The poetry of torrin a. greathouse tackles the body head-on. She describes herself as transgender cripple-punk, and in crystal clear voice, writes of the pain, failures and triumphs of acceptance and rejection. “Some girls are not made but spring from the dirt,” she writes.
An Ugly Poem is a devastating critique of the pressure to embrace a sweet and passive version of femininity: “I edited all my ugly out, made a perfect poem of my soft & lacquered mouth.” With sharp clarity, she takes aim at our historical compulsion to define woman-ness. To not be polished and pretty, to embrace imperfection, greathouse notes, is “Sometimes… the most woman I feel all day.”
As to disability, greathouse examines the usefulness of body. In Essay Fragment: Medical Model of Disability, she strikes though the eight letters of word “disabled,” so a disabled body becomes just a body.
“If we discover a new & hungry
sicknessis it our duty to cure itor to let it be?”
The question is, are disabilities to be overcome, so that we move as near as possible to a medical definition of “normal,” or is a body’s value found elsewhere? Let’s say there are strengths in a body – some outstandingly healthy organs, or a psychological resilience that cannot be seen and measured. If it is of value, why try to fix the other parts, “…make them/more normal”? Would it be better to embrace the body in its natural state?
“How do you calculatein hard mathematics
the value of a disabled body?”
She suggests perhaps a body’s true “potential energy… cannot be measured until it is burned.”
By exploring the myth that disability needs to be cured, greathouse is a sort of “one-girl Armageddon,” shatteringsocietal and medical norms, and challenging the reader to reflect on how we see ourselves and others. Really reflect: The poem, Ars Poetica or Sonnet to be Written Across My Chest and Read in a Mirror, Beginning with a Line from Kimiko Hahn, is written backward, so to read it you will have to hold it up next to your own image in a mirror.