Wednesday, April 30, 2008



Dr. S said...

McGrath is right! There *is* a gas tank of generosity in your poetry!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Paul!

Emily Lloyd said...

Goodness gracious! All you're missing is JK Rowling!

Jennifer Bartlett said...


Although it's slightly out of context, I am confused by Ashbery's description as an 'invalid.' As I person with a disability, I find this word highly offensive and wonder why it doesn't bother you.

Paul said...

You should see what we cut! I'm kidding. I thought about the word, as well, but ultimately Ashbery is, I think, referring to a kind of 'type,' if you will. Not so much me but the presumptive type connoted by the word. The first poem of the book is called "User's Guide to Physical Debilitation" and is a kind of double barrel blast of Super Scathing Fury Powers. Much of the book rages on. So the use of invalid here doesn't bother me. It doesn't really bother me elsewhere, if applied to me -- I can take it.

Jennifer Bartlett said...


Thanks for responding.
I wrote about about in on my blog too, I hope you don't mind, I wonder why the term doesn't bother you. Can you explain? Do you consider yourself an activist? Are you bothered by other negetive reactions to disability? What do you mean by a 'type.'

It's odd, I wonder if there are different considerations for men with disabilities and women with disabilities. Similarly, I wonder if people who are born disabled have different reactions than those who become disabled.

I was born with slight cerebral palsy. After a life of being made fun of and having to fight to get jobs, I am pretty active regarding inclusion and language -- although I'm hardly PC.

Paul said...

Ashbery does refer to the 'ridiculousness' of the postulation he just made, i.e., the invalid's rage ... and so forth.

Any further, I can only assume.

The word didn't bother me all that much because most every other construction seems, to me, anyway, tedious or odious, the kind of writing I hate to see from my students: clunky, padded, strung along. By that I'm referring to all the 'person with XYZ' or 'differently this' or whatever. Those sorts of terms seem counter-inclusive to me, not corrective at all.

I prefer, often enough, the natural course of the river and in that the other phrases/terms are, for the most part, adjectival rather than nominative: handicapped, disabled, crippled, and so forth. Invalid, though, is, or can be read, solidly nounish. Despite its somewhat problematic roots, it functions better than many other choices.

Jennifer Bartlett said...


Sorry to beat a dead horse. I respect your opinion. However, I'm sure you know that the opinion is the minority -- and I think it's important to make so-called able people aware.

The words your students mention -- hani-capable. and such shit are offensive for obvious reasons. However, 'invalid' has not been accepted by the community as a word to shove in the face of the oppressor -- words like cripple, dyke, fag, and bitch have gone through such transformations. Invalid has not. Actually, the accepted PC term is people with disabilities.

I understand the complexity in this because it is --after all -- Ashbery. But, John is just a poet/ a guy like everyone else. From my own -- and my family's interactions with him, he seems kind and level headed, but lost in his own world. I'm sure his experience with people with disabilities is nominal at best. If brought to his attention, I'm sure he would understand. Which is not to say you should -- or can -- change the book, necessarily.

You are probably going to be one of the most sucessful poets with a disability since Eigner or Vassar Miller. I wonder what responsibility comes with that.

Anonymous said...

He's going to be one of the most successful poets, period. His poetry comes before his disability, though his disability has helped form and inform it.

His poetry speaks for itself. If one reads his books, the poetry itself is the vehicle and language: it comes before the body and kneels before the body.

Paul doesn't have to take on any responsibility because he is "diabled." Dylan took on no social responsibility for his songs, but his songs changed society. Paul's poems have the potential to do this as well.

Give him some of your beauty, freely.

Me said...

I think it's interesting to mention responsibility and poetry. I took a class at the University of Pittsburgh this year called "poetry for writers of color."
This description, however, was not in the course catalog. No one knew that was the subtitle of the class.
It turned out to be wonderful, however, because we all learned that sometimes there are responsibilities that come with talent. I agree with you, whoever posted last, that Paul's poetry has a responsibility of its own, and is its own entity, disregarding his body. I do feel, however, that there is a certain responsibility that "writers with color" or, say, "writers with disabilities" have. Isn't that what art is for, anyway? For not merely the aesthetics, but also for informing and spreading knowledge?
In any case, keep up the good work, Paul, and congratulations! "Notes for my Body Double" just came in the mail today and I haven't been able to stray from it for long!!!

Paul said...

I don't think I have any particular responsibility to the world or to poetry, except to write as best as I can. I think that is as humanistic a worldview as can be. To take on more, or try to, risks hubris, I think. The poems will work their way through the world. Or they won't. All I can do is honestly articulate an experience of that world and its language.

It isn't that I don't support such ideas or spend time thinking about them myself. But I believe it is limiting to take on mantles that are contrary to the creative impulse.

Art's main use is to entertain and inform, let's say, in far too broad terms, but there are an infinite number of ways poetry can accomplish both. That, as I see it, is my true responsibility.

Me said...

I'm happy to hear you say that, that you "try to take on more." Considering I love everything you write that I have seen, I hope you continue to take on more, for all of our sakes. :-)
I think you are right...the weight of so-called responsibility may be limiting to the extent of damaging.
Actually, I think just the mere fact that you write, and choose to share your writing with the world, is something in itself. As you said, it will work its way through the world, or it won't. So, actually, I take it back. I'm thinking now that perhaps it isn't the artist that holds the responsibility of change, but the viewers.
I'm thinking outloud.

Me said...

There can be no society without poetry, but society can never be realized as poetry, it is never poetic. Sometimes the two terms seek to break apart. They cannot.

Octavio Paz

Jennifer Bartlett said...

Paul...okay I see your point. But, I do hope you will find SOME responsibility to the world. I'm sorry, it's the Marxist/Catholic in me that makes me say such nonsense. Good luck with your book.

A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz said...

Not to belie the seriousness of the comments preceding mine, but dude holy hell that page of blurbs is freaking awesome I mean seriously wow.

In the words of the immortal Wayne Campbell: good work, my friend. (:

January said...

Seems like a good time to stop lurking and say hello. Congratulations on all your success.