Beauty is a Verb

The New Poetry of Disability

By: Jennifer Bartlett / Michael Northen / Sheila Black

A ground-breaking anthology that brings fresh understanding to the American experience of poetry, beauty, the body, and disability.

Categories: Adult | All Books | Poetry


A ground-breaking anthology that brings fresh understanding to the experience of poetry, beauty, the body, and disability.

"[BEAUTY IS A VERB] is going to be one of the defining collections of the 21st century...the discourse between ability, identity & poetry will never be the same."—Ron Silliman

For the reader of good poetry interested in the diversity of American expression. The anthology provides an understanding of the history and contemporary vitality of the poetry and poetics of the non-normative body. Three sections—"Foremothers and Forefathers," "The Disability Poetics Movement," and "A Language of New Embodiment"—gather the poems and statements on poetics together in a meaningful whole.

From "Poems with Disabilities" by Jim Ferris:

I'm sorry—this space is reserved
for poems with disabilities. I know
it's one of the best spaces in the book,
but the Poems with Disabilities Act
requires us to make all reasonable
accommodations for poems that aren't
normal. There is a nice space just
a few pages over—in fact (don't
tell anyone) I think it's better
than this one, I myself prefer it.
Actually I don't see any of those
poems right now myself, but you never know
when one might show up, so we have to keep
this space open. You can't always tell
just from looking at them either. Sometimes
they'll look just like a regular poem
when they roll in—you're reading along
and suddenly everything
changes, the world tilts
a little, angle of vision
jumps, your entrails aren't
where you left them. You
remember your aunt died
of cancer at just your age
and maybe yesterday's twinge means
something after all. Your sloppy,fragile heart beats
a little faster
and then you know.
You just know:the poem
is right
where it

Contributors:Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, Norma Cole, John Lee Clark, Michael Davidson, Amber DiPietra, Kara Dorris, Jill Alexander Essbaum, Robert Fagan, Jim Ferris, Kenny Fries, Lisa Gill, C.S. Giscombe, Ona Gritz, Gretchen Henderson, Laura Hershey, Cynthia Hogue, Anne Kaier, Petra Kuppers, Stephen Kuusisto, Laurie Clements Lambeth, Alex Lemon, Denise Leto, Raymond Luczak, Bernadette Mayer, Rusty Morrison, Michael Northen, Danielle Pafunda, Susan Schweik, Hal Sirowitz, Ellen McGrath Smith, Dan Simpson, Brian Teare, Jillian Weise, Kathi Wolfe, and David Wolach.

For book tour dates, contributor links, videos and more, visit the Beauty is a Verb website:

Awards and Accomodations

ALA Notable Poetry Book, 2012
2012 Outstanding Books of the Year, ALA Reference and User Services Association

7 reviews for Beauty is a Verb

  1. Publishers Weekly
    This powerful anthology attempts to—and succeeds at—intimately showing…disability through the lenses of poetry…What emerges from the book as a whole is a stunningly diverse array of conceptions of self and other.

    “This powerful anthology attempts to—and succeeds at—intimately showing (meaning, at various times and among many other aims, sharing the experience of, defining the self in terms of, refusing to define the self in terms of, trying to define, exploring the indefiniteness of) disability through the lenses of poetry. According to the editors’ preface, ‘we include not only poets who created and embrace the disability/ crip poetics movement but also those who might resist such a classification and have never been considered in that exact context.’ Indeed, some readers and writers may strongly resist the idea of disability as a context for gathering poems, though what emerges from the book as a whole is a stunningly diverse array of conceptions of self and other. There are no simple truths here. Jim Ferris insists readers ‘Look with care, look deep./ You know you are a cripple too. / I sing for cripples; I sing for you.’ The poet and novelist Jillian Weise bucks at the ‘disability poetics’ banner in an essay in which she says ‘I…find it discouraging that these first efforts are essentializing, seeking to brand a common disabled experience.’ Coming from across the aesthetic spectrum, these poets and poems demonstrate the deep truth of what Vassar Millar writes in a poem anthologized here: ‘No man’s sickness has a synonym.'”

  2. Anne Finger, author of Elegy for a Disease
    “A groundbreaking collection, bringing together those, like Larry Eigner and Josephine Miles…and powerful new voices, like Amber DiPietra and Rusty Morrison. As the poets and poems speak to—and sometimes argue with—one another, we see a new strain of poetry growing before or eyes. The effect is far more than cumulative: it is astonishing.”

  3. Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Fuel
    “This is a sensational, stunning book—one of the best literary collections in a very long time. We are speaking about powerful writing changing us—readers of BEAUTY IS A VERB will be mightily, irrevocably altered and enlarged—in ways we deeply need to be. Thank you authors and editors for a brilliant anthology.”

  4. Molly Peacock, author of The Paper Garden
    “Revelatory, provocative, harrowing, and bold, the poems are also accompanied by personal essays that create thresholds into each poet’s whys and wherefores. These voices range from the specific and personal to the abstract and philosophical, sweeping any reader—including the temporarily able—into the profoundest questions of how to live.”

  5. Marie Kane, author of Survivors in the Garden
    “Immerse yourself in muscular poems of tenderness and intensity, intimate poems of eloquence and bluntness, profound poems that present disability’s difficulty, challenge, and pride—all the while exploring the triumph of the human condition.”

  6. Ron Silliman
    “[Beauty is a Verb] is going to be one of the defining collections of the 21st century…the discourse between ability, identity & poetry will never be the same…”
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  7. NewPages Book Reviews
    “[T]his insightful new collection deserves the widest audience possible.”—Aimee Nicole Visit Website

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