” a formative poem in my first book, voices the sensory and emotional experience of a medieval leper as she is being ritually separated from her community and is steeling herself to not only accept, but to embrace her exclusion. My second book mourns various individual and collective lost worlds, coming to rest in the notion of rest, of dwelling, of abiding what we can and cannot abide, blessings and inclemencies. My third book Two Rooms openly wrestles with the angels of self-fragmentation and with the double-edged sword of desire that gives us energy and life and rends us to the core. The title poem juxtaposes a beautiful, orderly, sterile, impenetrable, empty room–art as armor, if you will–with another room where “a woman dreams, / Hair tousled, breasts unbound.”

It would take studying modern dance, attempting suicide, becoming a gardener, being viscerally offended and vitally altered by the obscenity of the Second Iraq War, falling in love and making a life with my beloved, and witnessing the dissolution of my parents aging bodies to bring me fully awake, finally alive to and in the body–my body!–to the pleasures and needs and vulnerabilities and powers of other bodies, and to the world–this one earth which is also a body. Blind Girl Grunt, my most recent collection, is a manifestation and a manifesto of this awakening and incarnation. As ungainly and unseemly as any blind girl—Shhh, don’t look, she’s blind; Is there really nothing they can do to help you? Did your parents regret bringing you into the world?—a grunt rumbles up to say: Eff you. I’m here and here to stay. I have beat my last retreat. From here on out I will defend myself and what and whom I love. All God’s chillun got a right to be—dignity, respect, community, opportunity.  Move over. Make room. I’ll have a slice of that pie. Mmm.

 

Sandra Beasley: First, I just want to honor the immense generosity and insight of Constance’s answer. I let out several Os of appreciation as I read it.

This will seem a digression at first, but bear with me. When I got to the age of having the option to smoke pot, I discovered it had absolutely no appeal. When everyone around me was singing the praises of a particularly high-grade whatever, nothing seemed remarkable to how I felt. What was going on?

Photo of Sandra Beasley

I suspect that for some folks, the opportunity to profoundly shift one’s self-awareness is a pleasurable event. For me, it’s commonplace. I think of all the times my body has appeared to be shutting down to an outside observer–eyes swollen, breath short, curled up in a ball–while inside there I am, the ‘real’ me, cogent and vigilant, trying to gauge emergency and necessary treatment. There’s nothing sexy to me about the mind escaping the body.

I never know where my next allergic reaction will come from. So my poetry functions on the page much as I do in the world, I suspect. I’m hyper-aware, noting every pause and break and diction choice. When people differentiate between “connotation” and “denotation,” I understand that “connotation,” to use allergy language, is a kind of cross-contamination of meaning.

In my first collection, Theories of Falling, I included a sequence of “Allergy Girl” poems that largely fixated on vulnerability. My reactions were a narrative catalyst. I wasn’t thinking about the politics of disability yet, or how much of my moments of feeling victimized rested not in the ‘attacks’ themselves, but in the ableism in the attitudes and responses of those around me. The poems I’m writing now more fully integrates my allergic identity as a launch point for pride, joy, anger, and resistance.

 

Meg Day: Yesyes! This! “There’s nothing sexy to me about the mind escaping the body.” I want to riff a little on this in a different direction, Sandra, because of how much this particular phrase resonates. I’m thinking specifically about survival. I’m thinking about what happens—to our bodies or our kin or our stories or our murders—when we stop paying attention. Dis & Deaf folks—but especially queer & trans dis folks—learn variations on hypervigilance early. We learn it not because our bodies are ones we want to escape, but because survival can depend on awareness. We learn it because nondisabled folks automatically assume we’re not intelligent or cognizant; we learn it because folks take advantage, abuse. And I think we probably learn it, most of all, because allies don’t do their jobs.

       Photo of Meg Day

Isn’t it the same in poetics? Let’s tilt the camera a little: so much of one’s experience as dis can be dictated by nondisabled folks. I’m trying to think about my poetics outside that paradigm, but it’s kindov foolish. I was taught to write for a nondisabled, hearing reader. I came up knowing that part of what made a poem a poem is its musicality, its sonic play. But play is such a misnomer. Hearing folks don’t want you to just play with sound, they want you to play with sound in majors & minors, chords & harmonies. Even what we call dissonance in a poem is a certain kind of bending, a certain kind of agreement with the way hearies process sound. I’ve memorized rhymes. I know where in the mouth you like your vowels to match. It’s a lot of labor & who gets to enjoy it? Who benefits? Whose poetics are erased? I’m done with that. I’m working on being done with that.

 

Jillian Weise: One great thing about being disabled is you get to improvise a lot. So, if I may, I’d like to improvise the question. What devastated the hell out of me at Split This Rock? Yes, I will tell you.

 Photo of Jillian Weise

The work of social justice and equality for disabled writers was placed primarily onto disabled writers. We gave an access statement at our panel. We provided handouts in 14-point font. Did the main events show such basic access and welcome? No, they did not. Now what is an access statement? And why should it be important to poetry? An access statement says: “Hello! Since you are such a large audience, we realize many of you are disabled. This is the space. Here is how we will not die inside it. This is the way out and through. If you want to move, change positions, knit, leave the room, or anything else to make the space accessible to you, please do it.”

Okay, so there was no access statement. No handout in 14-point font. At the main events. At the social justice poetry festival. And the devastating part? Some readings were awesomely ableist. So we attended these readings at main events that did not accommodate us for poems that never imagined we’d be in the audience.

 

Khadijah Queen:  Thank you for calling attention to this, Jillian, and because accessibility was modeled so well during our panel, when I do future readings I will make sure there is an accessibility statement beforehand and educate my community regarding them. I had never heard one like it until our panel. I will also use it in classes I teach. The ignorance surrounding disability is staggering in scope, and the more I learn the more I realize needs to be done to get us at baseline access. The hope (and part of the work, frankly) in the humanities field is that we can become leaders in recognizing the full and evolving spectrum of humanity, and actively pursue inclusivity.

 

2) When asked why come together for this panel, one of you responded: “to form a lineage, to find out who my people are.” This is a very moving and relevant statement. I wonder if each of you can take a few minutes to expand on this in a bit more detail. Poetically speaking, on the page, and in the library, who are your people, what is your lineage? In what poets’ work do you find the poetics, the craft, the language-driven decisions and paths that are of most interest to you, that help to open up further possibilities? What, indeed, is your lineage–and where do you see it going in the next year, next decade?

 

Meg Day: Lineage has always played a big part in my understanding of myself as a working writer & a linguistic minority. It’s important to me. I want my students to become familiar with it; I want them to understand the gravity of inheritance & permission, especially if they arrive at the page with any shred of privilege. Knowing where you come from, who makes what you’re doing possible? It’s humbling. It’s the kind of gratitude that keeps me focused on the work. It keeps me from quitting altogether when every issue of every journal has some ableist slur in it. And it asks me to labor in a way that requires a sense of futurity. That’s not a given for dis folks. So often we don’t get to have a history or a future without the spectre of overcoming or death.

The book cover of Flying Words Project

Poetic lineage is like a promise somebody made without our knowing. It’s my favorite kind of company. Lineage itself is a notion that emerged for me out of being asked, very early on both in & outside of poetics, to pay homage to the folks who  labored on my behalf—mostly queer & trans crips of color—& is now sustained by my indebtedness to the writers & teachers who shaped my life. I mean—the first queer dis folks I met were through poems. It literally saved my life. Ella Mae Lentz, Patrick Graybill, Clayton Valli, Debbie Rennie? My lineage. Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich—my lineage. Laura Hershey introduced me to Constance Merritt, which took me back to Rosa Lee Timm. Josephine Miles led me to Jillian Weise. The Flying Words Project took me to Sins Invalid & gave me the work & activism of Nomi Lamm, Leroy Moore, Vanessa Huang. Eli Clare’s work made so much possible for me. Reading Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha just plain gave me life.

I’m definitely one of those kids who came up feeling incredibly alone in my experience of the world & was always looking around wondering where the hell I’d come from. I have always yearned for kin. I have always wanted some proof that someone else made it, that someone else did more than just survive. Everything’s hard enough & then they want you to believe you’re extinct, there are no disabled poets. It’s wishful thinking. Knowing one’s lineage counteracts that. It corrects the narrative. This particular panel of poets felt to me like a chance to finally connect some contemporary dots. Don’t yall know poets who wax sentimental about the days of just calling a poet up, writing them a letter, getting together for a reading? I don’t know what took us so long.

 

Constance Merritt: Certainly I have a poetic lineage to which, perhaps, I’ll circle back around before this conversation’s done, but these days I find myself less interested in a lineage–a past that I rooted myself in–than a circle of comrades with whom I join the struggle for our lives in the here and now. Over the years my passion for the page and the library has not so much waned as it has been utterly overtaken by my passion for living a good life and for creating a world that is kinder, more just, and generally more habitable to more of us than is the one in which we now live. Back in the day when I used to read Poetry magazine on the regular, I was driven to distraction by the protracted hand-wringing about poetry’s dwindling audience and its smattering of mattering. If only we could bring the world (back) to poetry, the poets moaned, then poets could feel important again and be happy. I know next to nothing about contemporary American poetry; I couldn’t tell you who’s hot, who’s not, what schools are in the ascendency, what folks be on about in the back pages of Poetry. But from my limited vantage point as a recent resubscriber to poets.org’s Poem-a-Day newsletter, I would venture that at least some poets are coming back to the world, and with a vengeance, and by so doing giving the matter of poetry new urgency and weight.

The salient traits of my first poetry kin were lyricism, musicality, existential challenge, and some ineffable feeling-sense that tugged at my core like magnet to steel. As when a small child listens to grown folks talk, elaborating a world mysterious and hers, reading these first poetry kin, love and kinship often ran well ahead of understanding. While some of these poets subscribed to mental illness, while others just freestyled crazy without formal diagnoses, and still others were Bartleby’s contrary children, simply preferring not, I never thought of any of them in terms of having or not having a disability.

During grad school in Nebraska I ransacked medieval history looking for proto-feminist cultural outliers among mystics, heretics, martyrs, witches, and lepers, and for one of my comprehensive exams constructed a personal canon of American women poets from Dickinson to the present. But still, and even where details were known–Bright’s disease, depression, breast cancer, substance abuse, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke–I never read these women poets, nor do I think I was ever invited to, by the light of disability. For one thing, back then I would have insisted upon a distinction to be made between illness and disability. Now, I would probably want to parse illness from impairment, and disability meaning “an impairment…that substantially affects [one or more of] a person’s life activities”  from disability as social construct, as stigma, that over-determines certain impairments–offensive, inspirational, invalidating, dehumanizing—until the imposed meanings obscure the bearer’s identity. Absent critical consciousness, some acknowledgment of the tension between the lived experience of impairment–deviation from the mean, if you’d prefer–and the myriad extraneous meanings the impairment is made to bear, I don’t think finding other poets with visual impairments or with other disabilities would have been meaningful to me. At the same time, there are poets with no discernible disabilities who nonetheless telegraph existential trouble–identity, belonging, the tears of things, the broken world, the unbearableness of the human condition (“Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.”)–with such force and clarity that for another minute, hour, year the unbearable can be borne.

Rather than art as essential body armor, I’d like to think that art could be a tool, not to say a weapon, with which to dismantle the master’s proverbial house and dance a free people in open air. A poetics of resistance, yes, but even more so one of liberation. For that I don’t want a lineage, but rather a riot of black, brown, crip, queer, feminist, indigent, immigrant, allied, struggling-to-wake-and-stay-woke human voices–a hell-harrowing din, a suturing sound–kicking ass and taking names, slowly but surely, rearranging the heavy furniture of the world.

 

The book cover of The Life of Poetry

Khadijah Queen: Perhaps unconsciously I have gravitated to poets who have disabilities or writers who discuss disability and physical difference. I never even thought about that until now. Lucille Clifton dealt with cancer, and was born with a sixth finger on each hand. She mourned their absence in a poem–the two extras removed to make her appear more “normal.” Muriel Rukeyser I already mentioned; The Life of Poetry was the first craft book I read nearly twenty years ago, when I first started writing seriously, and it shaped my approach to and understanding of poetry. I have been deeply influenced by the way Toni Morrison writes the body, how she implicates society in the ways that bodies are treated both publicly and privately. All three artists use disability not as sources of shame, but as sources of power or as change agents in the work, or as simple facts, a characteristic that exists and so what.

In line with what Constance mentioned, though I am very aware of who’s who in contemporary poetry and read quite a lot, my fluctuating energy/pain levels and rotating injuries means that I don’t keep up with every single happening. I have to be careful not to overdo my activities, and as I’ve gotten older I miss out on more events because it takes all I have to keep up with my work and daily life. Lately, since I’ve been on crutches with a leg injury, I cannot access some local events due to stairs, a far walk, no seating, etc. I would love to think that my peers are also my people, whether they are disabled or not. I certainly read and teach their work. But so many of us have been conditioned to consider the work of healing to be private, or to consider physical difference shameful, or something to hide. I would hope that those who may think of my work as part of their creative lineage might also be open not only to evolving as artists, but as humans, and understand that one way to do so is to recognize that disability concerns are vital to any discussion of inclusion.

 

Sandra Beasley: I know a few fellow contemporary writers with severe food allergies; none of them incorporate it into their work or bring it up in interviews, so I’ll respect their privacy by not naming anyone here. Usually, the topic comes up in the context of eating out, and commiserating over travel. Not everyone considers their allergies a disability. For me, the deciding factors are the multitude of allergies I have, their severity, and the generational reality of when I grew up.

Ironically, if I tried to find my people by looking for mentions of allergies, I would get a lot of false leads. People use “allergic” as a metaphor for a strong dislike or resistance, both in conversation and in the creative work. Lately, I’ve noticed a rise in going on to mention anaphylaxis–to intensify the sense of danger and also, it feels like, to flash the pseudo-credibility of using what used to be a term only familiar to those directly affected.

I got to the University of Virginia in 1998, just over a decade prior to Tom Andrews earning his M.F.A. in creative writing there; we shared teachers. When The Hemophiliac’s Motorcycle won the 1993 Iowa Poetry Prize, they incorporated it into their course reading. Weirdly, no one codified at the time that I was engaging with poetry of disability. I use “of” intentionally here, versus “and”; Andrews’ hemophilia was directly relevant to what he was choosing to write, and the way he wrote it. Yet what I remember is focusing on his religious imagery and his treatment of mortality, which might have been more in the wheelhouse of the professor.

The book cover of Codeine Diary

I returned to Andrews’ work more recently to read his memoir, The Codeine Diaries, for an essay I’ve written called “The Bad Patient” (forthcoming in the anthology Bodies of Truth: Personal Narratives on Illness, Disability, and Medicine). In those pages, he describes without apology experiences and behaviors I can identify with–the capriciousness and inconsistency of disability, his subsequent risk-taking, the insistent need to transgress expectations of austerity and practicality. He’s brilliant and funny, and I wish that I could go back in time to meet him.

When working on my memoir (Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life), I had not yet embraced an affiliation with the disability community. If I had, I would have realized there were things I was struggling to articulate–such as the tensions when engaging with caretakers of those children with allergy, who are not themselves allergic–for which there’s an incisive, wide volume of existing scholarship in the field of Disability studies. One of the reasons I am so grateful to be part of these conversations is that, frankly, I think they are some of the smartest and most nuanced dialogues taking place in literature right now. I’m learning a new vocabulary. And I make mistakes, repeatedly, but I’m grateful for those who have been welcoming despite my inevitable failures.

 

The book cover of Protocol for Touch

Jillian Weise: I’m with my people right now in this interview. What a pleasure to read their work, meet up in DC, and hang out again in Poetry International. It’s like being at the coolest party. I knew Constance’s work before I knew work by Meg and Khadijah and Sandra. Constance’s book, Protocol for Touch (1999), was so major to me because I had not read disabled poets at that point. It helped, too, that I was learning from the poets Cynie Cory and Barbara Hamby, who were pushing me with questions like: “Why are you writing about absolutely anything except yourself?” I didn’t know how to write about myself. Before I read Constance’s book, whenever I encountered disability in a poem, it was a little ableist moment to help the nondis poet exit the poem. Or by Frank Bidart.

The scene is growing. I’m honored to know poets and artists who are working in tandem with disability pride and culture. Sometimes I still get in a tussle with the dead disabled poets. Why didn’t they pave the way for us? Why am I here talking about access statements? Wasn’t this their job?

Anytime I get right annoyed about the situation, I go read up on Mario Bellatin. He’s the Mexican novelist who sometimes wears a dick for an arm. Or I go to poets who blend danger and humor, like Euripides, Juan Ruiz, Alejandra Pizarnik and Ishmael Reed. Or I scout for the disabled writers who are being censored. There’s so many of us who cannot write what we need to write because, in the USA, they will not publish it. So I’m always aware of what is acceptable, and thinking beyond time and place.

 


 

JILLIAN WEISE

 

 

I Want Your Fax

 

I want to be disability for you.
Make new signs for you.
They are saying things about us

 

online in their underwear.
The listserv is blowing up.
Ableist verse, ableist verse

 

and I’m talking to you.
I’m a green circle for you
and there you go again

 

into my cover letters.
Pinned your last dispatch
to my Outlook so every day

 

starts with you. Got your text.
Got your chat. Got your tweet.
Got you all over me.

 

I want to be disability for you
and capital crawl for you
and accommodate you.

 


* * * 

 

KHADIJAH QUEEN

 

 

Pre-diagnosis

 

 

I told the Navy neurologist my wrists hurt. He held my hands,

palms up, as if to examine, then bent them

abruptly back. Showed no emotional response

when I screamed. He made a short note, clicked his pen. Asked

about my home life: Are you satisfied with it? Are you being abused?


 * * *

 

MEG DAY

 

 

Trespassing at Noontide

 

 

Mine is a faithful love: all anchor

& no white flag. See how I have arrived

here in this yard that is not mine, but was

 

& still is most fertile in the shallow graves

made by my being always already on my knees?

Habit makes my fingers take up the plow

 

in the bed I built even when another body

does not drag me from it. Might I have been

a bridge that bends—or a dog that sways

 

but stays—with every blow instead. I’ve come

to disinter & divorce the bruise of cabbage

blooming with my own fists, dirt blown

 

against my cheek like every dark kiss

I’d nearly forgotten the sweet toil of growing

could make me forget. The sun is my only shiner

 

now, I jest, & the tall shadow that swings

at that which cannot move away is mine.

I make of this yard a froth of loam & root

 

soil sprayed like so much burnt confetti

across the pale of that invisible fence,

its unseen tether; I dare the current

 

tenants to find me here, midday drunk

on their rented earth as I loose the kale

by its neck from this grounded berth

 

& hope too my mooring might come

with it. My hands have turned to spades:

I’ve come undone. In the window now

 

the shock of two eyes lock to mine

each muddy carrot from my knuckled grip

& then: the muted white of one palm waving.

 

* * *

 

SANDRA BEASLEY

 

 

Customer Service Is

 

 

We take pride in serving the

We’re accustomed to servicing the

Please take the attached

Please answer these six

Please answer these eight

This will only be a quick

If microphones don’t reach, then

If ramps are required, then

If you need audio, then

If you need visual, then

We request one week’s

We request one month’s

All reasonable requests will

A flock of surveys is a surveillance.

A stampede of stairs is an architecture.

An expectation of elevators is a favor.

An ‘oh-crap’ of crips is a caucus.

But I have an aunt who is

I had a friend who was

We practice best

We follow the

You have to see our

You have to stand up for

Your help is so

Your answers will be

 

* * *

 

CONSTANCE MERRITT

 

Ephemeroptera Hymn

 

composed on a line by Pablo Neruda

 

 

In tight green buds, the harvests’ sweet goodbyes.

Remember Bradford pears and dogwoods singing on the street!

When I die, I want your hands upon my eyes.

 

One minute snow, the next petals, falling soft as sighs,

and you and I, Imagine! Once so cold beneath our sheets.

In tight green buds, the harvests’ sweet goodbyes.

 

In all our firsts, my love, did we not surmise

Sun-drunk desire rounding to replete?

When I die, I want your hands upon my eyes.

 

But stay, let’s not go in until the last light dies.

Tireless as birdsong may our days repeat repeat.

In tight green buds, the harvests’ sweet goodbyes

 

And, yes, within this beauty creeps a terror I can’t disguise.

Is knowledge of the scythe borne in the wheat?

When I die, I want your hands upon my eyes.

 

My wife, my all. Let us join in the dance of the one-day-flies.

Neither from love, nor life, nor loss let us retreat.

In tight green buds, the harvests’ sweet goodbyes.

When I die, I want your hands upon my eyes.

 

 

 

 ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

  

Sandra Beasley is author of three poetry collections: Count the Waves; I Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; and Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize, as well as Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, a disability memoir and a cultural history of food allergies. She is also the editor of Vinegar and Char: Verse from the Southern Foodways Alliance, forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press in fall 2018. Honors for her work include a 2015 NEA Literature Fellowship, the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, and three DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Artist Fellowships. She lives in Washington, D.C., and is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at the University of Tampa.

 

Deaf & genderqueer poet Meg Day is the 2015-2016 recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, a 2013 NEA Fellow in Poetry, and the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street 2014), winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award, and a finalist for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Day is Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing at Franklin & Marshall College and lives in Pennsylvania. www.megday.com

 

Constance Merritt is the author of the poetry collections Blind Girl Grunt: The Selected Blues Lyrics and Other Poems (Headmistress Press, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry; Two Rooms (Louisiana State University Press, 2009); Blessings and Inclemencies (Louisiana State University Press, 2007); and A Protocol for Touch (University of North Texas Press, 2000), winner of the Vassar Miller Prize. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

Khadijah Queen is the author of five books, most recently I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (YesYes Books 2017). Her verse play Non-Sequitur (Litmus Press) won the Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women’s Performance Writing. As part of the prize, Fiona Templeton’s The Relationship theater company staged a full production at Theaterlab NYC in 2015. Individual poems and prose appear or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Fence, Tin House, Buzzfeed, Gulf Coast, Memoir, Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks from Vietnam to Iraq and widely elsewhere. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at University of Colorado, Boulder, and serves as Core Faculty for the low-residency Mile-High MFA program at Regis University.

 

Jillian Weise is a poet, performance artist and disability rights activist. She is the author of The Amputee’s Guide to Sex (2007), The Colony (2010) and The Book of Goodbyes (2013), which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and the Isabella Gardner Award from BOA Editions. Her next book, Cyborg Detective, is forthcoming in fall 2019. Weise performs the satirical ableist character of Tipsy Tullivan across social media. She is an Associate Professor at Clemson University.

 

 

Publication Credits:

 

“I Want Your Fax” by Jillian Weise

Originally appeared in Boston Review (April 8, 2017)

 

“Pre-diagnosis” by Khadijah Queen

Fearful Beloved. Argos Books, 2015.

 

“Trespassing at Noontide” by Meg Day

Originally appeared in Indiana Review, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Winter 2016)

 

“Customer Service Is” by Sandra Beasley

Originally appeared in Split This Rock’s Poem of the Week (April 27, 2018)

 

“Ephemeroptera Hymn” by Constance Merritt

Blind Girl Grunt: The Selected Blues Lyrics and Other poems. Sequim, WA: Headmistress Press, 2017.

 

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