Beauty is a Verb
Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, & Michael Northen, ads., Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press) 2011.
When it comes to poetry, I am a rather slow reader. I need time to process and think and revisit poems to discern their rhythm and tonality. I'm a much more quick reader of prose. This book contains both. Each artist represented in the book has written a few pages of commentary on their art and the artistic process. Still, I spent months with this book.
The book is overwhelming in many different ways. First of all, the poetry demands attention. The density of words, the wondering about tonality and how the author might read the poems means that a serious reader reads each poem multiple times. It is overwhelming in its poetic density. There is a lot of poetry in this book. But it is also overwhelming in its scope. Disability is far from a single category. The wide range of disabilities represented draws in virtually revery reader. At some point in the book, I suspect most readers will experience what I did: a sense that I have or will develop that particular disability. There are many authors whose lives are marked by disabilities that are visible and of which we are aware: those who use crutches or wheelchairs for mobility, those who are blind, those who have cognitive disabilities, those who cannot hear. But there are also those whose disease causes intense pain or an unpredictability of their lives.
The result is an amazing collection and a very readable and important book. I think this collection serves to define a new genre of poetry for the 21st Century. I'm delighted and looking forward to more poetry of disability to provide the artistic window through which we can look at our lives.