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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.

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.

That’s the number of poems I’ve had published, or will have very soon thanks to an online literary journal based in Dublin called The Burning Bush 2, who recently told me they would like to use some of my work in their next issue!

Burning Bush 2 header

So 30…is this good or bad? Or just plain mediocre? I actually think it’s not too bad considering I’ve never had a collection published, and the spread is across a variety of journals, magazines, both in print and online, anthologies, competitions, with even one turned into a short film. And they’ve crossed the Pacific and Atlantic, and back again to cover three continents. It could be higher, but it’s a good solid number to grow and become more me thinks.

And then reading an update by fellow poet Abegail Morley about her forthcoming collection, The Skin Diary, being published by Nine Arches Press next year, has kick-started me again to return to my own collection I’m currently putting together. It will only be pamphlet-size to be sent to a publisher in Australia with a current call out for such work. So we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I’ll pocket my 30 and raise you

smiley face