Poems in The Deaf Poets Society’s ‘Crips In Space’ issue

I’m over the moon about The Deaf Poets Society’s newest issue, called “Crips In Space,” which includes eight of my poems. The journal, its editors, and these writers/artists are bringing disability and the disabled into the final frontier.

Make sure to read the editor’s note to see how the idea for a #CripsInSpace issue formed. The guest editors for this issue were Alice Wong, a disability rights activist, and Sam de Leve, a writer and wheelchair athlete. They brought important perspectives and ideas to the special issue.

My poems included in “Crips In Space” are:

  • On that one-way trip to Mars
  • Application to NASA
  • Moon, or no moon
  • The martian comes to me
  • A speck of pain
  • I give a cosmic middle finger
  • Aging with the solar system
  • You magnify the universe

Read them all here.

The power of writers as activists

The incredible Taylor Lewis reflects on the power of writers as activists, her experiences teaching abroad in France, going to grad school in Hawaii, and the current political climate in a recent article in The Writers’ Bloc.

Back in 2011, at the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House at the University of Maryland, Taylor had the great idea to start up a literary-arts newspaper on campus — what eventually became The Writers’ Bloc. The University of Maryland had niche newspapers, but nothing like this.

I was grateful to be included in starting the paper, becoming its Editor-in-Chief years later, and am so proud of what it has grown into.

“Since then, it has evolved in ways I could have never imagined,” Taylor writes. “From Writers’ to Writer’s; from a focus solely on arts and writing to music and blogs and activism. The staff has grown exponentially from the few of us who started it, and though I haven’t met many of them, every new generation carries on the legacy, making it bigger and better.”

Taylor is absolutely right when she says, “We do not take kindly to walls.” We as writers, we as creatives, we as thinkers, dreamers, artists, we as immigrants, we as people of color, we as LGBTQ/queer people, we as disabled people, we as indigenous people/Native Americans, we as people.

We don’t take kindly to being walled up, walled off, with borders or bans — everything happening now we are actively fighting and speaking up against. And The Writers’ Bloc has always and seems to continue to offer an important space for these writers and artists.

Taylor leaves us with insight into another language; apt since she is studying second-language acquisition.

Hawaiʻi Loa, kū like kākou
Kū paʻa me ka lōkahi e
Kū kala me ka wiwo ʻole
ʻOnipaʻa kākou, ‘onipaʻa kākou
A lanakila nā kini e
E ola, e ola e ola nā kini e

All Hawaiʻi stands together, it is now and forever
To raise your voices, and hold your banners high
We shall stand as a nation
To guide the destinies of our generations
To sing and praise the glories of our land

Thank you, The Writers’ Bloc staff, for continuing this legacy of sharing your voices. This is so necessary. And thank you, Taylor, for dreaming up that idea all those years ago in the midst of overflowing undergraduate schedules. What a dream — and what a newspaper it has become.

That’s a wrap on AWP 2017

I am not invisible photo

Wow. AWP is over. I am exhausted, and sick (who gave me this cold?!), and heartened by the writing community I’m a part of.

This was my first AWP, and it is just as massive as it sounds. About 15,000 writers, editors, publishers, university professors, etc. attended. It’s like an entire city converging on D.C. for several days, spreading infestations of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translation, and more.

I’m so grateful that I was able to meet several editors of literary journals who have been so kind to publish me. Meeting fellow editors and writers in person is such a wonderful experience. If I missed you, know that you mean so much to me. I really enjoy broadening my writing community — especially in these times, we need each other more than ever.

I tried to attend as many panels on disability and accessibility in writing as I could — unfortunately, I could not attend them all. I had to listen to my body, pace myself, take breaks, and find some time to eat. The off-site events, too, were supportive spaces, especially the Kick Ass Women Kick Ass reading, Split This Rock’s candlelight vigil for free speech, and the Inner Loop’s joint reading with District Lit, Sakura Review, and the Boiler Journal.

Here’s my roundup:

  • It’s the End of the World as She Knows It: Apocalypse Poetry by Women
  • The Politics of Queering Characters
  • Beautiful Mysteries: Science in Fiction and Poetry (got some sweet STEM temp tats from this panel)
  • Body of Work: Exploring Disability, Creativity, and Inclusivity
  • Audio Drama and Podcasting: The Future is Now 2.0
  • Not Invisible: Editors of Literary Journals Speak Out on Disability and Building Inclusive Writing Communities
  • Page Meets Stage with Carolyn Forché, Sarah Kay, and Derrick Brown
  • Writing With and About Dis/Ability, Dis/Order, and Dis/Ease
  • Reading and Conversation with Aracelis Girmay, Tim Seibles, and Danez Smith

Read some of my thoughts on these panels on my Twitter by searching #AWP17 on my timeline.

On Friday, I had a vital and challenging conversation on my panel about disability, accessibility, and building inclusive writing communities. Listening to and talking with Jill Khoury, Mike Northen, Sheryl Rivett, and Sheila McMullin was so powerful.

Mike summed it up when he said, “As editors, we’re always walling someone off.” As gatekeepers, how do we check our privileges and biases and make sure to open the door to others, especially disabled writers, women writers, LGBTQ writers, writers of color, and more. These voices are so often overlooked and left out of publishing. We discussed some ways we try to do this. And I’m always open to hearing how to improve and keep building more inclusive (writing) communities.

Thank you to all who attended our panel and asked important questions. Thank you to VIDA for sponsoring, and to Sheila for planning and leading our panel.

What is #OwnYourOwn?

The #OwnYourOwn hashtag has taken off this week. It’s a space on Twitter to encourage and inspire marginalized writers. It’s a call to #OwnYourOwn voice, #OwnYourOwn dreams, #OwnYourOwn story.

This community is rallying around the #ownvoices hashtag as well, which encourages the telling of stories from diverse groups and members of that group.

The hashtag was started by Kaye M., a Muslim American college student who is very involved in the writing and literary world.

Here’s a selection from her #OwnYourOwn announcement post:

I used to judge my own people, my own perspective, and find it wanting. Muslim girls couldn’t have adventures. Muslim girls didn’t have adventures worth writing about. Muslim girls just weren’t worthy of the gilded spines I used to trail my hand over in the local library. We just weren’t.

It makes it seem as though we are the problem. I’ve been asked recently how to stop feeling like we are the problem. We aren’t, dear readers. We are not, we are not, we are not. The push for #ownvoices in literature – the subtle acknowledgement that we make our stories, we make them the thirst-quenching, beautifully mouth watering works of art that they are – proves that.

We are not the problem. We are our own. And we need to be able to own our own, without accepting the manufactured shame from those who would rather us continue to uncomfortably digest co-opted narratives and unhappy stereotypes. Your #ownvoices matter, all of you.

Join the discussions happening on Twitter, blogs, and other areas of the web. The writing community on Twitter is a great space to meet other writers, make friends, find agents, have deep conversations, and more.