Friday, September 17, 2021

Crip Lyrics: The Unapologetic Poetry of Disability by Val Vera (Review)

Image: A man in a black T-shirt and gray pants faces an orange sunset across the water. He is in a power wheelchair and has his hand on the joystick. He has black hair and facial hair. The title of the book is above the sun in the sky and the poet's name is on the bottom left of the image.

Please note:  I was given a copy of this book in order to review it.

So, this chair thing
This, you’re kind of scared thing
This eye-catching, make you stare thing
The thought-prompting, curiosity-leading,
Cause you to wonder thing
Let me answer your everything
-from "Chair Thing"

Lyricists and slam artists are a subset of poet praised on the stage but often neglected on the page. It might be "proper poetry" having an aversion to modern rhyme. Possibly, it's due to the energy and sparks spit by performers that can't easily be replicated on paper or a screen. But, Val Vera's words don't lack fire... even in the quieter arena.

My Cripple is more than rubber tires, this chariot bathed in black.
Rolling on the spineless skin of ableism’s back.
-From "My Cripple"

Through twenty-two different poems, we're taken through an unflinching look at ableism, cripdom, gawkers, Karens, love, power, pain, and more. Each poem earns its place in the collection and says everything clearly. There is anger, incredulity, and softness in the narrator's voice. He weaves back and forth between the political and pedestrian, the lover and the display. So often, I found myself nodding as I read.

It’s time to collect.

From institutions that segregate.
Media that manipulate.
Police who violate
With force and guns.
Creating programs so we don’t run.
-From "Not Your Granddaddy’s Crip"

One of the pitfalls of collections of tight rhyme is that the pattern gets samey or sing-songy in some spots, which is something I occasionally found here. Luckily, it didn't happen often in Vera's deft hands.

I really hope there are performances for some of these lyrics out in the world. The way some lines sizzle on the page would be electric to hear/see live. It might be good advertising for the book, too.

Look what you’ve done,
what you’ve created
Quiet poster child turned Crip
Unapologetic and jaded
Shunned by abled news
Shaped by privileged views
-From "Creation"

Each poem in the collection is accompanied by a visual art piece by 
Melissa Marie Eckardt. I don't know how the collaboration started, but the end results are glorious. The beats in the lyrics and smoothness in the art make for a soulful duet.

There are slight sexual references and swearing but nothing excessive. One of the accompanying paintings in the collections is sexual in nature and depicts oral sex (though all the viewer sees is part of a butt and cupped genitalia).

I absolutely loved this short collection. I recommend it.
Will you add:

Crip Lyrics: The Unapologetic Poetry of Disability can be pre-ordered at this link.
Biography:  Val Vera is a Disability Justice activist, speaker, and writer. Originally from Chicago, Val began his Disability Justice career in San Diego and has served on several boards focused on disability culture and equity. His intersectional experience as a Disabled Latinx, coupled with his Disability Justice work, is revealed by the imagery and passion in his writing. 

Val currently lives in Denton, TX where he organizes, educates and serves with the local Disability Community. He is an avid moviegoer, music lover and sports aficionado. Above all, Val enjoys laughing and spending unscripted time with his favorite person Michelle. 

No comments:

Post a Comment