Michael Davidson: On a Poetics of Disability

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 7:06 AM
[The following, from Davidson’s pioneering essay “Missing Larry: The Poetics of Disability in Larry Eigner,” was an opening to an area of poetic concern previously outside the range of critical consideration. It later appeared in his Concerto for the Left Hand: Disability and the Defamiliar Body (University of Michigan Press, 2008) & is echoed by much else in Davidson’s ongoing contributions toward a new & vitalized poetics. The full essay is available on-line at http://www.poetspath.com/Scholarship_Project/davidson.html, & underlying the poetics are key works of poetry such as The Prose of Fact, The Landing of Rochambeau, & The Arcades from the 1980s & 1990s. It’s worth noting too, as a followup to Davidson’s opening sentence, that 2010 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.]

how to dance
sitting down
(Charles Olson, “Tyrian Business”)

The year 2000 marked the tenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, an event commemorated in June by a twenty-four city relay by disabled athletes and activists. The torch for this relay arrived in Southern California, carried by Sarah Will in a jet ski on Venice Beach. After handing the torch to another disabled athlete, Will was lifted into her wheelchair to join a trek down Venice Boulevard to the Western Center for Independent Living. Although some disability activists might criticize the triumphalist character of this celebration––crippled athletes hitting the beach in jet skis––the event’s climax at an Independent Living center was a fitting destination for persons who came out of various medical closets in the 1960s and began living together in communal spaces and public housing. The Center for Independent Living is, coincidentally, the same venue that brought the poet Larry Eigner from his home in Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1978 to live in Berkeley, California, where he spent his last years.

The passage of the ADA in 1990 capped three decades of activism by persons who, for physical or psychological reasons, had been denied access to public buildings, insurance policies, housing, medical treatment, signage, education, marriage, sexuality, and childbearing––not to mention legal representation and respect. Activism on their behalf began in social movements of the 1960s, but unlike anti-war, feminist, and civil rights struggles, the disability rights movement has not–until recently––received the same attention by historians of civil rights, This silence is odd since the disabled community cuts across all demographic, racial and class lines and, potentially, includes everyone. It may be that the very pervasiveness of disability contributes to its marginal status as a rights claiming category.

There are a number of reasons why the subject of disability is often omitted in the roster of 1960s social movements, although this absence is being corrected in a number of recent books dealing with disability history. Civil rights legislation of the 1950s and 1960s could invoke long traditions of advocacy going back to antebellum abolitionism; the anti-war movement grew out of pacifist and anti-imperialist politics of the nineteenth-century; feminism grew out of suffragism and the labor movement. Disabled persons, however, were treated as medical “cases,” best kept out of sight, their wheelchairs, braces, and oxygen tents sequestered in hospitals, clinics and asylums. Individual disabilities were treated independently of one another, balkanized by separate regimes of treatment, therapy and social service. Social support often came from charity movements and parental groups that reinforced a paternalist ethos of the disabled person as innocent victim or child rather than fully vested citizen. Nor was the disability community unified in its goals and social agendas. Persons with occasional or non-apparent disabilities may choose to pass in able-bodied culture and refuse the protections of social legislation; someone who loses sight late in life may lack the same institutional and cultural support as someone blind from birth; Deaf persons often do not want to be viewed as disabled, preferring to see themselves as a linguistic minority; persons with cognitive or developmental disabilities are often separated from those with physical impairments. Forging alliances among such disparate populations was, needless to say, difficult for early disability rights activists who sought coalitional formations across medical lines yet honored material differences among separate disabilities.

Beyond these factors, there were economic disincentives to recognizing disability as a civil right since redress required pro-active investment in infrastructure modification, technologies, sign language interpreters, transportation and other accommodations. Providing ramps and elevators for wheelchairs, TDDs, and braille signage would cost businesses money, and many legislators felt that federal funds should not be spent when private philanthropy could serve the same function. As Lennard Davis points out, both the political left and right perceived the disabled body as “unproductive,” which, in a world based upon instrumentality and capitalization, was not a basis upon which class analysis or public policy could be forged.). As I suggest in chapter seven “universal design” means more than ramps for wheelchair users or “talking” traffic signals for deaf persons; it implies breaking the hold of stigma in order to examine the ways in which a rhetoric of normalcy infects social attitudes and thwarts the forming of community. Recently, one of my colleagues who is active in the field of minority rights complained about the university administration’s insensitivity to diversity: “It was like talking to a deaf person,” he said, linking authorities who won’t listen to people who can’t. The idea that the deaf are “dumb,” in any sense of that term, is precisely the stigma that needs to be erased if alliances between traditional civil rights based on class, race, gender, and sexuality are to be forged with disability.

Which is why a poetics -- as much as a politics -- of disability is important: because it theorizes the ways that poetry defamiliarizes not only language but the body normalized within language. A poetics of disability might unsettle the thematics of embodiment as it appeared in any number of literary and artistic movements of the 1960s. This same thematics was shared with the New Left in its stress on the physical body as localized site of the social. Whether in feminism’s focus on reproductive rights, youth culture’s fetish of sexual liberation, cultural nationalist celebrations of “race men,” or the anti-war movement’s politics of heroic resistance, the healthy, preferably young body becomes a marker of political agency. Within the world of art, this same emphasis on a normalized body emerged through a set of imbricated metaphors––gesture, breath, orality, performance, “leaping” poetry, “action” painting, projective verse, deep image, happenings, spontaneous bop prosody––that organized what Daniel Belgrad has called “the culture of spontaneity” in the 1960s. While a poetics of embodiment foregrounds the body as source for artistic production, it nevertheless calls for some unmediated physical or mental core unhampered by prostheses, breathing tubes, or electric scooters.

What would happen if we subjected a poetics of embodiment to the actual bodies and mental conditions of its authors. What would it mean to read the 1960s poetics of process and expression for its dependence on ableist models, while recognizing its celebration of idiosyncrasy and difference? By this optic, we might see Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and John Berryman not only as confessional poets but as persons who lived with depression or bi-polar disorders, for whom personal testimony was accompanied by hospitalization, medicalization, and family trauma. What would it mean to think of Charles Olson’s “breath” line as coming from someone with chronic emphysema exacerbated by heavy smoking? What if we added to Audre Lorde’s multicultural description of herself as a Black, lesbian, mother, “sister outsider,” a person with breast cancer (as she herself does in The Cancer Journals)? Robert Creeley’s lines in “The Immoral Proposition,” “to look at it is more / than it was,” mean something very particular when we know that their author has only one eye. To what extent are Elizabeth Bishop’s numerous references to suffocation and claustrophobia in her poems an outgrowth of a life with severe asthma? Robert Duncan’s phrase “I see always the underside turning” may refer to his interest in theosophy and the occult, but it also derives from the poet’s visual disorder, in which one eye sees the near and the other far. Was William Carlos Williams’s development of the triadic stepped foot in his later career a dimension of his prosody or a typographical response to speech disorders resulting from a series of strokes? It is worth remembering that the signature poem of the era was not only a poem about the madness of the best minds of the poet’s generation, but about the carceral and therapeutic controls that defined those minds as mad, written by someone who was himself “expelled from the academies for crazy.” And if we include in our list the effects of alcoholism and substance abuse, a good deal of critical discussion of 1960s poetry could be enlisted around disability issues.

I am not suggesting that a focus on the disabled body is the only way to read postwar poetry, but it is worth noting that its poetics of embodiment brought a renewed focus on the vicissitudes of hand and eye, musculature and voice, as dimensions of the poetic. The salient feature of poetries generated out of Beat, Black Mountain, New York School, Deep Image and other non-formalist poetries was a belief in the poem’s registration of physiological and cognitive response, the line as “score for the voice,” the poem as act or gesture. Charles Olson’s assertion that “Limits / are what any of us / are inside of” speaks as much for the creative potential of the disabled artist as it does for the American self-reliant hero of his Maximus Poems. Perhaps it would be more balanced to say that the self-evident status of a certain kind of body has often underwritten an expressivist poetics whose romantic origins can be traced to a tubercular Keats, syphilitic Shelley and Nietzsche, clubfooted Byron, and mad John Clare and Gerard de Nerval.

0 Response to 'Michael Davidson: On a Poetics of Disability'

Post a Comment

Tattoos Picture Page 1 Tattoos Picture Page 2 Tattoos Picture Page 3 Tattoos Picture Page 4 Tattoos Picture Page 5 Tattoos Picture Page 6 Tattoos Picture Page 7 Tattoos Picture Page 8 Tattoos Picture Page 9 Tattoos Picture Page 10 Tattoos Picture Page 11 Tattoos Picture Page 12 Tattoos Picture Page 13 Tattoos Picture Page 14 Tattoos Picture Page 15 Tattoos Picture Page 16 Tattoos Picture Page 17 Tattoos Picture Page 18 Tattoos Picture Page 19 Tattoos Picture Page 20 Tattoos Picture Page 21 Tattoos Picture Page 22 Tattoos Picture Page 23 Tattoos Picture Page 24 Tattoos Picture Page 25 Tattoos Picture Page 26 Tattoos Picture Page 27 Tattoos Picture Page 28 Tattoos Picture Page 29 Tattoos Picture Page 30 Tattoos Picture Page 31 Tattoos Picture Page 32 Tattoos Picture Page 33 Tattoos Picture Page 34 Tattoos Picture Page 35 Tattoos Picture Page 36 Tattoos Picture Page 37 Tattoos Picture Page 38 Tattoos Picture Page 39 Tattoos Picture Page 40 Tattoos Picture Page 41 Tattoos Picture Page 42 Tattoos Picture Page 43 Tattoos Picture Page 44 Tattoos Picture Page 45 Tattoos Picture Page 46 Tattoos Picture Page 47 Tattoos Picture Page 48 Tattoos Picture Page 49 Tattoos Picture Page 50 Tattoos Picture Page 51 Tattoos Picture Page 52 Tattoos Picture Page 53 Tattoos Picture Page 54 Tattoos Picture Page 55 Tattoos Picture Page 56 Tattoos Picture Page 57 Tattoos Picture Page 58 Tattoos Picture Page 59 Tattoos Picture Page 60 Tattoos Picture Page 61 Tattoos Picture Page 62 Tattoos Picture Page 63 Tattoos Picture Page 64 Tattoos Picture Page 65 Tattoos Picture Page 66 Tattoos Picture Page 67 Tattoos Picture Page 68 Tattoos Picture Page 69 Tattoos Picture Page 70 Tattoos Picture Page 71 Tattoos Picture Page 72 Tattoos Picture Page 73 Tattoos Picture Page 74 Tattoos Picture Page 75 Tattoos Picture Page 76 Tattoos Picture Page 77 Tattoos Picture Page 78 Tattoos Picture Page 79 Tattoos Picture Page 80 Tattoos Picture Page 81 Tattoos Picture Page 82 Tattoos Picture Page 83 Tattoos Picture Page 84 Tattoos Picture Page 85 Tattoos Picture Page 86 Tattoos Picture Page 87 Tattoos Picture Page 88 Tattoos Picture Page 89 Tattoos Picture Page 90 Tattoos Picture Page 91 Tattoos Picture Page 92 Tattoos Picture Page 93 Tattoos Picture Page 94 Tattoos Picture Page 95 Tattoos Picture Page 96 Tattoos Picture Page 97 Tattoos Picture Page 98 Tattoos Picture Page 99 Tattoos Picture Page 100 Tattoos Picture Page 101 Tattoos Picture Page 102 Tattoos Picture Page 103 Tattoos Picture Page 104 Tattoos Picture Page 105 Tattoos Picture Page 106 Tattoos Picture Page 107 Tattoos Picture Page 108 Tattoos Picture Page 109 Tattoos Picture Page 110 Tattoos Picture Page 111 Tattoos Picture Page 112 Tattoos Picture Page 113 Tattoos Picture Page 114 Tattoos Picture Page 115 Tattoos Picture Page 116 Tattoos Picture Page 117 Tattoos Picture Page 118 Tattoos Picture Page 119 Tattoos Picture Page 120 Luxury Villa and Home Page 1 Luxury Villa and Home Page 2 Luxury Villa and Home Page 3 Luxury Villa and Home Page 4 Luxury Villa and Home Page 5 Luxury Villa and Home Page 6 Luxury Villa and Home Page 7 Luxury Villa and Home Page 8 Luxury Villa and Home Page 9 Luxury Villa and Home Page 10 Luxury Villa and Home Page 11 Luxury Villa and Home Page 12 Luxury Villa and Home Page 13 Luxury Villa and Home Page 14 Luxury Villa and Home Page 15 Luxury Villa and Home Page 16 Luxury Villa and Home Page 17 Luxury Villa and Home Page 18 Luxury Villa and Home Page 19 Luxury Villa and Home Page 20 Luxury Villa and Home Page 21 Luxury Villa and Home Page 22 Luxury Villa and Home Page 23 Luxury Villa and Home Page 24 Luxury Villa and Home Page 25 Luxury Villa and Home Page 26 Luxury Villa and Home Page 27 Luxury Villa and Home Page 28 Luxury Villa and Home Page 29 Luxury Villa and Home Page 30 Luxury Villa and Home Page 31 Luxury Villa and Home Page 32 Luxury Villa and Home Page 33 Luxury Villa and Home Page 34 Luxury Villa and Home Page 35 Luxury Villa and Home Page 36 Luxury Villa and Home Page 37 Luxury Villa and Home Page 38 Luxury Villa and Home Page 39 Luxury Villa and Home Page 40 Luxury Villa and Home Page 41 Luxury Villa and Home Page 42 Luxury Villa and Home Page 43 Luxury Villa and Home Page 44 Luxury Villa and Home Page 45 Luxury Villa and Home Page 46 Luxury Villa and Home Page 47 Luxury Villa and Home Page 48 Luxury Villa and Home Page 49 Luxury Villa and Home Page 50 Luxury Villa and Home Page 51 Luxury Villa and Home Page 52 Luxury Villa and Home Page 53 Luxury Villa and Home Page 54 Luxury Villa and Home Page 55 Luxury Villa and Home Page 56 Luxury Villa and Home Page 57 Luxury Villa and Home Page 58 Luxury Villa and Home Page 59 Luxury Villa and Home Page 60 Luxury Villa and Home Page 61 Luxury Villa and Home Page 62 Luxury Villa and Home Page 63 Luxury Villa and Home Page 64 Luxury Villa and Home Page 65 Luxury Villa and Home Page 66 Luxury Villa and Home Page 67 Luxury Villa and Home Page 68 Luxury Villa and Home Page 69 Luxury Villa and Home Page 70 Luxury Villa and Home Page 71 Luxury Villa and Home Page 72 Luxury Villa and Home Page 73 Luxury Villa and Home Page 74 Luxury Villa and Home Page 75 Luxury Villa and Home Page 76 Luxury Villa and Home Page 77 Luxury Villa and Home Page 78 Luxury Villa and Home Page 79 Luxury Villa and Home Page 80 Luxury Villa and Home Page 81 Luxury Villa and Home Page 82 Luxury Villa and Home Page 83 Luxury Villa and Home Page 84 Luxury Villa and Home Page 85 Luxury Villa and Home Page 86 Luxury Villa and Home Page 87 Luxury Villa and Home Page 88 Luxury Villa and Home Page 89 Luxury Villa and Home Page 90 Luxury Villa and Home Page 91 Luxury Villa and Home Page 92 Luxury Villa and Home Page 93 Luxury Villa and Home Page 94 Luxury Villa and Home Page 95 Luxury Villa and Home Page 96 Luxury Villa and Home Page 97 Luxury Villa and Home Page 98 Luxury Villa and Home Page 99 Famous People Page 1 Famous People Page 2 Famous People Page 3 Famous People Page 4 Famous People Page 5 Famous People Page 6 Famous People Page 7 Famous People Page 8 Famous People Page 9 Famous People Page 10 Famous People Page 11 Famous People Page 12 Famous People Page 13 Famous People Page 14 Famous People Page 15 Famous People Page 16 Famous People Page 17 Famous People Page 18 Famous People Page 19 Famous People Page 20 Famous People Page 21 Famous People Page 22 Famous People Page 23 Famous People Page 24 Famous People Page 25 Famous People Page 26 Famous People Page 27 Famous People Page 28 Famous People Page 29 Famous People Page 30 Famous People Page 31 Famous People Page 32 Famous People Page 33 Famous People Page 34 Famous People Page 35 Famous People Page 36 Famous People Page 37 Famous People Page 38 Famous People Page 39 Famous People Page 40 Famous People Page 41 Famous People Page 42 Famous People Page 43 Famous People Page 44 Famous People Page 45 Famous People Page 46 Famous People Page 47 Famous People Page 48 Famous People Page 49 Famous People Page 50 Famous People Page 51 Famous People Page 52 Famous People Page 53 Famous People Page 54 Famous People Page 55 Famous People Page 56 Famous People Page 57 Famous People Page 58 Famous People Page 59 Famous People Page 60 Famous People Page 61 Famous People Page 62 Famous People Page 63 Famous People Page 64 Famous People Page 65 Famous People Page 66 Famous People Page 67 Famous People Page 68 Famous People Page 69 Famous People Page 70 Famous People Page 71 Famous People Page 72 Famous People Page 73 Famous People Page 74 Famous People Page 75 Famous People Page 76 Famous People Page 77 Famous People Page 78 Famous People Page 79 Famous People Page 80 Famous People Page 81 Famous People Page 82 Famous People Page 83 Famous People Page 84 Famous People Page 85 Famous People Page 86 Famous People Page 87 Famous People Page 88 Famous People Page 89 Famous People Page 90 Famous People Page 91 Famous People Page 92 Famous People Page 93 Famous People Page 94 Famous People Page 95 Famous People Page 96 Famous People Page 97 Famous People Page 98 Famous People Page 99 Famous People Page 100 Famous People Page 101 Famous People Page 102 Famous People Page 103 Famous People Page 104 Famous People Page 105 Famous People Page 106 Famous People Page 107 Famous People Page 108 Famous People Page 109 Famous People Page 110 Famous People Page 111 Famous People Page 112 Famous People Page 113 Famous People Page 114 Famous People Page 115 Famous People Page 116 Famous People Page 117 Famous People Page 118 Famous People Page 119 Famous People Page 120