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Disability Poems: Poetry Relating to Disabilities & Health

  • Synopsis: Disability poetry by poets with disabilities and non-disabled writers in the field of disability literature and poetry.

Definition: Poetry

Poetry is defined as a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language - such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and meter - to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. A poem is defined as a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities.

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The Disabled World Disability Poems section is an area where non-disabled writers as well as writers with disabilities can submit their poems for publishing and exchanges of ideas. Poems in this category focus on disability and health issues.

When dealing with a disability, you look for things to hold onto.

Sometimes words are all we have, and the words contained within poetry often help those with health issues and/or disabilities through hard times.

Disabled World seeks to help develop the field of disability literature by publishing and promoting poetry by poets with disabilities and poems that counteract stereotypes about disability.

In addition Disabled World invites work that discusses poetry from a disability perspective or further addresses themes related to disability and contributes to the development of the field of disability literature and poetry.

Jim Ferris - A Poet with Disability:

Jim Ferris is an award-winning poet and disability studies scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ferris is cited as saying that he was a "defective child" who found himself in a "system intent on 'fixing' him." This included surgery and rehabilitation meant to correct his disability. Ferris has written multiple books and essays, including "Hospital Poems" and "The Enjambed Body." Some of his writings have received awards, including fellowship awards from the Wisconsin Arts Board.

His book The Hospital Poems is about his boyhood experiences at a charity hospital for children with disabilities.

He has been a musician, performance artist, director, playwright, and actor, performing from the West Coast to the East, from Texas to Canada. Ferris, who has a congenital leg impairment, is past president of the Society for Disability Studies, the leading international scholarly organization in disability studies. At the University of Wisconsin, he supervises the instructional staff in speech composition. A winner of multiple teaching awards, Ferris teaches courses in communication arts and disability studies.

A short poem by Jimmy Burns

wounded and disabled
asleep in dusty anthology
slumber until awoken by

From a recent article on the Wordgathering website:

"Disability poetry can be recognized by several characteristics: a challenge to stereotypes and an insistence on self-definition; foregrounding of the perspective of people with disabilities; an emphasis on embodiment, especially atypical embodiment; and alternative techniques and poetics."

For the uninitiated or those who just want to try get a basic grasp of what disability poetry is and what it seeks to offer, the poems listed below are a good place to start. If you would like to have your poem(s) included in this category please contact us

Disabled - A Poem by Wilfred Owen

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
"In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now he is old; his back will never brace;
He's lost his color very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
He thought he'd better join. He wonders why . . .
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts.

That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jeweled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come

Wilfred Owen

Latest Disability Poetry & Poems Publications

  1. Poems: Cranky Old Man - Crabbit Old Woman - A Nurses Reply
    Versions of the Cranky Old Man poem, also published as Crabbit Old Woman, Look Closer, Look Closer Nurse, Kate, Open Your Eyes, Too Soon Old, and What Do You See? Includes A Nurse's Reply poem.
  2. What is The Color Of Care?
    What is The Color Of Care is a song written by Pastor Kevin McCray a Song Writer/Poet from Hammond, LA.
  3. Hard to Escape: A Collection of Disability Poems
    A collection of poetry relating to disability by Alyssa D'Amico.
  4. Our Paralympics - The Challenges We Face Every Day
    Guest post and short poem entitled Our Paralymics by Kuli Kohli.
  5. Multiple Sclerosis Poems by Mary Pettigrew
    Four original poems written by Mary P. Pettigrew relating to living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Click Here for Full List (22 Items)


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