Bodily Compositions: The Disability Poetics of Karen Fiser and Laurie Clements Lambeth

By Scheuer, Christina | Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, May 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Bodily Compositions: The Disability Poetics of Karen Fiser and Laurie Clements Lambeth


Scheuer, Christina, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies


The article focuses on the poetry of Karen Fiser and Laurie Clements Lambeth to examine how poetic language and form are shaped by both the poets' bodies and the way that their bodies relate to their environments, to spaces and institutions both private and public. Poetic language allows these writers to articulate the layered, enigmatic relationship between the particularity of somatic "feelings"-the body's experience of itself and the spaces and objects with which it interacts-and emotional expression. Both poets develop an aesthetics that reflects the body's particularity and that explores the tension between the limits and possibilities of communication in speaking about emotion and illness. As aesthetic objects that bridge the gap between the sayable and the unsayable, these poems can be circulated, not only forging new communities of poets and critics, but also extending or changing the terms of the conversations that people are having about disability, the body, aesthetic theory, accessibility, and communication. Through the creation of new, startling, and nuanced metaphors and images, disability poetry can begin to alter the "objects of emotion" that circulate in public discussions of disability.

I'll try to tell you how it feels: girdle

my grandmother wore, tight-laced corset

worn by her mother in Wales, but it seldom slips

from my ribcage. No hooks or laces, only

spaces of remission, then relapse,

a trip to the ancient clothes again:

crinolines, skirts grazing ankles, long

satin embroidered sleeves that rub and pull

naked skin, saying, now and then you must

try to feel through this, and this.

Laurie Clements Lambeth, "Symptoms," Veil and Burn, 3

Imagine the pain you inhabit as a region

in between, ineluctably your own

like your softest skin or the space of freedom

where your memories happen, a room

no one else can come into,

however close they try to stand.

How strange that only feeling

could keep you in this place,

...

the pool of silence spreading out

from the hospital bed.

Karen Fiser, "Pointing to the Place of the Pain," Words Like Fate and Pain, 12

These two passages from work by contemporary poets are evidence of the intellectually and emotionally rich projects that lie at the heart of the emergent genre of disability poetry. The work of Karen Fiser and Laurie Clements Lambeth extends the reach of poetics by making the body's experiences and ways of knowing central to the poems' forms and use of poetic language. Read within the context of other disability poetry, these poems allow us to theorize an aesthetics that is at once somatic and social, shaped by the particular way in which each body encounters the world. In Lambeth's poetry, for example, the word feeling is informed by the hypoesthesia that she has experienced as a result of MS (multiple sclerosis); throughout, feeling resonates with the complex mixture of numbing and sensation that makes it difficult to distinguish her own body from the objects outside of it. In the first line of "Symptoms," quoted above, feeling refers to the somatic and affective sensations that she describes for the reader. The lines "you must | try to feel through this, and this," directed back at the poetic speaker, address her relationship to her own body as she attempts to "feel through" layers of numbness. These lines gesture toward the multidirectionality of feeling, which functions as both transitive and intransitive, connecting the body with the outside world and to its own interiority. In Fiser's "Pointing to the Place of Pain," feeling refers most clearly to the pain that keeps her in the hospital bed. Yet the "pool of silence" that spreads out from the bed invests that physical feeling with loneliness or loss of connection. At the same time, pain, the central feeling of the poem, becomes reimagined as something potentially tender or precious, "like your softest skin or the space of freedom | where your memories happen. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Bodily Compositions: The Disability Poetics of Karen Fiser and Laurie Clements Lambeth
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.