[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a further installment of John Bloomberg-Rissman’s ongoing collage epic, composed, as with much of his writing, (almost) entirely from words or sounds appropriated from other writers.
Disability is often perceived as deviance from some encoded norm; I know this as a disabled person who is regularly referred to as “weird.” Perhaps some people mean my large hair or loud clothing, but many are employing a euphemism to refer to my purple wheelchair or stumbling gait. Dear reader, I have used a disabled “I” so soon so you might know that this series is committed to the disability rights mantra “Nothing about us without us!” even as the “I” and “us” and “you” in this series are unstable (literally … you should see the scabs on my legs).
Bodies, like poems, always mean what they ceaselessly say: that even if they could speak — and they can — we would not understand them. — Craig Dworkin, “The Stutter of Form”
In his impressively exhaustive study on gift exchange and market economy, The Price of Truth: Gift, Money, and Philosophy, Marcel Hénaff puts pressure on the gift (dosis) / countergift (antidosis) coupling by making the provocative claim that there’s no such thing as a “gift economy.” According to Hénaff the gift is built on “symbolic” rather than “market” exchange, and as a result, its purpose is “not to acquire or accumulate goods but to use them to establish bonds of recognition between persons or groups.”
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Homeless Library (2014–17) is “the first history of British homelessness. A collection of books handmade by homeless people, reflecting on their lives and how they connect with the wider, previously unwritten heritage of homelessness. The books describe lived experience in interviews, poetry, art.” It was created by poet Philip Davenport and artist Lois Blackburn under their experimental arts organization arthur+martha, based in Manchester, UK.
I visited Cambridge Elementary School earlier this year upon the invitation to give a poetry reading to a group of very sweet and deeply sensible young children in the fourth grade. After I read two poems, the students let out small sighs and when asked by their teacher Ms. Martin how they felt, exclaimed “That was so beau-tiful! Poetry makes me so calm! I love poetry!”
It may not have been the first time they heard poetry before. Poetry is seemingly everywhere. On billboards, on television screens, on radio broadcasts. But it may have been the first time they heard a poem read to them. What’s significant, and I don’t mean to suggest that these children loved my poetry in particular, is the sense that the rhythm, the terseness, the enjambments of poetry, offered a type of language and experience. It is true that my first book Love, Robot is a science fictional tale of a world where robots and humans fall in and out of love.