Review by Martha Warren

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

sickness​is it our duty to cure it​or 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 calculate​in 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.

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