Worthy bodies: Highlighting disabled writers in District Lit

District Lit, the journal I’m the Poetry Editor for, recently published our Disability Issue. These writers and artists share their raw truths about living with disabilities, chronic pain, invisible illness, and medical treatments. They share intimate medical histories, fears, hopes, pain, and scars.

These are important voices, and I’m so excited and honored to share them. I’ve been wanting to highlight the voices of people with disabilities and chronic illness for a while, and District Lit offered a great home for these important stories and experiences.

These writers and artists share their raw truths. These are vital voices at a time when the Affordable Care Act, healthcare, Medicaid/Medicare, and disability rights are threatened.

These contributors show the disabled and chronically ill body unflinchingly. They show their bodies are valid bodies.

You can also read my and Guest Editor Jen Stein Hauptmann’s Editors’ Note for more background on the issue.

The issue includes artwork by Christine Stoddard and Paul Flippen; nonfiction by: Emma Bolden, Shari Eberts, Kaleb Estes, Jenn A. Garvin, Heather Taylor Johnson, and Amy Wang Manning; and poetry by: D. Allen, Judith Arcana, Roxanna Bennett, J V Birch, Kristene Brown, Aubrie Cox Warner, Katherine Edgren, Robbie Gamble, Jane Ellen Glasser, Joey Gould, Carrie Purcell Kahler, Jen Karetnick, Christoph Keller, Adrian Kresnak, Travis Chi Wing Lau, Sarah Lilius, Jennifer Met, Daniel Edward Moore, David Olsen, Jeff Pearson, Maria Ramos-Chertok, Andrea Rogers, Ruby Stephens, Denise Thompson-Slaughter, and Jessica Tower.

Poet Kaveh Akbar even tweeted that everyone should take time with this important issue. Thanks for your support, Kaveh!

Please take some time with our Disability Issue.

First ever DC Art Book Fair 📚 🎨

Hannah and I tabled at the first ever DC Art Book Fair in November.
Hannah and I tabled at the first ever D.C. Art Book Fair in November.

Last weekend, my sister Hannah and I tabled at the first ever D.C. Art Book Fair at Lab 1270 in Washington, D.C. We were so grateful and excited to be a part of the first fair!

The other tablers were diverse and talented. They sold handmade art, books, comics, feminist zines, poetry, posters of reimagined cartoon characters from the Rugrats and Hey Arnold, pins, patches, and more. Each table was unique and one tabler (Lenora Yerkes) even set up a lounge space to read, chat, or browse her art.

Hannah sold quite a few journals and a large-format handcut brain (pictured above with a red background). I also sold a few copies of “On that one-way trip to Mars.”

If you couldn’t make it out to the fair, you can view and purchase Hannah’s work on Etsy. She also commissions pieces for any style, color, and size you want. You can always purchase my book here.

Hannah Renae photo Etsy shop
Hannah sells handcut journals and books on her Etsy shop.

About 1,000 people showed up for the fair, which was way larger than any crowd I was imagining! It was amazing to see people in D.C. gathering for such an eclectic mix of books and art — it definitely seemed more like something you would find in New York, Philly, or Baltimore. But this happened in D.C. — and everyone attending seemed to wander, linger, and enjoy.

I can’t wait for the next D.C. Art Book Fair!

‘Ode to my physical therapist’ in Words Dance

ode to my physical therapist on Words Dance

I’ve been writing a lot about the body, chronic pain, and the strange ways pain is invisible but still felt.

Today, Words Dance published one of my new body poems, “Ode to my physical therapist.” They called me a “lovely badass” when they sent the acceptance note — and I’ve never been more gushy. I hope I live up to that title!

I recently finished a several-month round of physical therapy. It was grueling, difficult, and necessary. I gained methods of focusing on my core. I learned that my back and hip muscles were very weak, and how to strengthen them. The poem focuses on a specific technique my PT tried with me, called spinal traction. While my pain is still around (that lingering bastard), the techniques I learned in PT have helped me try to manage it.

For more background on my back pain, you can read about what inspired “Body remembers,” which was published in May in The Fem.

Thanks for reading.

Poetry of the body

The Split This Rock 2016 poetry festival is coming up soon! I’m so excited to be speaking on a panel about the body and poetry with lovely writers Leeya Mehta, Sarah Sansolo, and Tyler Vile.

We’ll be discussing body image, the body through the female experience and through the disabled experience. How and why do we write poetry about our bodies? What does it mean to have a different body? For those of us whose bodies don’t conform to the ones we see saturated in the media, how can we take back our bodies and write about them? Come explore how poetry can channel the physical body in our panel discussion.

If you’re considering attending the festival, wondering if it’s worth it, let me tell you without a doubt: absolutely, yes. And that is not just because I’m a panelist this year.

I’ve been attending the Split This Rock festival for three years now, starting when I was still in university. It is one of the most comprehensive, welcoming, diverse poetry festivals I’ve ever witnessed. People from all over the country and world attend, give readings, speak on panels, sell their books, and participate in open mics. It’s truly a special place to meet writers from all over the world.

If you’ll be attending the festival, consider coming to my panel called Physical Bodies and Poetic Bones, moderated by Diana Bolton, founding editor of District Lit.

Registration for the festival ends March 31, so you still have time. Hope to see you there, if not at my panel, at the many other fabulous events!

SPARKS Peer Educators offers free HIV test to Elon University students

FEB. 7, 2011

Marlena Chertock

SPARKS Peer Educator sophomore Liz White explains how to give yourself a mouth swab HIV test. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

SPARKS Peer Educators and Alamance Cares partnered up on February 7, 2011 to give free HIV tests to Elon University students from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. SPARKS members manned a table in the Moseley Center where students could get mouth swabs and condoms.

The event is part of Love Your Body month, which falls in the month of February.

“It’s about taking care of your body,” said sophomore Elizabeth White, who was in charge of the table at the time. “Contraceptives is a part of it.”

SPARKS Peer Educators are student leaders who provide  who provide health-related programming and serve the Elon University community as health resources, in order to enhance the well being of their peers.

Alamance Cares is a non-profit agency that focuses on stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS through awareness, education and testing in Alamance and surrounding counties in North Carolina.

Knowing your HIV status is important, White said.

Within 15 minutes three people came by to test their HIV status, White said.

SPARKS offered a mouth swab test. Students put the swab in their mouth, let the test sit for 20 minutes and the result is shown much like a pregnancy test, White said.

Student response to the event has been positive.

“They liked that we’re giving away free condoms,” White said. “I think they like it because they can get it done on campus, it’s free and quick.”

The free HIV testing hosted by SPARKS is not an annual event. But SPARKS held another HIV testing event in December where 60 people showed up to get tested. The HIV testing event is held every couple of months, White said.