A unique book collating new writing by people who are disabled or Deaf will be officially launched this week. The first of its kind in the UK, the collection titled Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back, will be unveiled at Birmingham City University at a special launch event featuring a selection of readings from the anthology.
The book exclusively contains works penned by writers who are disabled or D/deaf and is described as “showcasing a diversity of opinions and survival strategies for an ableist world. With contributions that span Vispo to Surrealism, and range from hard-hitting political commentary to intimate lyrical pieces, these poets refuse to perform or inspire according to tired, old narratives.”
Stairs and Whispers’ release comes five years after its US counterpart Beauty is a Verb, which was heralded as a ground-breaking step both in raising awareness and bringing a new readership to its writers.
Edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman, the UK anthology brings together a mix of surrealist poetry, hard-hitting political commentary, intimate lyrical writing and survival strategies for Deaf and disabled people.
The book will be officially launched on June 3 at Birmingham City University’s Curzon Building, following a series of talks, film screenings and readings from the book.
Dr Gregory Leadbetter, Reader in Literature and Creative Writing at Birmingham City University and a Trustee of Writing West Midlands, says:
“I’m delighted that the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing will be hosting the launch of this exciting new book – and to be working with our friends and partners at Nine Arches Press as they bring a work of such life and significance into the world. ‘Stairs and Whispers’ marks a new step forward in the ongoing diversification of contemporary publishing.”
The Institute of Creative and Critical Writing exists to cultivate the literary arts and the life of ideas.
Based within the School of English at Birmingham City University, it both enriches the University’s creative writing programme, through its series of masterclasses and guest author seminars, and engages with the wider culture beyond the University, through its calendar of exciting public events.
Tom Shakespeare, author of Disability Rights and Wrongs comments:
“This is a collection which redefines what poetry is. This is a collection which is nearly as varied as the diversity of impairment and disability and D/deaf experiences in Britain today. This is a collection which I will read and re-read until I have absorbed the richness and colour and anger and misery and humour and power of it.”
The term ‘D/deaf’ is used to describe those who are sign language users (Deaf) and those who are hard of hearing, but who use English as their first language (deaf).
Sheila Black, co-editor of the US anthology, Beauty is a Verb, adds further:
“The poems here are gorgeous and important.”
Sandra Alland, one of the three anthology editors, says:
“We hope these poems, essays, recordings and videos will spark much-deserved interest in, and discussion about, the specific kinds of brilliance that form disabled and D/deaf poetics.
“Along with my two co-editors, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman, I’m thrilled to present 54 poets who creatively counter the daily violence and erasure our communities face – and to contribute to the vast and stunning literary and performance traditions of our many disabled and D/deaf accomplices across the globe.”