Inspiring Poets with Disability
Emma Gulliford once said that 'Reading a good book is like taking a journey'. Reading will not only transport you into new places, but it also gives that zest to get up, conquer your fears, and explore the outside world. Think about it. When we read a spellbinding book where a specific place was described majestically and vividly, you are gripped to create beautiful mental pictures that trigger you to fulfill that inner pull, and to start planning so you could visit the depicted place soon. Being able to deepen your consciousness after reading a dynamic novel, gives you the guts to get out of your comfort zone and start braving unchartered waters—like a new endeavor or an untested activity— and eventually actualizing what your heart tells you to do.
The same thing goes with poems. Poetry can be instrumental in changing our lives. Reading verses and poems give us a fuller discernment of the world around us, and move us into another level of understanding and insight. We get inspired, muster the audacity to start pursuing our dreams, and give us so many realizations that strengthen our faith—despite the adversities.
The ability to write is a gift. A writer’s influence can create a huge impact to a reader’s mind. Poems are literary works that entice us to infer, analyse and make our own interpretations—which are limitless as our imagination is infinite. We benefit from differentiating figurative and literal meanings, extracting the value and symbolisms from its poignant effect to us.
The poets with disability are true testaments that we can defeat life's hurdle and difficulties, overcoming physical hindrances and disabilities while being pushed to the limits by an immensely powerful force that is waiting to be unleashed deep within us—the passion to do what makes us genuinely happy.
Here are some of the world’s most amazing poets with disability that will keep you inspired:
1. Laurie Clements Lambeth
Laurie Clements Lambeth is a distinguished American poet who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 17. The said diagnosis has inspired her to become a poet, and most of her poems are centred on topics about disability.
Her works have been showcased in numerous leading publications. Veil and Burn—her first book of poetry—has won the 2006 National Poetry Series.
Lambeth is a graduate of University of Houston, and a holder of MFA and a PhD. She revealed that she would not have became a poet if she was not diagnosed with multiple sclerosis because the said condition has opened her eyes to herself by going through its various symptoms.
2. Larry Eigner
Larry Eigner was an illustrious American poet who suffered a very severe case of cerebral palsy.
Eigner was one of the principal and disinguished poets in the Black Mountain School. He had a major influence on the 'Language School' of poetry, and his famed works created an impact among the Language poets.
Describing his poetry as something that 'originates in ‘thinking’ rather than speech', Eigner's rich and powerful contribution to literature has been inspirational to aspiring poets, and his significant name in the literary genre has been valued and highly-regarded by fellow poets.
Eigner's prolific collection which expressed his eloquence, wit, poetic and linguistic achievement is honored worldwide. Some of his brilliant pieces are 'From the Sustaining Air' and 'Another Time in Fragments', among others. His notable works compiled as 'The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner' was published by the Stanford University Press.
Charles Bukowski, a praise-worthy poet and novelist, once named Eigner as the "greatest living poet".
A full-length biography of Eigner's life is currently being written by the New York-based poet, Jennifer Bartlett.
3. Sarah Katz
Sarah Katz is a poet, essayist and a writer of book reviews. She is also the founder of Deaf Poets Society, an online literary magazine that publishes written works, disability-themed books, narratives, reviews, artworks by artists and writers with a disability, and everything that relate to disability literature. As a deaf poet, she realized that there is a limited platform for the disability community to display their works and creations. This gap encouraged her to establish the Deaf Poets Society, where writers with a disability can contribute to an online journal of disability literature and art.
Katz gained her MFA in Poetry at the American University with an award-winning thesis. She also received the 2015 District Lit Prize award. Robert Pinsky, a US Poet Laureate, has chosen Katz's Country of Glass as a finalist for the Tupelo Press's 2016 Dorset Prize.
4. Jennifer Bartlett
Jennifer Bartlett is an American poet with a mild cerebral palsy. She is also an author, and has taught disability awareness and poetry classes at the Hamilton College, Brown University, Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Cerebral Palsy, in the New York Public Schools, among others. She has eloquently weaved her written works of art which are undeniably thought-provoking; they are inspiring poems that are focused on biographies and awareness about disability which are infused with magical realism.
Her works include the 'Autobiography/Anti-Autobiography', 'Derivative of the Moving Image', '(a) lullaby without any music' and has co-edited 'Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability'.
Bartlett is currently writing a full-length biography of the respected poet Larry Eigner, who has lived with a severe case of cerebral palsy.
5. Arthur Alexander (Lex) Banning
Lex Banning was an esteemed Australian lyric poet. He was one of the most revered poets with disability. He was born with cerebral palsy and was incapable of writing using a pen. His influences were Matsuo Bashō—the most famous Japanese poet, as well as the poems of Constantine P. Cavafy, an Alexandrian Greek poet.
Lex Banning's gift to pen provocative poems rose above his condition. Banning's posthumous poetry collection 'There Was a Crooked Man' is an evidence of his magnificence to write, and the richness of his poetry.
The editor-in-chief of the Australian Encyclopaedia, Richard Appleton, has gained access to Banning's collection, and along with his co-editor Alex Galloway edited the compilation of letters and Banning's works.
Alex Galloway described Banning's work with these words: "[I]n compiling this collection, I have come to understand his appeal. His sculptured verse is wrought from figures of the past, from acute seeing in the now, from awareness of the significance of shadows which give meaning and dimension to the structure of images. You may hear the voice of thought, see the vision of clear sight, feel the brooding presence of an entity beyond the immediate grasp of the mind, and glimpse the monstrous and the beautiful apprehension allowed to a poet"
Les Murray, the world-renowned Australian poet, also described Lex Banning as the "most influential Bohemian person in Sydney in his time". He also revealed that Banning has an influence in his early writing.
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In any written literary piece such as poetry, the benefits are immense whether we are the reader or the writer. Being an avid reader of poems makes us 'lucky' receivers of enlightenment and wisdom. On the other hand, poetry writing improves a person's cognitive flexibility and function, and consequently makes him more perceptive and intelligent. It also enhances the way one expresses himself—whether it is about love, pain, grief, or a kind of discovery about life or a certain subject. And the best element of this art is the process of enjoying a cathartic and ultimately therapeutic experience, while being able to move, uplift and inspire others with your fascinating imagination and writing artistry. Indeed, writing poetry and becoming a full-fledged poet endows us with a gift that may transcend all understanding.
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