Jessica Suzanne Stokes

Discordance: Disability Poetics In Process and Community

How to witness without seeing

An interview with Kathi Wolfe

Kathi Wolfe, an older woman wearing a blue top, aims her eyes downward.
Photo by Alexander Vasiljev.

In Kathi Wolfe’s introduction to We Are Not Your Metaphor: a disability poetry anthology, she writes about the long literary tradition of using disability as a metaphor for all things bad: “How often have you read poems that use blindness as a metaphor for spiritual ignorance, unthinking faith, or moral failings? Or deafness used as a metaphor for isolation, aloneness — a failure to emotionally communicate? Think: world of darkness. Deaf ears.

An introduction to 'Discordance'

Two high-arched club feet in neon socks, one pink and one yellow, interlock.

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”