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Kaite O'Reilly - disability arts online
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In praise of disability poet Jim Ferris: a call for opportunities to hear him read! / 27 February 2012

book cover showing a ghostly white figure balancing on a rope with an umbrella

Slouching Towards Guantanamo by Jim Ferris

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The acclaimed American crip poet Jim Ferris is coming to Wales in mid-March to work with Disability Arts Cymru. He's doing a workshop and a reading - I've arranged for two other readings in Wales  - and have been trying to get some further interest and support from other disability cultural organisations, to seize the opportunity of showcasing his work, getting readings, etc, whilst he is in the UK. Sadly, I've not had any response to date, so am trying again.

He will be in the UK, so there are no international travel costs involved. Might anyone wish to celebrate this fantastic poet and disability artist whilst he is in the UK?

I include information on him, below, and also a link to my blog about his latest work at http://kaiteoreilly.wordpress.com

He is a dear friend of many years standing - and an inspiration.
Please get back to me if you have any interest or ideas?

Information on Jim Ferris:
Jim Ferris’s poems have been described as “funny,” “sly,” “Whitmanesque,” and “kind of holy.” He is author of The Hospital Poems (2004), Facts of Life, (2005), and his latest, Slouching Towards Guantanamo (2011). One reviewer said “This prophetic poet asks us to shed the burden of our ego so that differences between ourselves and others can simply coexist without comparison or judgment. Notwithstanding the spiritual weight they carry, these poems are playful, musical, satirical and passionate” (Jendi Reiter, Reiter’s Block).

Ferris has won awards for creative non-fiction and performance as well as for his poetry. His work is featured in the new anthology Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (2011). Ferris currently holds the Ability Center Endowed Chair in Disability Studies at the University of Toledo.
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Jim Ferris has been described as a “disability culture poet” (Petra Kuppers). Another reviewer said “Jim Ferris' work is almost synonymous with disability poetry. His first book, 'The Hospital Poems', was one of the first books of poetry to be used in disability studies programs in colleges and his essay 'The Enjambed Body' published in the Georgia Review in 2004 was perhaps the first essay ever to try to develop some sort of critical theory of disability poetry” (Michael Northen).

His poems have been described as “funny,” “sly,” “Whitmanesque,” and “kind of holy.” He is author of The Hospital Poems (2004), Facts of Life, (2005), and his latest, Slouching Towards Guantanamo (2011).

One reviewer said: “This prophetic poet asks us to shed the burden of our ego so that differences between ourselves and others can simply coexist without comparison or judgment. Notwithstanding the spiritual weight they carry, these poems are playful, musical, satirical and passionate” (Jendi Reiter, Reiter’s Block).

He has won awards for creative non-fiction and performance as well as for his poetry. Ferris, who holds a doctorate in performance studies, has performed at the Kennedy Center and across the United States and Canada as well as in the UK; recent performance work includes the solo performance piece 'Scars: A Love Story.' Past president of the Society for Disability Studies, he has received fellowship awards in poetry as well as creative non-fiction. His work is featured in the new anthology 'Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability' (2011). Ferris currently holds the Ability Center Endowed Chair in Disability Studies at the University of Toledo.

Praise for his work:

Part memoir, part medical horror story, 'The Hospital Poems' is a stunning collection that keeps you spellbound like a great novel. With power, precision and a healthy dose of savage survivor humor, Jim Ferris reveals  monstrous truths about being a crip kid at the mercy of the fix-it fanatics. This masterful work is a significant contribution to the growing body of disability cultural literature.
— Cheryl Marie Wade

In Slouching Towards Guantanamo, Jim Ferris continues to challenge the way we have all learned to think about disability and people with disabilities. These splendid poems navigate between the light touch of tender irony and the arresting perspective disabled bodies can offer our common understandings.
— Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

'Poems with Disabilities,' the opening poem of Jim Ferris' Slouching Towards Guantanamo, is a funny, sly, quietly mocking, often touching take on the disability theme that saturates this collection. This poem, like so many others in this heartfelt and expressive compilation, exhorts us, beguiles us, charms us; and suddenly, as we're reading along – just as he promises – our "angle of vision jumps" and our "entrails aren't where we left them." A precise and eloquent unraveling of life's knottier complexities.
—  Terry Galloway

Slouching Towards Guantanamo is kind of holy, more than a little Whitmanesque when Jim Ferris writes, "This is my body. Look if you like." And so we do in these funny, lacerating poems, veering from pain to pain. They sing the body derelict, the body "merely" different. Intensely physical, surprisingly musical, capacious and elegiac at once, 'Slouching Towards Guantanamo' is thrilling work, though things fall apart, as do we all.
— Paul Guest