A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature

Volume 11     Issue 2     June 2017

Essays in this Issue

When Wordgathering editors are asked by writers about the kinds of essays we publish, we generally say there are two kinds. The first, and the one that we work hardest to find, are literary essays that have something to say about writing from a disabilities perspective. The second are personal essays that are written in such a way as to rise about a mere recording of personal experience to become genuine literary offerings themselves. Both of these add to the slowly accumulating body of work comprising disability literature that this journal has made it its mission to build up. There is, however, a third subgenre of essay writing that readers of journals like Wordgathering should know about and that is the blog. While blog post can incorporate almost any kind of writing imaginable, the beauty of them is that they are a continuous spring of thoughts that, in the case of disability writing, give readers with an interest in the area a place that they can they return to again and again for new ideas.

In this issue of the journal, the editors focus on some of the blogs of writers who excel at the writing of disability essays, demonstrating the wide range of subjects and possibilities. We'll simply list the writer, the name of the blog, and offer a sample entry. Our hope is that after sampling these posts, readers will find one or two of them interesting enough to make them want to become regular followers.

Possibly the most familiar among disability blogs is Stephen Kuusisto's Planet of the Blind. Kuusisto is a well-known poet and memoirist whose blog takes its title from his highly successful book of the same name. Kuusisto's blog essays run from literary analysis, to political commentary, to original poetry. In the essay offered here, he takes on the attitudes of universities towards accommodation. Like Kuusisto, playwright Mike Ervin aims his thoughts at a wide variety of targets. In Ervin's case, though, as the title of his blog Smartass Cripple makes clear, the main weapon is humor, specifically satire. The representative post from his blog here is a comic take on the ubiquitous bumper sticker "What would Jesus do" when applied to disability.

On the Blink is the blog of Emily K. Michael, a blind educator and a poet. Michael is also a musician and, in addition to posts on poetry and her experiences as a blind woman, writes about choral music. In this post, she demonstrates how the essay as an epistolary form works well to describe the relationship between a service dog and its owner. Of course, not all disability is visible or even physical. The work of two other bloggers, Rachel Kallem Whitman and Maya Northen, revolves around psychological issues. Like Ervin, Whitman often uses humor to describe her own experiences – in Whitman's case, with bipolar disorder. The sample essay below from her blog makes clear that accomplishment and mental health can go hand in hand. Northen's Lilies and Elephants is set up specifically as a place to discuss issues facing people with mood disorders. While often using her own experiences to generate topics, these always generalize to broader concerns and, like Whitman, demonstrate the importance of bringing to the surface issues that many still feel compelled to keep hidden.

In addition to those above from current ongoing blogs, this issue of Wordgathering includes four more essays. The first comes from John Lee Clark, a writer who is always re-inventing himself. His essay, too, was originally a blog post but from one that Clark no longer writes on. In the essay Clark takes a look at the issues the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner" presents for the Deaf community and some of the attempts to make it more comprehensible. The remaining three essays directly concern literature. Michael Northen's essay looks at what the poets published in the anthology are doing now and gives samples of their current work. One of the poets included in that anthology, Kara Dorris, takes a look back at how inclusion in that influential anthology has affected her growth as a poet. Victoria Lee Khatoon explores the way in which the writing of formally structured poems provides an opportunity for dealing with violence in society. Khatoon would like readers to know that although her treatment of the subject is quite mild, the essay in part involves a poem on a violent subject.

Almost all of the writers above have been previouisly published in Wordgathering. To read more of their work simply click on the "Authors Index" and search under essays. Wordgathering invites the submissions of literary essays, particularly those that help establish disability literature as a field of study. Essays on the work of other writers with disabilities are especially desirable. Queries can be addressed to comments@wordgathering.com.


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