-for Jason Bradford and Shirley Niedermann

A few months ago, Adam Clay and Matthew Henriksen asked me to curate an issue of Typo with work by disabled writers. Immediately, I thought of Andrea Baker’s in-progress memoir that has yet see the light of day. Baker, who happens to be one of my favorite poets, does not identify as a disabled person.  However, her memoir addresses struggles with disassociation and a relationship with a homeless disabled man.

Shortly after reading through Baker’s memoir, I began to get submissions. Work  came from poets with “mental illness,” physical impairments, cognitive disabilities, people with illnesses, invisible disabilities, and their caregivers.

Anyone who is involved in disability poetics and/or activism is probably aware that the issue of inclusion is particularly loaded in the community.  Many people feel that caregivers shouldn’t be included in such literature because the disabled community has long been kept from speaking for itself and the concerns of caregivers are often different from those with disabilities. People with invisible disabilities often feel excluded from disability movements and deal with getting people to acknowledge their disabilities. People with visible disabilities get frustrated because the burden of being seen as a person with a physical difference is constantly fraught: spaces are inaccessible, people stare, and dating and employment are complex at best.

In forming a grouping of literature, any group of literature, the question becomes who to include and who not to include. In the first meeting of the recently formed AWP disability caucus, the same question arose.  Similarly, the thought of making a journal around solely around one kind of identification felt too restrictive. There were pieces I wanted to publish by writers who do not identify as disabled – whether they have one or not.  There were pieces by writers I wanted to include who didn’t have a disability at all.

So, I changed my plan.

This issue of Typo is a presentation of the body and the mind. It is a presentation of how being in the world takes place. In a controversial gesture, disability and non-normative bodies are the focal point. It has been too long that anthologies, panels, and magazines that focus on “body” exclude the disabled body. While I am conflicted about conscious inclusion and the risk of tokenism, I do realize that is necessary for real change. The issue also includes a myriad poetic and prose in keeping with my belief that all kinds of poems have the potential to be good, whether “experimental,” lyrical, narrative, or formal. The one thing lacking is what I call the ‘tragedy model’ of disability literature. This is work that focuses largely on the internal struggle of disability [rather than the social one] and often conjures pity. It’s not that I don’t believe this work has a place in the world, it’s rather that it has too much of a place. This is often the only work that gets center stage.

It’s time to close the gap and give some new voices a listen.