Nice T Shirt!

My friend, the physician Edwin Stone is very tall. He is closer to 7 than six feet. Another one of my friends, the poet Kenny Fries is 5 feet and a few centimeters. Last evening I had dinner with these two fine men and several loved ones.

Ed mentioned the invasive conversations he sometimes has with strangers who see him in public and who ask him things like: "Hey, do you play basketball? How did you get to be so tall?"

Both Kenny and I know a good deal about this kind of invasive questioning and of course that’s why Ed brought the matter to the table. It isn’t just the disabled body that attracts befuddled questions "out there".

We wondered about the potential of humankind to overcome its outmoded neo-classical ardor for a select human body type. We want to live free lives; lives of imagination and curiosity; lives without self-contempt or endless hand wringing about our legs or faces.

The most dreadful thing of all of course is the relentless business of metaphorizing the disabled body as a type of aesthetic sensibility. I read an interview recently with a nonfiction writer who says that he writes formless essays that are, in his mind, akin to the idea of "armlessness"—in his imagination a man without arms represents a sort of "gross deviance" which of course in this guy’s view is avant garde when rendered as a symbol for literary activity.

This is a puerile idea and its older than Ahab’s peg leg. There’s a lot of boring ableism in contemporary American literary writing. Or to put this another way: weak writers always turn the broken body into a representation of stylized abjection, a process that is both decadent and uninteresting.

I have started thinking about wearing a T shirt that says: "I’m Always Your Metaphor".

We were pleased to have hosted Kenny Fries at the University of Iowa and you can hear his marvelous radio interview and reading at Prairie Lights Bookstore by visiting their website.

S.K.

LINKS:

A Short History of Disability Poetry

The History of My Shoes: Field Work with Body and Soul

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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