Poetry News

Announcing Deaf Poets Society, a Journal With a Vision for Disability Literature

By Harriet Staff

The Millions points out the inaugural issue of Deaf Poets Society, an online journal featuring new "intersectional disability literature & art." Editors Ava C. Cipri, Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, and Sarah Katz write that they "wanted to hear the stories of those living boldly, like us, and often close to the edge," that they seek poems "that illuminate the complex constellation that is our lives, poems that seethe from visions and thoughts that only a person with a disability could have."

We wanted to present the work of those giving life and shape and form to wide-ranging experiences of disabled life—as a woman, as a Black person, as a member of the LGBTQ community—and then to submerge readers in that transformative ocean.

We sure got them. These are poems that dive deeply into expeditions of bodily consciousness, cresting the waves of a spine with its tender / earthquakes and meeting at nerves that are raw scarabs (“I was thinking about trying to teach myself to play guitar in secret,” by Jen Stein). The poems upend metaphor: forty miles of bad road (“Bad road” by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha); negotiate with the experience of an exorcism: i won't believe the hands of my root woman can pull me out (“Playing the D’s” by Ashley Young); and meet with Beethoven in the flesh (“Counterpoint” by Raymond Luczak). These poems investigate bodily knowledge and its tendency, sometimes, to act apart from the wills of the mind.

Altogether, this inaugural issue includes twenty-three poems from thirteen poets whose sensibilities and voices range considerably, but are united in a fierce desire to see beyond the current rhetoric about disability. You’ll notice that space in all its forms frequently appears as a motif. Celestial space is one image, but the spaces of silence, anxiety, nostalgia, tinnitus, birdsong, and even disco appear also. In addition, the prose poems in this issue take up space on the page, and, depending on a poem's content, makes certain demands of its readers; the lineated poems pull us slowly through, their elements lingering in the way that chronic pain lingers in us, ever-constant; and still other poems pinball across the page, giving form to frenetic sensory experience.

Find all the contributors here.