I’m massively pleased to announce that Nine Arches Press has commissioned Sandra Alland, myself, and Daniel Sluman to co-edit an anthology of UK Disability Poetry / Crip Poetics, which we think will be the very first of its kind in the UK. It has no title as of yet. Publication date is to be confirmed (we are determined to pace ourselves, given our own disability and health considerations) but we expect to be able to publish sometime in 2016.
In 2011, U.S.-based poetry editors Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black and Mike Northen collaborated to bring you Beauty Is A Verb, the very first anthology to draw together and showcase The New Poetry of Disability, or Crip Poetics, being developed largely in the United States. Beauty Is A Verb traced a history of Crip Poetics in America from its forefather, Larry Eigner, to a present crop of emerging and established contemporary poets with disabilities working in the fledgling but ever-expanding field.
Our cultural, political and social context in the UK is different to that which Beauty Is A Verb emerged from. As well as owing a massive debt to Mike Northen and co, and the many reputable poets who featured in that anthology, the editors plan on drawing together our backgrounds and influences in poetry, political and social activism and academia around disability, feminism, sexuality and gender fluidity/variation, with a consciously intersectional framework.
We plan to draw on the context of anti-Atos / Welfare Reform and NHS privatisation activism, whose leading lights (particularly on online social networks) have been women, including queer women and women of colour – a clear antithesis to the systemic norm. In both poetry prose we plan to explore, creatively and critically, other bodily identities and oppressions which intersect with disability to create what poet and activist Eli Clare called “marked bodies.” Racialised bodies, gender non-conforming bodies, bodies “marked” by class or religion.
As editors we are committed to the social model of disability (with an eye on other radical socio-political models), which means we are casting a wide net in our call for poets who self-identify as disabled, people with disabilities, crip, or any variation thereof, who consider their impairments and / or their disabled identity a key part of their thematic, conceptual and aesthetic practice.
We are drawing up guidelines as we speak, as well as deciding who exactly we are defining as “disabled” for the purposes of this project. For now, though, let’s just say we want to represent visible and invisible long-term and life-altering physical disabilities / mobility impairments, deafness, learning disabilities, blindness, chronic and terminal illnesses (e.g. ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia etc.), mental illness – basically, whatever non-normative bodily alignments have a place under the banner of “disabled” according to the social model.
As a whole, the anthology is likely to contain a mixture of work which is called-for / submitted, solicited / commissioned, and re-published / re-printed by permission. We also hope to make the material accessible by multiple means to guarantee as wide a readership as possible. But while we spend time thinking about that, and drawing up specific submission guidelines, please spread the word to potential writers and readers. Find me online if you know of any UK-based work that you think needs to be included. And watch this space!
Sandra Alland, Markie Burnhope and Daniel Sluman
Sandra Alland is a writer, performer, filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist. She co-won the 2013 bpNichol Chapbook Award for Naturally Speaking (espresso: Toronto), an examination of gender and disability poetics. Her current projects include The Queer & Trans* Deaf & Disabled Video Project, Cachín Cachán Cachunga!, SEEP, and They They Theys. Sandra has fibromyalgia, hypermobility and scoliosis.
Markie Burnhope is a poet, editor and disability activist. Markie co-edited Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot, and Fit to Work: Poets Against Atos. Their published poetry includes the pamphlets The Snowboy (Salt Publishing, 2011) and Lever Arch (Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2013), and their debut full-length collection, Species (Nine Arches Press, 2014). Markie was born with Spina bifida and Hydrocephalus, and self-identifies as disabled, neurodivergent, non-binary and genderqueer.
Daniel Sluman is a young poet based in Gloucestershire. His poems have appeared widely in journals such as Cadaverine, Popshot, Shit Creek Review, & Orbis. His debut full-length collection, Absence has a weight of its own, was published in 2012 through Nine Arches Press, who will also be publishing his second collection, The Terrible, in 2015. Daniel is a through-hip amputee from childhood bone cancer and a resulting chronic back condition.