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is Daniel Sluman’s second collection published by Nine Arches Press; sharp and unflinching work exquisitely rendered to convey aspects of mortality in all its bleak beauty.

Daniel is a UK-based poet with whom I first became acquainted participating in his Poetry of Pain course hosted online through the Poetry School. Daniel suffered with bone cancer when he was young and in these poems, he shares flashes of the trauma endured brilliantly, as well as those places and events no one wants to speak of.

In the terrible, there is pain and suffering, blood and release, acceptance and love, narcotics and knowing, and a frank realisation of the body’s fragility and the life it contains.

In ‘1991-2006’ we’re shown a fast-forward of father and son travelling in ‘a pounded blue ford’, ‘the faces from our life passing like boarded-up doors’. In ‘morphine’ ‘it waits for me to twist the lid’ and ‘dream of a wonderful weight on the chest sinking further towards the stalling heart.’ And in ‘angels’ there’s a bitterness, ‘as we reel the rope to knot around their chests’, pull and wait ‘for the snap of feather-bone & rib’.

The vessel in which we travel can be subject to ‘strange weather’ (a concept explored in ‘doppelganger’) threatening its delicate balance, and so I want to leave you with this poem, a poignant reminder the barely bearable is often shared:

 

& this is love

 

as she goes limp & falls into my arms

like an important looking letter

I help her to the bathroom

 

& sit on the other side of the door

tearing nails between my teeth

clutching the phone like a safety rope

 

& this is love    how we live between

the side-effects of glittering pills

the wads of her dead hair snarled

 

in the plug-hole    the morning cigarette

that shakes in her hand before her kiss

once again says whateverhappens    I ring

 

the ambulance when her head smacks

the floor    & in the crazed flutter of her lids

I see a million lives for us    each one perfect

 

Copyright @ Daniel Sluman 2015

Supported through Crowdfunder and published by Nine Arches Press, Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back is an invaluable addition to disability literature.

Edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman who themselves have disability, the anthology examines D/deaf and disabled poetics from personal, social and political perspectives, culminating in a beautifully rich collection of voices.

Split into ‘Bodies’, ‘Rules’, ‘Maps’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘Legends’, the experiences of those with physical, mental and emotional challenges are shared through poetry, essays and photos to:

showcase a diversity of opinions and survival strategies for an ableist world.

It’s gritty stuff; confronting perceptions of people who are considered and/or observed to be different. Some work is followed by a short biography offering further insight into its contributors. And there are a plethora of conditions both visible and unseen – deafness, absent limbs, MS, mental illness, autism, rheumatoid arthritis to name a few – stripped bare and laid out in indelible forms.

The idea for the anthology came from a desire to create a UK equivalent to the American anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Interestingly, this has recently been achieved here in Australia with Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain, developed as a companion to Articulations: The Body and Illness in Poetry in the US. This is an expanding field; one we should all make time to explore.

Wordgathering is an online journal of disability poetry, literature and art published quarterly, in which I’m thrilled to have a poem this quarter.

Wordgathering-banner

Founded in March 2007 by members of the Inglis House Poetry Workshop, the journal promotes the work of writers with disability and aims to develop a rich source for those interested in disability literature.  And Michael Northern, editor in chief, has done an amazing job of producing another enthralling read.

I have endometriosis and mild scoliosis, therefore pain management for both is paramount, which is what attracted me to Daniel Sluman’s Poetry of Pain Workshop hosted through The Poetry School.  This is where my poem ‘Extramarital bliss’ originated, and was developed following an online feedback session facilitated by Daniel, a fantastic poet who also signposted this journal.

Disability literature is growing, and writing about its impact and associated pain can be extremely cathartic, because the challenge is being able to express something in words that takes your breath away.

I’ve just finished an open workshop in which poets were asked to explore their own experiences of pain and develop them into poems to share with the group.

Poetry of pain

Hosted through The Poetry School’s online social network CAMPUS, the workshop was facilitated by Daniel Sluman and ran for two weeks comprising assignment, reading, writing time and live chat. Daniel is an amazing poet, whose work often explores the challenge of the body and the pain it can cause, with two collections to his name – his first, Absence has a weight of its own, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2012 and then his latest, the terrible, is also available from Nine Arches Press.

So we were asked to recall the most memorable moments in our lives that have involved pain and note three down. Well once I started, I found it difficult to stop and ended up with over seven on my list! We then had to think about these times in an objective way with a focus on detail and other senses, i.e. not just the sensation of pain, drawing on poems by Matthew Siegel and Sharon Olds as exceptional examples of how pain can be conveyed.

I managed to draft and share three poems, with notes for another five, and poets had to choose one to be work-shopped during the two-hour live chat session. Having this at 4:30am my time (7pm London time), I thought showed commitment to the craft!

It was a really useful exercise and I met some fantastic poets along the way, whom I hope to remain in contact with. Daniel asked if we thought this course could be expanded upon; most definitely, where there’s pain, either physical or emotional, there’s a lot to say and share.