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Amodern 10: Disability Poetics
December 2020


Media, Performance, Technology

Orchid Tierney

A poem is a walk
A poem is like going on a walk
A walk is like a poem
I was walking the other day and a poem tripped me

–Jillian Weise, “Biohack Manifesto”1


In his 1967 address to the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, A.R. Ammons asks “How does a poem resemble a walk?” His answer envisions a connection between the textual body and the body of poet, but this perspective illustrates an all-too-familiar assumption about normative embodiment of poetry. For Ammons, the connections between the poet’s body and the poem are both material and spiritual. He argues that

each makes use of the whole body, involvement is total, both mind and body. You can’t take a walk without feet and legs, without a circulatory system, a guidance and coordinating system, without eyes, ears, desire, will, need: the total person. This observation is important not only for what it includes but for what it rules out: as with a walk, a poem is not simply a mental activity: it has body, rhythm, feeling, sound, and mind, conscious and subconscious.2

Ammons’s statement to the International Poetry Forum is notable for its metaphorical deployment: the lived ambulatory experience of embodiment couples with the physical and mental manifestations of rhythm, feeling, sound, and soundness of mind of a poem. Both walking and writing are seen as utile activities for non-disabled bodies and minds that navigate a world made especially for them. A whole body is not a disabled one. These kinds of sensual bodies can walk up and down unimpeded stairwells, easily open weighty doors with highly placed handles, can read without braille, and can hear and communicate without aids. The body and mind of Ammons’s poem are, in other words, ableist. In medical terms, it bears no mark of difference, imperfection, or illness. It has no psychiatric or cognitive disability. This body is whole. Total. Desiring and desirable. It garners no special attention of the spectacle for its perceived deviation from human norms. It moves easily around public spaces, absorbs and distributes information without difficulty, and sees and hears a world that reflects its non-disability.

Although I was familiar with Ammons’s address, I found myself stumbling anew over this particular paragraph, especially in light of Jillian Weise’s evocative line in my epigraph: “I was walking one day and a poem tripped me.” Weise deftly invites us to reconsider the assumptions of wholeness and rhythm that underlie Ammons’s statement on poetics. Weise also raises an interesting question: How might a poem trip a reader? How might we understand the rhetoric of wholeness and cognition if we take disability into account? If we cannot disengage a total text from the total writer, as Ammons seems to imply, then what might he say about a poem that engages with language, sound, rhythm, and consciousness, which are outside of medical and social expectations of non-disability?

I am not posing a novel question here. Applying a disability lens onto poetry illuminates the social construction of the body in literary and popular discourse. In Concerto for the Left Hand: Disability and the Defamiliar Body, Michael Davidson underscores the value of such an approach to engage post-war American poets, whose situatedness and poetics are seen to deviate from rigid medical categories of normativity. Davidson suggests that a poetics, which foregrounds disability as its central tenet, “theorizes the ways that poetry defamiliarizes not only language but the body normalized within language.”3 A poetics of disability remodels how we apprehend the body, while also thinking through how language and aesthetics shapes body and cognition. To stage poetry – and the language we use to examine, describe, study, write, or imagine the poetic object – in relation to a wide spectrum of embodiment and cognition is to critique the representations that diminish the disabled body and mind. Put it this way, for example: poetry as a sonic or visual medium may acquire different generative registers in the context of Deaf culture. In other words, thinking with a disability framework destabilizes a received familiarity with the poetic form by rendering legible normative theorizations of sound, visual culture, and functionality that underpin the metaphorical textual body.

By breaking down these ableist assumptions, Jillian Weise’s poem “Biohack Manifesto” asserts a textual body that is explicitly and unapologetically disabled. A disability poetics makes possible multifarious forms of poetic invention, while challenging received cultural assumptions about bodily functionality. Underpinning Ammons’s statement in my first paragraph is the embodied language of lack. A poem that is not sensing or sensual, that lacks vision, hearing, or a “sound mind” is defined as a defective poem. If we reject Ammons’s disclosure of these able-bodied norms, we might ask – as Weise does – what if a poem trips us? What if a poem uses ASL or braille? In short: what traffic flows between the bodies of disabled poets and the bodies of their poems? To riff off Michael Davidson’s argument, a disability framework interrogates innovative and inclusive trajectories of diverse poetic embodiment. Weise’s line “I was walking the other day and a poem tripped me” identifies the artifice of Ammons’s ableist trope while also inviting us to reassess moralizing and normalizing language that is invested in the metaphor of the textual and material body.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to poetry, cognition, and embodiment. A poetics – and politics – of disability, as Weise’s “Biohack Manifesto” demonstrates, is inventive, radical, and intensely critical of cultural practices that measure, classify, and stigmatize disabled figures. A disability poetics foregrounds the social, technological, cognitive, and political textures that are mapped onto disabled people in public spaces. Take, for example, the following lines from “Biohack Manifesto”:

Here I am at the cobbler

Please, please can you make
all my high heels into wedges

Here I am at Wal-Mart

Please, please, can you make
your children stop following me

Here I am at Advanced Prosthetics

Please, please, can you
change my settings


Be happy with what we give you
We got you4

The speaker abruptly switches between sites of public engagement with repetitive bursts of “Here…Here…Here.” Shifting from the shoe shop, Wal-Mart, a prosthetics and orthotics practice, to a workshop or reading, the speaker is subjected to a panoptic gaze that imposes restrictions on both the literal and textual body. The repetition of “Please, please” articulates a rhetoric of vulnerable affect that disabled people are expected to perform in order to participate in an inaccessible world that anchors them to a spectacle of difference and indifference. The doubling of augmented technologies – the high heels and prosthetics – expand the poet’s body beyond the range of skin and flesh. “Settings” and “wedges” are ambiguous technologies: they imply that something external can be done to the body, either to stabilize it or to force the body to conform to external demands. At the same time, these settings and wedges are viewed as extensions of selfhood and embodiment. As the speaker navigates between each contentious site of engagement, whether it is a Walmart store, a medical practice, a poetry reading or workshop, they must negotiate their desires with a cultural and/or medical authority that determines the limits of agency. In the process, the poem accumulates moments of vexed power dynamics between the starer and the stared upon, client and technician, self-proclaimed experts and the poet, whose identity and poetry deviates from that of the public, literary, and medical gatekeepers.

The line “We got you” is particularly contradictory. Does the “We” here refer to a literary community, intrusive bystanders or cobblers, or the medical industry? Is this “We” offering support? (as in: “We’ve got your back!”) Or is it far more ominous in its tone? In my first reading, I wondered whether the line “We got you” poses darkly political questions: who is allowed to possess an agentic body? Who can claim ownership over a prosthetic or an amputated limb? Indeed, as Weise points out in the collection Cyber Detective, autonomy and self-determination cannot be taken for granted. “If I want my knee to flex slower on the step,” Weise notes, “I have to drive to the prosthetist’s office, take off my pants, and hook up with his computer. He has the software. Since this is my leg, it is my software.”5 Embodiment and agency do not arrest at the skin, but they require constant exposure to external conditions that command authority. Agency extends into computers and software and into public, private, and commercial spaces, but this power – however distributed – is not uncontested. In the end, Weise’s poem concludes cynically with the vocabulary of enforced gratitude that disabled people are meant to perform:

I am sorry if you offended me
Role of disabled artist:
Always be sorry

In other words: be grateful for what you’ve got because “We got you.” “Biohack Manifesto” illustrates that medical and public institutions imprint their socio-political authority onto different kinds of bodies, including textual, physical, and cognitive, and this authority emboldens public surveillance by distributing the gaze throughout literary, medical, and commercial spaces.

Weise’s collection Cyborg Detective, from which I draw “Biohack Manifesto,” challenges the ableist fetishization of technological hybridity by divorcing the language of self-improvement from the figure of the cyborg. In science fiction, the cyborg invokes a furious doubling of anxiety and pleasure.6 The modernized body, hybridized with innovative technology, represents a quasi-liberation from our bestial human natures. In our contemporary context, biohacking occupies the imaginary of the cyborg by articulating this pleasurable blending of scientific modernity and aesthetics. When coupled with the vocabulary of innovation and design, the biohacked body is a tangible realization of a pre-determined future that bridges flesh-and-blood humanity with silicon-and-software machine.

Neil Harbisson, a self-proclaimed modern cyborg, exemplifies this uneasy alliance between the human organism and innovative technology. A Catalan-raised British artist and activist, Harbisson was born with achromatopsia or total color blindness. People with this condition have limited color perception. In some instances, they can distinguish only between black, white, and gray. Harbisson has an antenna implanted into his skull that allows him to perceive color by way of audible frequencies. In 2010, he co-founded the Cyborg Foundation with avant-garde artist Moon Ribas, an organization dedicated “to help people become cyborgs[,] promote cyborg art and defend cyborg rights.”7

Harbisson claims to be the first legally recognized cyborg – although this claim depends on the perimeters we use to define “cyborg” and “legal.” Any quibble over definition, however, is moot. More relevant for my discussion here is the Cyborg Foundation’s rhetoric of designable cybernetics. In particular, I am interested in their vocabulary of innovation and design, which underscores the aestheticization of the body by stressing technological difference. The Cyborg Foundation’s website, for example, touts that “We are the first generation to decide what organs and senses we want to have.”8 Indeed, the command: “Design yourself” is blazoned on the website. This demand for human designability is particularly fraught. With its implications of scientific futurism and innovative modernity, “design yourself” gestures toward the undesirability of bodily lack. A designable cyborg is a figure that celebrates individualism, choice, autonomy, and self-determination. If we can choose our organs, we can design new ones too. Design-oriented cyborgs underscore aesthetic productivity that, in the process, reduces the body to mere clinical protocols and evacuates any discussion of environmental accessibility, disability, accommodation, and medical care to the periphery. The future cybernetic organism eliminates perceived bodily deficiencies by augmenting human bodies to be more perceptive to the sensory environment, more receptive to information, and more libertarian in philosophy, although the ability to design oneself denotes a financially privileged access to medical care that further sharpens the distinctions between what is medically necessary, medically elective, and cosmetic.

There is much to push back against this rigidly augmented future that the Cyborg Foundation proposes. We should question the futuristic assumptions of design and innovation that underpin their conceptualization of the modern cybernetic organism. Who really is a cyborg? Who can claim this identity? Who can adjust the settings of the cybernetic body? Is the cyborg a useful metaphor of unrealized human-innovation hybridity when access and accommodations are no longer ethical considerations? Or can a cyborg be wonderfully messy real-life person without this problematically metaphorical language of innovation and design. In Cyborg Detective, Weise argues that people with implants or prosthetics, with pacemakers or wheelchairs, can and have already claimed a cyborg identity. Weise’s disabled cyborg is a real-life quotidian detective, who investigates the shared situated experiences of disabled people. “Disabled people who use tech to live are cyborgs,” writes Weise. “Our lives are not metaphors.”9 Disabled people are already in complex, sometimes beneficial and occasionally vexed, relationships with technology and medical design. To this end, it is not possible to disentangle the lived experience from environments, the right to accommodations, and the tools that are vital for community participation. The boundaries between bodily autonomy, soft-, and hardware merge. As Weise declares: “Can’t tell where I end / I machine tonight.”10 The cyborg isn’t a fantastic hybrid of human and machine. Rather they both coalesce to produce a uniquely situated selfhood.

Weise’s manifesto radically articulates a politics of disabled biohacking that rejects the heavy idealistic rhetoric of organizations like the Cyborg Foundation and resists pleasurable metaphors of human-machine hybridity. Disability already entails a biohack. It is environments and institutions – not bodies – that prevent participation and access to expression. As a critical framework and a lived experience, disability demands an imaginative engagement with scientific embodiment that complicates the fetish of augmentation. “A crippled cyborg theory,” as Alison Kafer proposes, “would…warn against easy celebrations of the technological fix; it would require a more complex and ambivalent relationship with technology.”11 Indeed, it is this demand for a more complex relationship with technology that Cyborg Detective proposes. If bodies are augmented, Weise asks, then for whom does this augmentation currently benefit? Who controls the data our bodies generate? How do we apprehend a selfhood distributed between bodies, technicians, and computers? How suspicious must we be of a technology that claims “We got you”?


Models of Disability

The cyborg offers a complex view of the body that complicates medical and social models of disability. In this special issue, contributors unpack these models to examine the intersections of disability with poetry, media, performance, and technology. Put briefly here, the medical model reduces disability to individual bodily abnormality. That is, disability is an intrinsic lack that must be addressed, resolved, and cured.12 In contrast, a social model of disability and impairment offers structural analyses that underscore a binary between physical and environmental conditions. In this view, impairment refers to physical and mental limitations, while disability is viewed as a social construct, which typically describes a lack of access and opportunity to participate in the community.13 Removing environmental barriers to participation should produce a more equitable and just society. But as Dimitris Anastasiou and James M. Kauffman have argued, this hard distinction between impairment and disability effaces the lived experience of the body. “[B]y neglecting or denying the underlying biological conditions of people with disabilities,” they point out, “proponents of the social model leave out a big part of their existence and activity.”14

After all, the body is a dynamic site on which social, economic, political, and cultural variations of experiences are fluidly mapped. The lived experience, including experiences of pain, fatigue, mobility, tension, confusion, anxiety, and depression – invisible and visible disabilities – intersect with inaccessible environments. Understanding the variegated relationships between the disabling effects of environments and bodies are integral for examining the range of situated and shared experiences of disability. The theory of complex embodiment, for example, attempts to mitigate the limits of the earlier social models based on the disability and impairment binary. Tobin Siebers argues, for example, that a complex model of embodiment

emphasizes as well that some factors affecting disability, such as chronic pain, secondary health effects, and aging, derive from the body. These last disabilities are neither less significant than disabilities caused by the environment nor to be considered defects or deviations merely because they are resistant to change. Rather, they belong to the spectrum of human variation, conceived both as variability between individuals and as variability within an individual’s life cycle, and they need to be considered in tandem with social forces affecting disability.15

In other words, we cannot ignore how physical and mental disabilities intersect with social conditions or categories, including economic status, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, and even immigration status. Thinking intersectionally produces a complex portrait of embodiment that accommodates “variability between individuals…and within an individual’s life cycle.” We might attend to disability rhizomatically in this way where “the extrinsic and intrinsic mix and merge,” as Petra Kuppers suggests, and consider the tensions generated between social and physical conditions that are also temporally located.16 People can move in and out of different conditions of disabilities, or their embodied experiences may shift subtly or radically over time. This model of disability is sceptical of medical concepts, such as repair, healing, and loss, as they erode the “spectrum of human variation” by codifying human bodies as either normal or abnormal. A complex approach to embodiment reconsiders disability as an important variation of human experience, without discounting how issues of accessibility unevenly affect some groups more than others.


Disability Poetics

This special issue of Amodern emerges from a series of conversations at the New Disability Poetics Symposium, held at the University of Pennsylvania on October 18, 2018.17 Davy Knittle and I decided to co-edit this special issue to connect those earlier conversations with new ones outside of the symposium. Two impulses – one textual and one political – had underpinned the symposium and they are worth mentioning here. The first concerned the 2011 anthology, Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, and Michael Northen. My co-organizers and I felt that this anthology was a defining text for disability poetry and activism, and we were keen to stage this work within a broader scholarly conversation on disability poetics. In particular, the bold and expansive approach of the anthology to disability, as a lived, social experience, incorporated a complex creative and critical engagement with activist politics. More, Beauty is a Verb rejected a singular articulation of the disabled experience and enabled a plurality of reflections on accessibility, the medical gaze, and social conditioning. It seemed to us that this anthology proposed a radical and inventive social model for engaging with disability, poetry, and poesis that we could further explore with poets and scholars in the field of disability studies.

The second motivation was the crisis facing the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). We saw a need to curate urgent academic conversations around disability and poetics at a time when congressional attacks on the ADA by the Trump Administration underscored the legal precarity of disabled people. Without a doubt, the ADA is a significant piece of general non-discrimination law. Its passage in 1990 was built on successful disability activism from the 1960s, but it is by no means settled law. Indeed, my co-organizers and I felt compelled to hold the New Disability Symposium precisely because the integrity of the ADA was especially tenuous in the then Republican-held House of Representatives. The conservative attacks were sometimes subtle: the Trump Administration seemed determined to gut the effectiveness of ADA without ever repealing the law. Our point of concern was particularly acute in February 2018, when House of Representatives quietly passed H.R. 620 by a vote of 225 to 192. A benignly named piece of legislation called the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, H.R. 620 would have made it more time intensive to force businesses to be held accountable for ADA violations.18 If passed, the law would have effectively reduced the reach of the ADA. As it so happened, H.R. 620 died in the Senate after a coalition of forty-two senators, including disabled veteran Senator Duckworth, opposed the bill. But H.R. 620 made it decisively clear that the ADA was on the Republican agenda for elimination if they had the opportunity to do so.

Writing now in 2020, thirty years after its passage, the ADA remains law, but our concerns underlaid the symposium and they now reverberate in this Amodern issue on disability poetics. This special issue thinks through these intersections of disability, embodiment, and poetics on the page, in performance, and through media and technology. The essays here approach disability from a variety of subjects and optics, from medical imaging to urban blight, from illness to animal studies, from media ecologies to aesthetics. In her article, “Proprio-spection: The Poetics of Medical Imaging,” Jessica Lewis Luck examines how a disability poetics can be deployed to investigate the interiority of the body and resist the politics of the medical gaze. Luck’s essay examines poets, such as Hillary Gravendyk and Laurie Clements Lambeth, who undertake acts of resistance and reclamation of the medical witness, and explores others like Danielle Pafunda and David Wolach who engage with the politics and poetics of medical imaging devices themselves. As Luck reminds us, while poetry and medical imaging are both “scanning” devices, the former can enact a politics of introspection and interpretation that contests the spectacle of the latter’s projection.

In “Consumption, Disability, and True Crime in Jillian Weise’s ‘Elegy for Zahra Baker,’” Sarah Nance addresses the public and private tensions in Jillian Weise’s elegiac long poem on the tragic murder of ten-year old Zahra Baker. Baker, an Australian national living in Hickory, North Carolina, had part of her leg amputated following a cancer diagnosis. Her sudden disappearance sparked an international media spectacle that underscored the way that disabled bodies are rendered vulnerably legible in sensationalized journalistic narratives. Weise’s long poem draws attention to the problematic consumption of disabled bodies living under conditions of precarity, but Nance argues that Weise’s poem does not simply piece together Baker’s fragmentation in media discourse. Rather Weise enacts a “rethinking of what a non-sensationalizing, non-essentializing engagement with embodiment might look and feel like on the page.”

In “‘45 degree angle can’t do it on the typewriter’: Psychiatric Disability and Hannah Weiner’s Typewriter Poetics,” Declan Gould explores the influence of New York School poet Hannah Weiner’s clairvoyant neurological diversity on the typewriter’s page. Weiner identified her diagnosis of schizophrenia as a clairvoyance, which she described as the ability to see words in capital letters in her environment and on her forehead. Declan pushes back on the tendency to pathologize Weiner’s extra-sensory experiences as symptomatic of a psychotic break and attends instead to her radical innovations as complex negotiations with the materiality of the typewriter’s constraints. Declan argues that Wiener’s typewriter inventions generate a processual engagement with her psychiatric disability and neurological difference to foreground her poetic inventiveness as a result of her situated embodiment and social-historical contexts. As a technology, the typewriter poses a unique mode of inventiveness for disabled poets. George Hart’s essay “Larry Eigner’s Ecrippoetics” examines the poet Larry Eigner’s unique embodied voice that he imprinted on the material environment using his typewriter. While Eigner very rarely referred to his disability in his body of work, Hart proposes that his use of the typewriter was an inventive mode of cripping the material page that shaped the poet’s unique ecopoetics that further defamiliarized the textual body.

In “The Disability Politics of Blight: Grappling with Urban Cure in Brenda Coultas’s ‘The Bowery Project,’” Davy Knittle considers disability justice in the context of accessibility, blight, transformation, and the urban cure. In dialogue with Brenda Coultas’s “The Bowery Project” from her 2003 collection A Handmade Museum, Knittle uncovers the ableist rhetoric underpinning urban transformation projects. Documenting the gentrification of the Bowery in New York City, Coultas’s “The Bowery Project” foregrounds urban redevelopment as a site for apprehending environmental accessibility issues and disability justice. The very notion of urban redevelopment, Knittle suggests, “rests on the ableist assumption that bodies experiencing illness or disability are undesirable and insufficiently economically productive.” Reading Coultas’s “The Bowery Project” as a trans-corporeal text whereby the flesh and environment meet, Knittle proposes that access is shaped and conditioned by the language that frames urban redevelopments.

In “Speaking of Messes…: Stutter as Black/Crip Coalitional Method in Douglas Kearney’s Poetics,” Jessica Stokes engages with polyvocality, fragmentation, and stutter as methodology to attend to the intersections between race and disability. While not having a stutter himself, Stokes argues that Douglas Kearney’s collection Mess and Mess and is a highly generative work of stuttering messiness that imagines and articulates inventive literary possibilities through fragmentation. Stutter and mess, Stokes suggests, can “destabilize relationships of language and power” to open up spaces where multiple voices may activate and speak out against political silencing. In “TENDER. Marbled. HEALTH.”: The Poetics of Meat, Mad Cows, and Human-Animal Illness,” Liz Bowen examines animal and human disability alongside the objectification of language in Ariana Reines’s collection The Cow. Here, Bowen considers the question “what would it mean to look for other modes of disabled life?” Thinking through the interfaces of environmental discourses, animal studies, and illness, her essay demonstrates not only how language and linguistic systems transform disabled bodies into objects but also how Reines’s The Cow might offer a way out of this linguistic impasse.

Travis Chi Wing Lau’s essay, “The Crip Poetics of Pain,” articulates the multiplicity of the disabled body through the lens of pain. Focusing on the discourse of cripistemology, Lau interrogates the language and form of chronic pain that grinds with and against the experience of the medical gaze. Rather than assuming, as others have, that pain determines suffering, Lau’s essay considers provocatively how pain generates literary possibilities, new forms of meaning, and compassionate experiences to produce generatively shared futures. In his essay, “Different Seeking Same: Playing with Aesthetic Distance in Disability Poetry,” Jonas-Sébastien Beaudry explores a poetics that “curates” disability by managing the tensions between aesthetic distance and intimacy. Beaudry analysis underscores how disability poetry approaches notions of sameness and difference to generate affective responses and negotiate with an ableist world.

Finally, Daniel O’Brien examines the intersection between disability and modes of storytelling in his essay “Extant’s Flatland: Disability and Postphenomenological Narrative.” O’Brien attends to the Extant Theatre Company’s innovative approaches to disability and visual impairment in their 2015 adaptation of Edwin A. Abbott’s 1884 novella, Flatland. O’Brien shows how blindness offers pluralistic and experimental forms of engagement and participation within artistic modes of production. Rather than seeing disability as foreclosing interactivity, O’Brien illustrates how constraint and restriction expands the field of interactive performances.

As Amber DiPietra proposes in Beauty is a Verb, “The disabled body is a trifold pamphlet of medical terms, insurance jargon, social service lingo, self-help verbiage, advocacy mottos, and more currently, ontological and epistemological rhetoric on the disabled everyman who will save us from post-modern burnout.”19 The contributors in this issue engage critically, creatively, and para-scholarly with disability as a body of a variable experience of identity on which no expectation can be definitively mapped. In his seminal essay on a poetry of disability, “Crip Poetry, Or How I love learned to Love the Limp,” Jim Ferris proposes that crip poetry foregrounds the disabled experience. “[I]t shows disabled people taking control of the gaze,” he argues, “and articulating the terms under which we are viewed.”20 Indeed, this intervention of the controlling gaze by disabled writers generatively undercuts the authority by which ableist metaphors operate. The articles in this issue reinterrogate the ableist metaphorical assumptions between the body and text. Additionally they reject the normalizing language we find in Ammons’s 1967 address to the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh. Here we are reminded of the generative trips and stumbles that an inventive poetics of disability enable and conversely disable. We, then, come back to the beginning of this essay. “I was walking the other day,” as Weise writes, “and a poem tripped me.”

  1. Jillian Weise, “Biohack Manifesto,” in Cyborg Detective (Rochester: BOA Editions, 2019), 70. 

  2. A.R. Ammons, “A Poem is a Walk,” in Set In Motion: Essays, Interviews, and Dialogues, ed. Zofia Burr (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1996), 15. 

  3. Michael Davidson, Concerto for the Left Hand: Disability and the Defamiliar Body (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 118. 

  4. Weise, “Biohack Manifesto,” 70. 

  5. Weise, “Imaginary Interview,” in Cyber Detective, 67. 

  6. Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” conceived the cyborg as a boundary-crossing feminist metaphor of possibility, one positioned against universalising theory: a “cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political work” (154). Haraway recognized the connection between disability and cyborg, noting that disabled people may have “intense experiences of complex hybridization with other communication devices” (178), although disability scholars and artists, including Alison Kafer and Jillian Weise, have critiqued the cursory engagement with disabled bodies in Haraway’s work. See Donna J. Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), 149–81; Alison Kafer, Feminist, Queer, Crip (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013); and Jillian Weise, “Common Cyborg”, Granta, September 24 2018, accessed September 1, 2020,

  7. Cyborg Foundation,; emphasis in original. 

  8. Cyborg Foundation. 

  9. Weise, “Common Cyborgs.”  

  10. Weise, Cyborg Detective, 10. 

  11. Kafer, Feminist, Queer, Crip, 119. 

  12. Tobin Siebers, Disability Theory (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 3. 

  13. Colin Barnes and British Council of Organizations of Disabled People, Disabled People in Britain and Discrimination: A Case for Anti-Discrimination Legislation (London: University of Calgary Press, 1991), 2. 

  14. Dimitris Anastasiou and James M. Kauffman, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 38 (2013): 445. 

  15. Siebers, Disability Theory, 70. 

  16. Petra Kuppers, “Toward a Rhizomatic Model of Disability: Poetry, Performance, and Touch,” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 3, no. 3 (2009): 225. 

  17. Jennifer Bartlett, Ariel Resnikoff, Adam Sax, and Orchid Tierney organized the symposium, with additional organizational support from Knar Gavin, Declan Gould, Davy Knittle, and Michael Northen. Participants included Jennifer Bartlett, George Hart, Charles Bernstein, Michael Davidson, torrin a. greathouse, Gaia Thomas, Camisha Jones, Sharon Mesmer, Jim Ferris, Declan Gould, Dan Simpson, Brian Teare, and Ona Gritz. Meg Day gave the keynote. We wish to express our sincere gratitude to the participants, moderators, and readers at the symposium, and to all attendees who contributed to the Q&As. We are indebted to the foundational activism of Jennifer Bartlett and to the scholarship of disability activists and scholars such as Jim Ferris, Michael Davidson, and Meg Day, and the journal wordgathering, formerly edited by Michael Northen. Knar Gavin assisted with the earlier editing of this special issue. 

  18. H.R.620 – ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017,

  19. Amber DiPietra, Beauty is a Verb, 273. 

  20. Jim Ferris, “Crip Poetry, Or How I love learned to Love the Limp,” Wordgathering 1–2 (2007),

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Image: "mountain countree whethr," by bill bissett (2020).