I sit here contemplating what it is I want to say to you, dear reader, to introduce you to my blog. Perhaps I should start with the fundamentals. I’m a Master’s Student in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at a Big 10 University, specializing in Disability Studies. I’m rounding the curve and graduating soon, so this is my last hurrah.
I thought it could be a fun exercise for the next 10 weeks to keep a blog where I’ll share some of my reflections on Feminist Disability Studies. I’m taking a course on Disability in Language and Literature, so likely much of the content will be inspired by my experiences in it. I’m anticipating reflecting on readings, screenings, and discussions. But I’d also like to make some comments from my own life and daily experiences.
So here’s my first go at it. While reading some Mary Oliver this afternoon, who is one of my most favorite poets and someone who I turn to for inspiration, I stumbled upon “Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does it End.” I’ll be honest, I’ve read it before without much excitement; I never had that “oh wow” reaction to it. But when reading it with disability theory still swimming around in the back of my mind, I had a whole take on it.
What if the whole poem was a metaphor for people with disabilities? Is it possible to read it that way, even if Oliver didn’t write it with that intention? If I can press my students to read Sex and the City through a queer theory lens, why not this poem through a disability theory lens? So, here goes.
First stanza: Don’t view people (especially children) with disabilities as some “special,” “adorable” object – as they often are depicted through the charity model. We are all multidimensional, including people with disabilities. A disability isn’t inherently good or bad, but a natural occurrence, and those affected by a disability are striking in their individuality.
Second stanza: And the world continues, just as it should. The ebb and flow of the natural world is something to embrace because it allows for us all to enjoy the diversity all around us.
Third stanza: Don’t think that people with disabilities are here to “teach” you something special or explain something from your past. That is too much pressure to put on anyone. We’re are all just here, establishing relationships with others and forging connections, but not with some master plan in mind.
Fourth, fifth, and sixth stanza: Should we only look at what’s on the surface or can we dig a little deeper and analyze what is underneath it all that we should strive to embrace?
Perhaps my interpretation is too far left-afield or perhaps too simplistic, but so it goes. Below is the original poem. Enjoy peeps!
‘Til next time!
Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does it End? – Mary Oliver
Don’t call this world adorable, or useful, that’s not it.
It’s frisky, and a theater for more than fair winds.
The eyelash of lightning is neither good nor evil.
The struck tree burns like a pillar of gold.
But the blue rain sinks, straight to the white
feet of the trees
whose mouths open.
Doesn’t the wind, turning in circles, invent the dance?
Haven’t the flowers moved, slowly, across Asia, then Europe,
until at last, now, they shine
in your own yard?
Don’t call this world an explanation, or even an education.
When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking
outward, to the mountains so solidly there
in a white-capped ring, or was he looking
to the center of everything: the seed, the egg, the idea
that was also there,
beautiful as a thumb
curved and touching the finger, tenderly,
as he whirled,
oh jug of breath,
in the garden of dust?