Poetry by a University of Toledo faculty member is featured in an anthology selected by the American Library Association as a Notable Book of 2012.Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, published by Cinco Puntos Press, features 40 poets, including Dr. Jim Ferris, Ability Center of Greater Toledo Endowed Chair of Disability Studies and associate professor of communication.
Ferris is part of the disability poetry movement, which seeks to express the experience of people with disabilities through poetry.
“The changes the disability rights and disability culture movements have wrought are enormous and profound, for the nondisabled as well as for people with disabilities,” he said. “My work seeks to participate in and extend disability culture, which means not only greater awareness of all the many ways we can be human in this difficult and beautiful world, but also greater opportunity for all of us who have bodies.”
Ferris is a recognized figure in the disability poetry movement along with other writers in the anthology, including Stephen Kuusisto and Kenny Fries.
“One of Jim’s poems, ‘Poet of Cripples,’ became a sort of anthem poem for those in the disability poetry movement,” said Michael Northen, one of the editors of Beauty is a Verb. “We wanted to include it in Beauty is a Verb because it’s the sort of thing that people can really respond to, even if they know nothing about disability poetics.”
Northen added Ferris’ work has been published in several anthologies and collections. Beauty is a Verb contains previously published poems as well as new work.
Ferris said, “These poems are the products of the encounters of anomaly with a normalizing world. We talk about how good it is to be different, to proclaim our individuality, but the range of difference that is considered acceptable is really pretty narrow.
“Contemporary commercial culture corrals people into a normalized mindset. I hope my work helps to pry open those constraints,” said Ferris, who also is director of the UT Disability Studies Program.
Beauty is a Verb is an anthology of poetry that Ferris said “is not about disability culture: it is disability culture.”
“The concept for the anthology originated from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Denver in 2010,” Northen said. “I was on a panel with the other editors — Sheila Black and Jennifer Bartlett — and after we got back, we thought about doing a collection. All of us had read some of Jim’s work, and we wanted work like Jim’s recognized to show what poets in the disability movement had done.”
Ferris is planning a reading for the poets whose work is featured in Beauty is a Verb and hopes to hold the reading in April at UT.
Since 1944, the American Library Association’s Notable Books Council annually has selected the good, readable and important fiction, nonfiction and poetry books for adults. Works are selected for literary merit, expanding human knowledge, making specialized knowledge more accessible, contributing solutions to contemporary problems or presenting unique concepts.
To learn more about Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability or to order a copy, visit Cinco Puntos Press’ website at www.cincopuntos.com or the official site for the anthology at www.beautyisaverbbook.com.