Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Ever After: A Crippling Disappointment

Image: On a snowy background with pine trees in white lights, the words "24/7 holiday movies all season long" are in small, red letters across the top. Underneath, the word "Christmas" is in gold with "Ever After" under that in red. On the left-hand side of the image, a white woman with blonde hair sits in a wheelchair holding the hands of a kneeling white man with dark hair. 

Izzi is a writer on a deadline who has a severe case of writer's block. When she goes to her normal vacation spot for Christmas, she meets a guy who looks exactly like the love interest in her novels. 

I wanted to absolutely love this movie. It's the first romantic Christmas movie I've seen with a disabled heroine! Unfortunately, this film missed the mark in so many ways.

Izzi is an inconsistent main character. When the movie first starts, she seems erratic. Her personality then shifts about a third of the way through the film and becomes just bubbly and upbeat. Watching her in the beginning was bizarre, and the change didn't help the incongruity of it all. I like the way the movie showed her navigating through life as a wheelchair-user, but it really felt like they glossed over a lot to do with disability in general; I understand not wanting to make a big production out of the fact that she's not a typical protagonist, but not addressing it in any way in regards to a romantic relationship struck me as disingenuous.

The love interest was bland, though they tried to give him a backstory. Of course, his past would have been incomplete without a dead wife... a cliche I'm tired of. His daughter was cute and his father was kind and boisterous, but the other side characters were mostly cardboard.

The score was not memorable in the slightest, and the cinematography wasn't the best. I acknowledge the way it was shot may have been due to the pandemic.

What temporarily splits the couple is beyond ridiculous. At first the viewer thinks it may be a misunderstanding trope, but it seems like Izzi's real issue is insecurity. I understand insecurity is a big thing during new relationships, but the way it occurred and was resolved just seemed like it was a non-issue.

There is a twist in the movie many viewers won't find a revelation at all. Since it is a supposed selling point, it was a major letdown.

It was still awesome to see a disabled woman in a film like this, and I have a lot of respect for Ali Stroker, but this was a disappointment. We deserve better than just a bargain-bin plot with stale characterization. This was a roll in the right direction, but it fell horribly short of being something I'd watch again.

End note: Izzi doesn't ever have accessibility issues... even in a small town. It might've cracked my disbelief meter.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Nude Model Drawings by Su Zi (Visual Art)

Artist's statement on the work: The drawings are from when I used to stop in at a community art center in Marigny Street—long gone now—Paint and Pallet, run by Toby and his wife: gallery and art supplies, with life drawing upstairs once a weekly evening. The models were professionals hired for us to draw: utterly traditional.

Image one: A nude man sits on a backwards chair. His figure is done in red and purple lines, with grey shading. The chair is done in purple and grey lines. His expression is solemn. His legs are extended away from the chair slightly.

Image two: A nude man is lying on his stomach with one arm draped over the side of the bed. His face is turned towards the viewer and his eyes are closed. His other arm is near his head, and his legs are bent at the knees... feet pointing skyward. The whole piece is drawn in blue lines.

Image three: A nude man (the one from image two) sits on a stool with his back to the viewer. He is looking over to the right. One hand is on his left knee, his other hand is flat by his side. You can see his left leg clearly but not his right. The drawing is done in pink lines.
Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red FezAlien Buddha and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Giveaway: Through the Kaleidoscope by Carey Link (Autographed)

We are giving away an autographed copy of Through the Kaleidoscope by Carey Link! The giveaway starts December 11th and ends February 4th. The winner will be notified on February 5th via the method they used to enter the contest. Read our review here!


1. Open worldwide.

2. People may enter by leaving a comment on this post, via email (, or on Twitter @HandUnPen. Please mention the contest when contacting us.

3. Only one entry per person.

4. If you win, please be sure to contact us with your mailing address in a timely manner. We will do our best to get the book to you.

5. Void where prohibited.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Through the Kaleidoscope by Carey Link (Poetry Book Review)

Image: A collage of different kaleidoscope patterns in muted tones of purple, red, green, blue, grey, brown, and black compose the cover of the collection. Across the top in white letters is the title. The poet's name is near the bottom in black capital letters.


1. I received this for free to review.
2. Carey is a mentor for our program.
When I write a poem,
I listen to the colors of a whisper
that rides on the shadows
of my dreams

-From "Poetry"

Through the Kaleidoscope is a chapbook with held, concrete images and ephemeral leaps. Readers can be in the surreal state of watching the narrator pass through an hourglass and brought back by the hands of loved ones. Dreams are as close as reality. Colors are used as lovely effects.

I search for answers
in opaque blue veins
and rose-colored valleys.

-From "Chain of Beads"

Circular things are mentioned throughout: Wheels, time, rings, beads, and holes are a few. I saw it as a way to remind readers of interconnectivity, but I might be wrong. It's definitely one strand joining these pieces together.

Another thing quite noticeable in these poems is movement. The narrator/subject is rarely still, but the momentum is gentle. Readers are often in a slightly different place by the time a poem ends, but the landing is never jarring.

Born twelve weeks premature
at almost three pounds,
I survived near death.

-From "My First Cradle"

While there are a few mentions of disability, the collection isn't about it as a whole. There is a poem about cancer (I loved the ending of it because it felt complicated and unvarnished).

All of the poems in this collection are fairly short. One of my favorites ("Infinity") is only twelve words long. Carey Link is excellent at using each word to her advantage with no fluff.

This collection is definitely worth the time.
Biography: Carey Link is from Huntsville, Alabama.  In 2017, she retired from a 16 year civil service career. Carey is currently in graduate school pursuing a degree in counseling.  After she completes her studies, Carey wants to work with clients living with life-altering illnesses and conditions.

Carey has been writing poetry since she was a teenager.  She has published two poetry collections, Awakening to Holes in the Arc of Sun (Mule on a Ferris Wheel) and What it Means to Climb a Tree (Finishing Line Press).  Her poetic sequence, I Walk a Tightrope Without a Safety Net was a finalist in the 2019 Blue Light Press Chapbook Contest.  Carey's poems have appeared in Poem, The Birmingham Arts JournalBirmingham Poetry ReviewWLRH Sundial Writers CornerHospital Drive, and elsewhere.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Card Making with Spazzy Crafter

Today, I will be talking about some of the different types of cards I have made. Also, some of the supplies I find that work (for me) the best.

Card kits

I like these because most of the supplies that you need are included... even an unfinished card. Most of them come with double-sided sticky squares (one side sticks to the card, and the other side sticks to the embellishment). Sometimes, there are embellishments that have a sticky back to them so you just peel off the paper. One of the best things about these kits is that they come with instructions so you can see an approximation of what the card will look like when it’s done, but you don’t always have to follow exactly. It’s your choice, so it becomes your design.

Now, one thing I don’t like is that the kits don’t come with glue, and you need that to put the first layer on the card. So I use glue sticks instead of glue from the bottle because it’s easier for me to hold a glue stick than a bottle of glue.

Image: A cream and gold card with ornaments topped with red bows. Near the bottom of the card is a tag that says "Merry Christmas".

Freehand cards

Some of the supplies that work well for my freehand card creations are ink stamps and gel pens. Decorative punches don't work well for me because of the force required to operate them. I have yet to experiment with stencils.

Other types of cards

Diamond paintings kits include: Plastic diamonds which are little rhinestone-type beads, pink wax that you use to pick up the diamonds, and an unfinished card.

Image: On a blue background with white-dot snow, is a reindeer bust with blue eyes. He's wearing a Santa hat with decorations on his antlers and a red and white striped scarf on his neck. His nose is red. Below him in large, red capital letters is "Merry Christmas" with an exclamation mark on the end. 

In my next post, I will be reviewing The Cricut. I use it for making cards, and it can aid in other crafting projects as well.

Image: A light pink card with dark foil cut-outs. The central image is a silhouette of a cat with bats above its head. The corners of the card are also the foil. At the top of the card is a foil crescent moon with the words "trick or treat" in thin, black capital letters.

Does anyone else know of any other types of card-making supplies or techniques I should try?

Friday, November 20, 2020

condition: by Su Zi (a Poem)

convinced of colitis
the accusing finger under the ribs
the worm tantalizing the fish
and with a pain more jointed than any insect,
this is digging fingernails into the arches of your feet
bruising cheekbones with your knees,
that is your position of supplication.
you dream of movies made outside of
    Nonexistent banklike architecture
of neon, Mardi Gras masks,
an illicit silkiness from which
    no one is exempt.
fading is the curry chicken, or the
barbeque ribs spicier than reggae
fading are your speeches not lit with sudden moans
and bloated goes your waist, inflamed inflamed
bloated you go, a dead fish.
End Note:  This poem is from Su Zi's new collection Chicago Poems. Click here to check it out.
Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red FezAlien Buddha and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Cripendy Contest

The Cripendy Contest will be open for submissions of poetry, short stories, essays, visual art, and performance videos by disabled/neurodivergent people from November 20th to April 30th. Entries do not have to connect to disability/neurodivergence (unlike regular submissions).

All work must include a statement to accompany the submission (up to 250 words) in the body of the email. The statement doesn't have to be an official artist statement, but it should pertain to the work
itself. Please submit all written components in English.

Winners will be announced May 10th on the blog.

First prize is $20, second is $15, and third is $10. Payment will be sent via Paypal, check, or gift card. All winning entries (with artist statements) will be published on the blog.

General guidelines:

1. Only two pieces of work will be considered per creator.
2. Subject line should read "Contest Submission" with your last name.
3. Please include your name, contact information, biography,
statement, and work in one email.
4. Send to handyuncappedpen[at]
5. Written work must be pasted into the email itself unless the format
is unusual (docx if you need to send an attachment).
6. Visual art must be sent as jpegs.
7. Performance videos must link to YouTube or some other trusted service.
8. Length limit: Please keep performance videos under six minutes and written submissions under 2,000 words.

We will not open anything we don't recognize.


In the event the contest has below ten entrants, we reserve the right to not award all (or any) prizes. We want a variety of incredible work to choose from.

No friends or family of The Handy, Uncapped Pen's curator may submit. Sorry, pals.

We will try to email you about your entry's safe arrival to our inbox within 48 hours.

We are hoping this will be an annual contest, but we can't promise anything. We have to see how this one goes.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Accessibility in Plants vs Zombies has Room to Grow

 When I first saw all of the accessibility features in Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, I was thrilled. There was speech-to-text! Few games have this feature for Deaf/HoH players.

Image: The accessibility menu reads: Narrate Path, Color Blind Mode, Voice Chat,
Convert Voice Chat to Text Chat, Enable Text to Speech, and Brightness.
 I wanted to rush out and tell all of you about this. Though more games are incorporating it, I've only recently seen it on this game and Wasteland 3. But, before I got too excited, I thought I would give it a try.

Image: A space sunflower stands by a fence looking at jack-o-lanterns at night. In the top left of the screen, it reads "testing food feature for you".
My husband tried about five sentences in the game at varying speeds of speech. None of the things he said picked up 100%. In fact, some sentences were so mangled, I couldn't even parse what he meant.

While aiming for inclusion is what every game developer should be doing, they are doing a disservice to the disabled community with their half-assed attempts. Features mean nothing if they do not work as they should. Maybe they should spend a little more time working on the quality of their games and a little less time on that sweet, money-grabbing DLC.

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Life I Lead by Lisa Jones

Maybe if I pretend
I don’t see
The way you look at me
This cane will fade
And I’ll feel whole

Maybe if I pretend
I’m beautiful
You’ll love me again
Like a woman
Not a dependent cripple

Maybe if I pretend
I’m someone else
I can live a life
Without fear of being
Trapped in this body
Biography:  Lisa Jones writes poetry as a form of therapy. She lives in Ontario, Canada.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Deaf Girl Reviews Music: Listening Exercise by Su Zi

Some of us are High Risk; no one is invulnerable, immortal. So, to what lengths will we go to feed our souls; to see Art Live, to be present for art, and at what risk? For some communities, risks have been thrust upon us—a lack of mask and distance mandates, open bars, tourists, defiance of simple hygiene, the refusal of the infected to quarantine. To wade into such danger calls forth good cause: to see, perhaps, to experience live music.

An opportunity presented itself through a local gathering of Cars N Coffee, a monthly event in many communities that invites lovers of the internal combustion engine to congregate and glory in the intrinsic folk art of special vehicles (horseless). My local Cars N Coffee has gone from a dead strip mall’s parking lot to that of the local Harley dealer, and there was an advertisement for Live Music. Car shows are outside, and it’s possible to step away from the other humans, and it had been a very long time since I had heard anyone play their instrument live—so hungry, I was so hungry.

Cars N Coffee is a Noise Fix. There is an erratic orchestration of loud exhaust displays as a show of engine power, with sometimes a side of sheer American Art in some of the cars. Folks come and go all morning. If you are lucky, there will be some Classics, some Street Rods—handmade, homemade Outsider Art cars. To stand next to such an engine is a whole body experience; the timing, the intensity of decibels. I have heard someone tuning exhaust baffles as if the resulting song were to play a solo at a plush music hall, someone tuning an engine by ear for the percussion. When a few cars start up, the air is thickened.

That Sunday, in a drizzle from yet another storm (a cup of coffee sounds lovely—except we are High Risk, and we were a Hot Spot, and not everyone is in a mask), the stage stands covered, but empty; a stroll of the grounds reveals a back pavilion where a single man gallants the microphone, and the band from up front is taking a break. It was not difficult to stand away from folks under the remaining tree. The guitarist, Chris Ryals, was deft enough to know what he was about via triplicate riffs with a nod to the LatinBeat. For some moments, there was only that guitar, singing against the corner of green. Across the way, the other remaining tree saw a resettlement of a flock of displaced birds: the guitar’s perfect audience. For some moments, there was only the damp, open air and the sound of the guitar, purely. The fresh and liquid air and the song the man was making with his guitar. 

Strolling past some vendors, painted poodles, other visitors—it’s that urban game of whose line of walking is this, plus who is in a mask (and better, who can rock their mask)—the stage up front is now live with a two-piece band called Peaches and Karim. The stage occupies a corner of the parking lot, where sits parked an old Ford Maverick with a modified breather, redone muscle fashion. I was once stranded by a red Maverick. Then comes a white GTO with a chrome stack of carburetion, but soft mufflers. During all this, the band plays—a man on guitar, a man on a cocktail kit. The band seems to match the various exhaust solos as instruments themselves.  In the spectrum of our listening is the crowd, random clogging tones. A car will bellow and roar out onto US Highway 441. Sometimes there’s a motorcycle—an engine of a different timber and percussion. The band plays on; the drummer in a dark hoodie and shadow, the guitarist and the microphone: he sings vocables (I hear Ahhhh, I hear Ohhhhh) to the drummer’s 2-4 emphasis. If there are words, they are lost to these ears. 

And so to take a moment and listen to live music is to glory in what’s left of my barely-legal hearing: to hear live music again, and to just listen. Perhaps there’s the professionalism of the band, for surely Peaches and Karim were cognizant of the easy-going racial mix of car lovers at this event; they are long-time local party favorites. Perhaps there’s only a guitar playing on a misty Sunday morning to the last local flock of birds.

Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red FezAlien Buddha and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Blind and Art by Carol Farnsworth

I have enjoyed seeing art exhibits. As my sight has decreased, I have learned to rely on verbal and braille descriptions of the displays. I still long to touch the art with my fingertips.

I was able to do this in Death Valley at a place named ”Scottie’s Castle”. It was a large home built in the early 1900’s. It contains many decorative carvings in the woodwork and brass knobs. The carvings are in the shape of the animals and cacti found in the area.

The docent was delighted to have a visually-impaired person in his group. He put on a glove and guided my fingers to touch all the carvings and the brass bird heads that were the faucets. He told the rest of the group that they could not touch anything. He and I explored all the surfaces. I was embarrassed and delighted to get a tactile and audio tour.
My husband and I are members of a sculpture park, and I take delight in touching the art in a garden setting. The docents watch but don’t stop me from lightly touching the art. I have even sat on one art bench to get the dimensions of the piece. The docents are there to prevent small children from climbing. They understand this touching is how I experience the art.
My local city sponsors a large art show each fall. I was worried if I would have to be content with descriptions of the art pieces. When we got to the outside pieces, I was able to touch parts of the large ones. Some pieces had signs inviting the public to touch.

If the artist was near his or her piece of art and they listened to the art being described to me, they would ask if I would like to touch the piece. They would point out parts of the art they were most proud of.

One woman, after finding out that I was a knitter, placed my fingertips on a carving of a men’s sweater and asked if I could feel the dropped stitch in the pattern of the sweater. I told her I could.

If the art was not able to be touched, the artist put a display of the art pieces for people to feel. This was done in a piece that was 
covered with three-dimensional flowers. She had several flowers in front of the picture to touch.

Another artist allowed me to feel the muscles in a group of running horses.
I have not found a way to tactilely enjoy paintings. I know that the 
art may be hurt with touch. I did find a group of paintings that had sand and other mediums mixed in with the paint. The art was tactile and I could discern parts of the art by touch.

Including the blind when setting up an art exhibit takes some time, but it is well worth the effort.

I continue to support the arts and making them accessible to all.
Biography (in first person):  I was born with glaucoma but have become totally blind in the last four years. I have a teaching degree in regular and special education and a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology. I worked with mentally disabled adults (many were nonverbal). I learned to use many techniques to elicit communication.

Similarly, I will use many tools to deal with blindness. I will use braille, voice over, and Seri to assist me with writing.

Other interests include gardening, listening to audio books, and riding a tandem bike, which my husband John and I have been doing for 22 years.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Not for Me by Julie Stevens

When I want to disappear
I look down at my feet,
imagine my head nestling under my toes,
or I wear my smile
overflowing with happiness and hope they won’t notice.

But there’s butterflies in my tummy
flying so fast I might fall over.
If I bite my nails or twiddle my hair,
they might decide it’s time to rest
just for a minute.

Today’s the day I don’t want to be here,
today’s the day I didn’t want to get dressed,
so I’ll wear my mask
pretend to be happy,
walk with them
looking my best.

Julie Stevens lives in Cambridge, UK. She has had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for 30 years. Her poems tend to reflect the impact MS has on her life, as well as other topics close to her heart. Her poems have recently been published in various magazines, online and in print, most recently The Blue NibCrossways, The Honest Ulsterman and Dreich Magazine. She came second in the Dreich Chapbook Competition with her chapbook Quicksand. Her website is

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Musings From a Spazzy Crafter

Is a craft still my own when I feel like I am an assistant? I struggle with this question often.

I am working on a friendship bracelet and someone is working with me on it because I have trouble tying knots. The person makes the knot and I pull it tight. Is that my creation?

Does it matter how much help is needed? Does it matter the type of
help that is needed? If I string beads for bracelets but need help finishing the bracelets, can I still claim them as mine?

How do I show appreciation for people that help me create?

These are some of the questions that go through my head.

Do you struggle with these questions while you're crafting?

Musing and making,

Spazzy Crafter

P.S. The next post will be about card making.

Jennifer's Thoughts:  Personally, I think it depends on a few factors. If you need significant help on a type of project and are doing it as a business, giving your helper a share in the profits might be the way to go. If you're making something just for a gift, perhaps thanking them is all you need. Always work out what is expected beforehand. 

Little things like having someone tie a knot doesn't invalidate your ownership of the creation. You could consider the amount of time it takes for someone to help you, or how much of the project you need assistance with to determine if what you're working on is a collaboration. That's the thing: Even if you both put in equal amounts of effort, you are collaborating with someone to make something gorgeous and are not an assistant. It doesn't mean you're less of an artist (the design was still your idea, and you're providing labor and materials). It just means what you give to the person helping you depends on their amount of labor.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

gears by Su Zi (a Poem)


all night long I watch the traffic lights change,

and I listen for the coming of ice.

the police come and pet my hair.

day comes with watery shadows on the white walls

it comes with orange juice

rice taped into a diary

and the pale moments of tenderness with the cat.

but still every week I dream I lose my teeth

standing at a pay phone




and still there are those long dead weeds

at the freight yard

where I sit in my wheelchair

pulsing with the speech of steel.

Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red FezAlien Buddha and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.

Friday, September 11, 2020

New Workshop in Ableism

One of the tiny positives of our current world is the switch from in-person events to virtual ones.  No wondering if the conference is accessible for wheelchair-users!  No more fatigue from long flights!  Everything is just a bit more open to disabled and neurodivergent folks than it was before (barring website accessibility barriers and cost).

In July on Twitter, I saw someone advertising a two-week poetry workshop for fifty dollars. When a two-hour workshop can cost seventy-five dollars, fifty seems like a steal.  

I emailed the coordinator with a list of questions. Yes, the virus is what caused her to start workshops online. She has had multiple years of in-person workshops with all different kinds of people in attendance (specifically brought up LGBT+ folks and PoC). She mentioned that she's a graduate of Prestigious Writing Program. It was a nice response. I wrote her again and asked if there were any visibly disabled people who ever taught her workshops.

She responded:  "There are no divisive topics in the workshop."

Okay... what topics? She practically gushed about inclusiveness and how important it was in her first email. Surely, she couldn't mean disabled people were divisive!

I asked for clarification.  I thought she wrote an email meant for someone else.

Her tone was totally reversed from our first email.  She started using smaller words and became condescending. The workshop wasn't for teaching disabled people how to write "cute, little stories for their own good" but was for "serious, professional writers".  Instructors wouldn't have time to "babysit" people through trauma or "forming thoughts".

I replied one last time and assured her I wasn't asking for art therapy.  I told her many disabled people are professional, published writers.  Some of them might even pay to take her damn workshop!

Her last reply was simply,  "I don't think this is the place for someone like you".
As of writing this, I haven't seen anything else on social media about the workshop.  The post that talked about it on Twitter is gone.  There is no website with the name (though she said it wouldn't be up officially until autumn).  Did she change her mind?  Was it a scam (though, I don't know why she wouldn't scam crips)?  If I drop the name here, will she just change it?

I promise to keep you updated if anything happens.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Two Poems by Kathryn O'Driscoll


Bones dislocate from rawened sockets
as the perception of self is wrenched and wrecked aside.
Rib-bones snap and contract sharply concave:
they form a brackenel nest of the interlocking twig fingers
of mothers, of sisters, of brothers and starlight 
the defences set in sticks, in stones, in love, bend
and readjust to allow the shards of cartilage to slip inside
and pierce through a tough exterior, to the heart of the matter.
Dislocate everything and reassemble it differently
because we, ( I ), we, see what you might not;
you’re fucking beautiful.
An Elegy, A Eulogy

My body is a slow motion funeral. 
It is the shrieks of loss, echoing in a church's vaulted ceilings.
It is the reverberation in the votives flickering. 
It is stained glass liquifying in the sun
and dripping out of its frames,
tearfuls down the ledges. 
My body is an elegy, a eulogy, 
a goodbye long overdue. 
My body is a roof beam coming down on the whole damn place,
hymns and all. 
Biography:  Kathryn O'Driscoll is a spoken word poet, writer and activist from Bath who talks openly about her disability and mental health in her wide range of poems. Aside from performing poetry across the South West; she’s also a Bristol slam champion who has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, at multiple UK National competitions and on BBC Radio Bristol. She has a first class degree in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Deaf Girl Reviews Music: Yote Magus by Su Zi

Image:  A carved, block print of a standing person with wings. They are blue with raised arms. To the left of the print are the artist's tools.

We were told to stay home.

As we turned even more to our communication devices, our cloudy realities, the concerts and festivals came within reach—we saw performances by artists who were, like us, too at home—there was art and music and models catwalking their kitchens. Somehow the algorithms shifted, and it was easier to find the outsiders, those few in followers who also showed their art, had been showing their art. From a graphic perspective, Instagram presents art in a way that is artist-viewing friendly, and there’s always the hope to see a dress or some pottery that lifts us for a moment. It was in searching for interesting printmaking, that so there appeared a printmaker whose work was consistently stunning: vibrant and sensual, technically perfect—Yote Magus.

When art is encountered online, the experience is compressed by the presentation features of the device; we lose scale, and our experience is with the kernel of the idea and the physical perception of it. The printmaking presented by Yote Magus was so visually forceful that the experience of it as a handheld image did not diminish a perceptible power. In following this account, viewers were treated to not only printmaking process videos, but also animation shorts, and finally, a dancing skeleton video that was a short for a full musical composition, “Really, Bitch”.

Beginning with a tom-tom beat and a whisper, the single vocalist relates a narrative of betrayal; however, rhyme is not rigid in the lyrical construct, it is used as a highlight to the narrative, as in “rain/gold chain”. The song itself is an interplay of layered rhythms, much in the way that the artist layers colors in his prints. In the song’s circumstance, the percussion beat emphasizes both the tom-tom downstroke, and a top hat emphasis on all but the second beat, in the standard tetrameter (4/4)—which is then layered with the whispered narrative. The music progresses alongside the narrative, until the two become entwined on the chorus phrase “really, bitch”. From a metrical perspective, this phrase is a construct of three syllables in a Stressed-Unstressed-Stressed pattern that might be notated as either half-notes or as an amphimacer, an atypical construction. Towards the song’s last minute, the chorus shifts and becomes “something”, a more common trochaic construction of two beats, with the first as foremost. And while the lyrical construct of the song provides a storyline where the emotion is refreshingly perceived (as opposed to the too common fatigue brought by fashionable, emotional yammering), it’s the insistence on the entwined meter that makes this song so replayable: it’s a danceable beat.  The metrics of the song encourage a salsa step that is both subtle and potent, the listener becomes participatory, the whispered voice becomes an incantation.

When we find something striking, resonant, there is the sigh of pleasure, and then we look to see “Who Made This?”. More academic minds are easily satisfied by a research of authorship that may strike others as a snobby form of “Who’s Your Daddy?”. Nonetheless, although “Really, Bitch” appears to be the solo offering of Yote Magus on Apple iTunes, the Instagram account yields a searchable name and the appearance of the artist on other platforms. We discover that the artist is Peruvian, has followers, follows hashtags of hawk tattoos, but consistently posts work that is visually and acoustically captivating.

For those of us who are Staying Home, for whom certain of our limited joys Outside no longer exist, finding the unusual online is a focused aspect of our lives. It is now dangerous for us to fling ourselves into the contaminated throng, and so the online art we can find becomes crucial. And despite the iconic horror symbols and mythological imagery Yote Magus employs in his prints, the lyrics of “Really, Bitch” are as current as the 2020 copyright, as current of that of a thieving drug addict and of a life that is far too street for staying at home, if there is a home. And in our homes thousands of miles away, we find a music that is almost cheerful in rhythm, decidedly danceable, despite a gritty reality portrayed in the lyrics. And in this we find a gift—the luxury of finding an artist , and doing so from a point of relative safety.

Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red FezAlien Buddha and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Fog by Joshua P. Sorensen

Phantom pain! or is it real?
I should know... I do know this.
So simple, like swimming.
Swimming through mud.
Hands quiver.
Medicine helps that.
No drug clears the fog.
The easy, the difficult, the now unreachable.
I slap my head.
Fails to clear the mind.
Makes me feel better.
Expectation management
The key to my survival.
I am not what I was,
But I am still great.

Maybe, I’ll just stay in today
Biography:  Joshua P. Sorensen is from Orem, Utah (United States).  He graduated with a Masters of Military History from Norwich University. His extensive travels inspire him to write poetry and short fiction. Drawn to horror writing, he particularly enjoys writing monster fiction. His other loves include history, nature, and all things geek. Joshua’s current life goal is to bring delightful chills to all ages, particularly the young. His children’s picture books are available online or at your favorite bookseller. He is a member of the HWA and LUW. He can be found on Facebook: #SorensenVagabondWriter and Amazon:

Friday, August 14, 2020

Me at My Most Vulnerable by Lisa Jones

I want to hide within myself
Away from everyone and everything
Voices natter inside my head
Feelings swell
Insecurities rise
I don’t know how to control them
A blinding fear overtakes
Flutters in my chest
Brings tears to eyes
A croak in my voice
I’m afraid to make too much noise
Others will hear
See the real me
The one with a degenerative illness
The one who is weak
Has been abandoned
Despite all she gave
The one who feels unloved
Even though all she wants is to be loved
This is me
Me at my most vulnerable
Biography:  Lisa Jones writes poetry as a form of therapy. She lives in Ontario, Canada.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Spazzy Crafter Introduces Herself

I have spastic cerebral palsy which affects the left side of my body. I love to craft, so finding ways to adapt or adjust how I make crafts has been an interesting experience.

I have become a serious crafter in the last decade.

Crafts I am able to do with adaptation or assistance:
  • Card making
  • Diamond Dotz (Diamond Paintings)
  • Plastic canvas
  • Friendship bracelets
  • Ceramic painting
  • Loom knitting
  • Stamped cross stitch
  • Needlepoint
  • Beadwork (earrings/necklaces/bracelets)
In upcoming posts, I will be discussing each of these crafts, how I adapt them, and other adjacent topics. I will also be discussing crafts that I am not able do along with those I would like to try.

Does anyone have any crafting recommendations?

Yours truly,

Spazzy crafter

Friday, July 24, 2020

Market Updates for July 2020

Magazines, Websites, Etc. (for Us)

Blanket Sea is on hiatus.
Barking Sycamores has a new home.
The Pen 2 Paper Contest now has an entry fee of $5.00 USD.
Fixed Monstering's submission link.


Quiet Storm
These Pills Don't Come in My Skin Tone


The Barbellion Prize
Disabled and Inter-Abled Relationships
Red Rover Magazine
It's Real
Réapparition Journal
First-Person Presence 

Inclusive Mainstream Publications

Lockjaw is on hiatus.
Updated the submission link for Dancing Girl Press.


The Establishment 
The Mondegreen 
Crab Fat Magazine 
Polychrome Ink 
Brine Literary  


Sparks of Calliope
Night Music Journal
Suddenly, and Without Warning

Friday, July 10, 2020

Dyslexia Runs in Families by Karen Downs-Barton

Light slants into the scullery kitchen
where I am looking at pictures in comics.

Tripe is bubbling in a battered saucepan
while in a Pyrex jar an onion cools in white liquor.

Bapo has rocked back on his one good chair,
balanced between floating and falling.

His newspaper is a curtain concealing his face;
he might be sleeping or pretending, like I am.

I look at the smudged lines of old print,
his earthy fingers supporting the pages.

I scan the images of upside-down people,
whose lives his hold has made a turmoil.
Note - Bapo:  Grandfather, colloquial Romani
Biography:  Karen Downs-Barton is a neurodiverse poet from the Roma community. She is a Creative Writing Masters candidate at Bath Spa University, UK where her manuscript explores experiences of a Roma child growing up in the state childcare system. Her work is forthcoming or published in Tears in the Fence, Night Picnic Journal, The High Window, Alyss, The Otolith, The Fem Review, The Goose, The Curly Mind, Persian Sugar in English Tea, amongst others. Find her at:

Friday, July 3, 2020

Q&A: Jake Goldsmith Founder of The Barbellion Prize

The Barbellion Prize is a new book prize for people with chronic, lifelong conditions whose work speaks on the experience of disability or chronic illness. All books submitted must be published in the current year or published later in the year. From the website: "The awarded work can be of any genre in fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, or critical non-fiction from around the world - whether it is in English, in translation, traditionally published, or self-published." The deadline is October 31st. There is no submission fee. You can find more at the website (click here).

I thought I'd ask Jake Goldsmith, the founder, a few questions about the award.
How long did it take you (from concept to execution) to create the prize?

I had always wanted to see a greater representation of illness and of disability in literature, given how weighty and important these subjects are. And history has some great examples of brilliant work from ill writers. Kafka. Nietzsche. Virginia Woolf. But often when we discuss being inclusive and intersectional, we leave disability and the chronically ill off the list. That’s upsetting, we need to be heard a lot more. Representation is still pretty low. That was the concept, then, that I’d been thinking more about since last year.

I wanted better representation and to reward it. It took maybe a couple months before I met one of our trustees, Elizabeth Ferretti, who lives locally to me, and discussed the idea of such a prize for ill and disabled writers, like me, and started to talk about what we’d need to do. It was easy to create a website and Twitter was invaluable for finding people and contacts. It’s surely been much easier to do this in the Internet Age too.

The National Centre for Writing are also playing a part. Elizabeth had contacts there, such as Chris Gribble, and they should be helping us in the future with publicity and possibly hosting events. They also help other book prizes such as the Republic Of Consciousness Prize, for independent publishers. This has all happened in under half a year or so, slowly persevering.

In a few months we had judges and advisors on board and we made accounts for donations. Some of that process was stressful in finding out exactly what to do, whether we are a small charity, etc, but it worked out pretty quickly. We are still having to work things out as we go, and in the future will likely need a lot more help if we become anywhere near vaguely successful. We have support in principle from the MS Trust, and would hope to have further support from others too in the future.

What factors lead you to include books by caretakers as well as chronically ill/disabled writers for the prize? Where do you see caregiving by able-bodied, non-ill folks in the spectrum of disability/sick literature?

Again, disability literature and writing on illness is still thin on the ground, really. Certainly it is not often a mainstream consideration making bestseller lists or being readily discussed as much as it should be. There is a strong sub genre of works written by doctors about working with patients, and cancer memoirs, but it’s still divided in part from other disability lit.

Carers play such an integral part in the lives of many people who are ill. My mother is my primary carer – I’d very literally be dead without her. They play an important part in the life of many disabled and long-term ill people, and often also go unheard. Literature from the perspective of carers - memoirs, poetry, novels, etc - is just as underrepresented. It deserves to be heard and rewarded too, so it felt inconsiderate to exclude it.

How is the judging process going to work?  Will there be volunteer readers before the judges see the finalists, or will the judges read every submission?

We have a main panel of 3 judges, including myself, and a panel of advisors that are also helping to read some of the submissions and help the judges better form their thoughts and opinions. The judges will be the ones with the final say on any longlist, shortlist, and the winner. The advisory panel does not have a direct vote but are there to help diversify opinion and ideas and help with the workload. As well as help with the running of the prize, publicity, and, well, advice. With 3 judges we should not be stuck in any deadlock situations, such as with an even number of judges, but if for some reason the judges cannot decide on one particular winner, I, in an executive role, will be able to make an executive decision.

We are publicly announcing our judges and advisory panel in July, delayed due to Covid-19 swallowing up the news so much.

The submissions are also being lent out to various trusted friends of the judges and advisors to read at their leisure - to help us form our opinions. These people won’t have any voting power on who wins, but are of course helpful for us in finalising a longlist, and then the rest.

Why did you decide to open the prize to self-published books (alongside traditionally published)?

Few prizes do this, notably the Jhalak Prize does. As disabled literature and illness literature is not often attractive to publishers (unless, cynically, it’s the ‘inspiration porn’ kind), many writers often have to resort to self-publishing. Independent publishers are much more likely to accept disability literature than large publishers, it also seems.

Theoretically, a poor housewife from Peru unheard of by anyone could self-publish a work of poetry about their life with MS, and we could discover it and it could win – if it’s good enough of course.

We would also hope than any self-published works that reach a shortlist could be accepted by a publisher if the author so wanted. How much talent and good literature has been slighted due to the lack of money or recognition? This is an even more acute problem for disabled people, so it’s good to help rectify that.

What are your three favourite books on illness/disability?

Barbellion’s ‘The Journal of a Disappointed Man’, obviously. That work is beautiful. The prize is named in homage to Barbellion for a reason.
I love Oliver Sacks, and many of his works. You could take anything from him. ‘On The Move’, his biography, being a good summation. ‘Awakenings’, too.

My favourite authors are people who suffered with illness (TB) but didn’t write explicitly about it. Albert Camus; and Manès Sperber, who also had respiratory problems. What they wrote best about was political and moral injustice. Camus is at his best in his ‘Combat’ articles and essays, a reluctant moral voice, and Sperber wrote wonderfully about historicist dogma overshadowing human needs, in his biographical trilogy ‘All Our Yesterdays’ being especially good. It has always resonated with me considering the injustice I felt and saw against the disabled, and oppressed, and the more general political evils they were describing certainly affected and did not care much for those with illness or disability. Their own health too gave them a perspective on these things that would be harder to access if they were conventionally abled and healthy.

I feel close to them, politically and in spirit. All of us struggling to breathe, as it were.

How important is it (in your opinion) for awards, presses, and other ventures for the disabled/ill community to be run by members of that community?

All our judges have some sort of long term illness or disability. I have Cystic Fibrosis, diabetes, autism, scoliosis, depression, and a host of other conditions.

Our advisors also have disabilities, but some of them are also abled people with knowledge of the publishing and book industry, as well as academic knowledge on disability.

I do not believe it is imperative that all those advocating for disabled and ill representation be disabled themselves. We can have good allies and friends working for us too, obviously. We need their help. Of course, publishing particularly needs to work in better representing, in who it employs or publishes, disabled people as well as underrepresented black, Asian, and other minority ethnic groups. We seem to be living in an acute moment right now where racial injustice and brutality is receiving more reflection. Those issues often also intersect with disability. Many people killed by police in the US are also disabled. Brutality towards disabled people is even worse in countries like Brazil and India. There’s some shocking statistics. In short, better treatment and representation of these groups is truly important.

Friday, June 26, 2020

An Untitled Poem by Pamela Hope

Pamela's note:  This is a piece of a collection in progress, on themes of trauma and deformity.
TW:  Blood and violence


Get out your knife
                Snatch my blade

Press it into this rotting flesh

Check for marbling, watch for green
The content maggots eating me
Your five sharpened edges

Fingers pinching me
Squeezing this raw meat
Ground up and slab
                I mold around your touch
I squeeze through your fingers

Those blades drawing blood

The vulture sniffs me out
                And caws from afar

Look up
                We see
                                Him circle
Biography:  Pamela Hope is a disabled and disfigured creative and thinker.  She has a background in education, organizations, and free-lance writing; and currently works in banking, of all things.  Follow her @PamelaHope3.

Friday, June 19, 2020

(Review) Keep Clear: My Adventures with Asperger’s by Tom Cutler

Image:  The background is white. At the top in big, black letters "Keep Clear" appears.  Below is a road sign of a red triangle with a picture in black and white of a car falling into water from a cliff.  Below the triangle, in smaller black text, the subtitle of the book and the author's name appears.
Note:  I received a copy of this book in order to review it.  The American release is early next month.

Book content warnings:

Alcohol use
Abuse (mentions/brief descriptions)
Dead animals
Suicide (discussion/description)
Racism in others (brief)
Part manual on autism/Asperger's and part memoir, Tom Cutler takes us through his Asperger's diagnosis at age fifty-five and his life events with a newly-acquired lens.  This book has British humor, heartache, and a whole lot of knowledge.  There are few chapters to guide us through, but there are numerous section breaks to make things more manageable.

The descriptions and details are vivid and plentiful.  The author tells you what it feels like to have a panic attack, be near meltdown, have an aversion to touch, and other things some people may never feel.  He goes through the history of autism/Asperger's being recognized as a neurodiversity, some of the famous people throughout history who've had (or were suspected to have) Asperger's Syndrome, and what a diagnosis can mean for people... what it meant for him.

There is discussion on the possible evolutionary advantages of people with Asperger's in the general population, and the author makes the distinction between autistic people (low functioning) and those with Asperger's (high functioning).  I believe people can take whatever label applies to them that feels right, but I have complicated feelings on differentiating any disability or neurodivergence in what seems like an "us versus them" view.

The book discusses the suicide rate for people with Asperger's (nine times higher than neurotypical people).  At one point, while struggling through his early college days and a breakup, Tom (who has type one diabetes) stopped taking his insulin.  His depression was so immense that it cost him two touch-and-go weeks in the hospital.  No one knew how lonely he was.

There are spots of sunshine.  Tom Cutler is a successful humorist with a family.  His depression, a constant visitor throughout his life, loosened its grip once Tom could view his actions (and those of others towards him) through the lens of his diagnosis.  His interest in spinning things, sound effects, and British road signs had an extra dimension once he found out he had Asperger's.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to understand autism/Asperger's better, and my lovelies on the spectrum looking for an excellent account of a fellow traveler.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Giveaway: Only Air by Stephen Lightbown

Image:  On a white background, a drawn tree with white bark stands, taking most of the image. On the left side, the limbs are bare. On the right side of the tree, green leaves are being blown by wind. At the top of the cover, the title is in all caps in the same shade of green as the leaves. The poet's name is below in all caps in black.

We are giving away a copy of the poetry collection Only Air by Stephen Lightbown. The entry window starts today (June 5th) and ends on July 30th. Learn more about the book by clicking here (the link goes to Amazon).


1.  This giveaway is only open to people in the 48 contiguous United States because the book is available in physical format only.  (I apologize to readers living outside the eligible area.)

2.  People may enter by leaving a comment on this post, emailing us at or getting in touch with us on Twitter @HandUnPen. Please make it clear what you are contacting us for.

3.  Only one entry per person.

4.  Drawing will be random, and the winner will be notified on July 31st (by 11:59 PM CST) via the method they entered with. So, if the person who won entered via email, they will receive an email... and so on.

5.  No substitutions. Void where prohibited.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Frida Kahlo and Lying Down

When a friend told me Frida Kahlo attended her only solo gallery show in her bed, I had to research it.  I knew Frida created lying down because chronic pain is a blight, but never fancied the possibility of such a bold move.  Many disabled and neurodivergent artists must create lying down at some point in their lives.  But, most of us would never attend something in bed.

"At first it seemed that Kahlo would be too ill to attend, but she sent her richly decorated fourposter bed ahead of her, arrived by ambulance, and was carried into the gallery on a stretcher."

Frida completely embraced her most authentic self in that moment.  Who would go, not only to an event in bed, but elaborately deck out the damn bed?!  There was no passing up her once-in-a-lifetime chance to see something she worked her ass off for, and there was absolutely no timid apology.
I'm one of those chronic-pain crips who is also fat (I know Frida wasn't).  Most of my days are spent in bed.  My studio/writing space/crafting station is a mattress on the floor.

I don't talk about certain aspects of my life much because of judgement.  Most people who find out how I live just assume I'm a "lazy fatty" who ruined her body with "smothering lard".  They didn't see toddler me crying herself to sleep because of back and hip pain in the late 1980's.  They only know what they want to know.

Would I ever be brave enough to attend an award ceremony, reading, or other event lying down?  Doubtful.  Did it change something inside of me to know Frida did?  Definitely.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

2020 Mentee Applications are Open!

We are open to mentee applications until June 27th!  You can find our application when you click here.  Please check all eligibility requirements.  We have expanded the pool for who can apply to ensure more people benefit from the program.

The list of mentors can be found by clicking here.

There are a few differences in our program this year:  

1.  We have a mentor for teens (me), but I could possibly "roll in" if we get an absolute deluge from 18+ applicants.

2.  Having an advanced degree no longer disqualifies you from applying (there are a few slight restrictions, though).

3.  You may still submit to a mentor if you have one or two traditionally-published books if the genre you're applying to is newer for you.  If you're a journalist just dipping a toe into fiction, you're welcome to apply to a mentor for the genre.  If you wrote story collections but have little experience in poetry, you can pitch to a poetry mentor.  Please be honest about your past publication experience.

As always, please contact me with any questions:
@HandUnPen on Twitter
Or, you can comment on this post.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Meet the Mentors for 2020

Carey Link - Poetry (editing, submitting, offering feedback, query letters)

Carey Link is from Huntsville, Alabama.  In 2017, she retired from a 16 year civil service career. Carey is currently in graduate school pursuing a degree in counseling.  After she completes her studies, Carey wants to work with clients living with life-altering illnesses and conditions.

Carey has been writing poetry since she was a teenager.  She has published two poetry collections, Awakening to Holes in the Arc of Sun (Mule on a Ferris Wheel) and What it Means to Climb a Tree (Finishing Line Press).  Her poetic sequence, I Walk a Tightrope Without a Safety Net was a finalist in the 2019 Blue Light Press Chapbook Contest.  Carey's poems have appeared in Poem, The Birmingham Arts Journal, Birmingham Poetry Review, WLRH Sundial Writers Corner, Hospital Drive, and elsewhere.

Methods of correspondence:  Email

Ann Stewart McBee - Short fiction/flash fiction/poetry (story development, putting a chapbook together, submitting, query letters)

Note:  Her emphasis is flash fiction.

Ann Stewart McBee was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She obtained her PhD in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. She has published fiction and poetry in Ellipsis, Untamed Ink, The Pinch, and Citron Review among others. Her short story collection titled How Rabbit Went Down and Other Mishaps is available from Hoot-n-Waddle Press. She now teaches English at Des Moines Area Community College, and lives outside Des Moines, Iowa. The limited use of her hands due to Rheumatoid Arthritis does not prevent her from writing in the same way that living in heavy air pollution does not prevent one from breathing.

Methods of correspondence:  Email

Sarah Krenicki - Short/Flash fiction (submitting, writing/editing, identifying places to submit to)

Note:  She really enjoys speculative fiction.

Sarah Krenicki writes short speculative fiction and has made attempts at poetry. Her fiction has been published in Syntax and Salt, Gemini Magazine, and Lumina. She studied English and Creative Writing in college and after a brief stint in insurance marketing, found her way to the nonprofit world. She lives in a yellow house with her husband and two noisy black cats, and she overthinks everything, including/especially this bio. Pisces/Slytherin/INFP, for those who want to optimize compatibility.

Methods of correspondence:  Text, email, Facebook or Google Video chat

Su Zi - Literary and academic writing in a variety of forms (editing, development, chapbook organization)

Note:  This mentor will not read erotica or anything with killing of any kind.  She is also not fond of "genre" work.

Su Zi is equal parts writer, artist, and badass eco-feminist.  She holds an MA in English and has published in such places as Driving Digest, Exquisite Corpse, and Blue Heron Review (where she was nominated for The Pushcart Prize).  She resides in Florida with her horses, dogs, cats, and turtles where she runs The Red Mare Chapbook Series.  Her newest collection #100TPC (Alien Buddha Press) was published in March.

Methods of correspondence:  Twitter DM (another method may be agreed upon later)
Mentor for teenagers:

Jennifer Ruth Jackson - Literary and speculative flash fiction and poetry (editing, chapbook organization, market research/resource help)

Note:  Jennifer has more poetry published than fiction.

Jennifer Ruth Jackson is an award-winning poet and fiction writer whose work has appeared in Red Earth Review, Banshee, Strange Horizons, Star*Line, Apex Magazine, and more.  Her literary chapbook Body:  Blessed & Bitter is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.  Blighted Feast, her short horror collection, is to be released by The Poet's Haven.  She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and is a wheelchair-user.

Methods of correspondence:  Email, Twitter DM, Facebook Messenger

Friday, April 24, 2020

Neoteny: Poems by Emily K. Michael (Review)

Image:  A field of purple coneflowers shown close up.  Blurred, white flowers grow with the purple.  The title appears at the top in white letters, and the poet's name appears at the bottom in all caps. 

Note:  I received a copy of this book in order to review it.

I hail the commonplace: dewy and sharp.
-from "Mint"

Every piece in Neoteny encapsulates (yet elevates) the small, common moments that make up a life.  The snapshots of lyrical, tiny memories and observations hold perfect place with the subtle indicators of time and timelessness.  Instead of dismissing the heft of fruit, the sound of birdsong, and splashes of color in favor of once-in-a-lifetime hullabaloo, Emily K. Michael pulls you into the spaces along with her and invites you to experience them in lush detail.

We drove two hours to walk the old quarter—
traded thirty dollars for three hundred years.
Hollow houses, tiny plaques, costumed guides interrupted,
joyful crunches on studded gravel.
-from "Anniversary in St. Augustine"

These poems are a collective of sensual proximity.  The narrator of the poems is almost always in contact with her partner, friends, guide dog, or nature in various ways.   Connections are keenly portrayed.

Step out onto the lawn at dusk, dog leash 
loose like reins in your fingers.
Over the quiet jingle of collar,
cardinal voices cross the yard.
-from "Trading Threes"

There are poems about blindness in this slim volume, but there are also poems that don't mention it at all.  The poems that do address blindness sometimes also address abled folly and misconception, but they never fall into tirade.

You don't think about what we look like?

Not really.

She smiles: That must be so nice.
You're not hung up on it.
-from "Small Hours"

There is a quiet music to these poems, and they are woven together well.  This collection is definitely worth your time.
Biography:  Emily K. Michael is a blind poet, musician, and writing instructor from Jacksonville, FL. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Wordgathering, The Hopper, Artemis Journal, The Deaf Poets Society, Nine Mile Magazine, Compose Journal, The Fem, and more. Her manuscript Natural Compliance won Honorable Mention in The Hopper’s 2016 Prize for Young Poets. Emily is the poetry editor for Wordgathering, an open-access journal under the auspices of Syracuse University. Emily’s work centers on the themes of ecology, disability, feminism, and music. She develops grammar workshops for multilingual learners and participates in local writing festivals. She also curates the Blind Academy blog. Her first book Neoteny: Poems is out from Finishing Line Press.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Deaf Girl Reviews Music: Hidden Flowers by Su Zi

Momma liked flowers, and I grow zinnias in her memory. I also follow garden-related accounts on social media, so a post about a flower and its name was a fairly prosaic event: however, that particular flower is a controversial one, which caused me to pause, to investigate. That particular flower was called Kush, and the post depicting the purple blooms was not, as some might giggle a guess, a moment of acquisitional glee, but an illustration for a song about the flower. Any familiarity with Shakespeare will recall flowers as a muse, as a trope. It is not irony that this Kush flower is purple, and that Shakespeare wrote aplenty about purple flowers, but rather a direct expression of a classical understanding of the lyrical arts.

I showed the picture to a few people as a post about a flower: there were those who recognized Purple Kush’s species and smiled, there were those who were interested in a song with the flower as a topic; however, when I mentioned the name of the artist who wrote the song, everyone became blanched of blood. How curious. A controversial flower can gather benign response, but not if the lyricist is controversial too. Featuring his typically collaborative and atavistic recording style of call and response, the song “Kush” is written by Dr. Dre and features Akon, and the ever-lovable Snoop Dogg. Released as a single in 2010, the culture around this flower has changed much; however, what has not changed are social attitudes towards the music which is in homage to this flower, and here we err.  Following a structure of a chorus framing alternating soliloquy is a device often employed in Dr. Dre recordings, and it is a familiar framework for theatrical musicals. What is striking about this song, and Dr. Dre’s work overall, is the precision of meter he employs, the split-second strike of his beats.

As a hearing-impaired person, music is a love and an agony. Momma loved music, met my father through music, and music played always, especially Vivaldi. The barely-one-ear nature of my hearing ability has evolved into an increased sensitivity: a keenness for birdsong, for environmental acoustics untainted, a physical reaction of nausea to sloppy human noise. That there’s music that is still listenable is a personal joy. Our flower song is among those happy experiences, yet a moment’s lingering reveals the intricacies of this bloom. “Kush” has alternating chorus, one heavily affected, and one sung in human choral voices. The first chorus reads as “Hold up, wait a minute/let me put some Kush up in it”. A recognizable couplet that could be ordinary, except for the meter of the lines: the spondee set forth by “HOLD UP” shifts to the troche of “WAIT a MINute” resulting is an ordinary tetrameter for that line, except that the following line shifts meter—five beats, pentameter—and ends also with the spondee of “IN IT”. Anyone familiar with Shakespeare even distantly, or with classic literary poetry, will recognize the pentameter as an oft used meter; what is unusual is to find this beat in modern music.

What further challenges conventional listening is “Kush’s” second chorus, “inhale/exhale”, which is sung by male and female human voices. Sometime sung iambically – inHALE/exHALE – and sometimes with a shift to troche – IN/hale/EXhale—the accompaniment has a drum and piano tonality, creating a classically clean chord. Intricacies of meter are a marked aspect of Dr. Dre’s artistry, and this song is no exception. Also exceptional is the consistently collaborative nature of Dr. Dre’s work; this song lists a dozen writers. In an Instagram post from the first week of March for this year, Snoop Dogg described working with Dr. Dre as a form of martial arts, and the collaboration as “sorcery”. What is also consistent is Dr. Dre’s assiduous and elaborate tonal constructions—a weaving of blues-bending notes, multiple voices, slant rhyme in lyrical construction, and a sense that we are listening to a modern and pure opera.

There are those who might be petulant or divisive and insist that poetic meter has nothing to do with rap beats, who might not wear a t-shirt that proclaims "Rap, Poetry is thy Mother”, or who might venture that flowers are not an appropriate topic for either Shakespeare or Dr. Dre. Since hindsight attests to Shakespeare’s work as iconic of the English Renaissance, and since living artists are more iconoclastic than iconic while working, it is premature to put the hope of an artistic renaissance on Dr. Dre. What these damaged ears carry away is a joy, a pure pleasure at that exquisite precision, and a gratefulness to have heard it.
Jennifer's note:  Dr. Dre isn't disabled or neurodivergent.  This lyrical review (which may become a recurring column) is about mainstream culture from a crip POV.  
Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red FezAlien Buddha and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.