Saturday, February 7, 2015

Neil Marcus: "Disabled Country"

This week, we'd like to share a poem by Neil Marcus, an author and playwright who has been working to reshape ways of thinking about disability through his art. The poem here is called “Disabled Country.” A version of this poem is featured on the front page of the Smithsonian's permanent web exhibition, EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America.

Marcus has generalized dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, which onset when he was eight years old. As he reached adolescence, depression also set in, but with the help of co-counseling, a confidential, peer-to-peer counseling that aids in self-discovery, Marcus began to develop his performance aesthetic. His mother was a musician and his father, a filmmaker, so perhaps it is no surprise that Marcus found catharsis in the arts.

In the early 1980s, Marcus started a street zine called “Special Effects”, which featured poetry and art based on his experiences as a member of the disability rights and independent living movements.  One issue reads:

The most severely disabled person
in the world
                   Has an Intelligence
                   And humanity
         So Precious that a society
         of highly advanced robots 
              would travel Billions 
              of Light Years through 
            And spend trillions of
              In order to consult
                    with her 
              For the briefest moment
However, he is probably more well-known for his performance art play, "Storm Reading", which was performed at the Kennedy Center and featured on both NPR and the Today Show. The award-winning play ran for nearly a decade.

It looks like copies of the zine collection can be bought here. and an online, annotatable version can be found here.  Might have to get one…

What do you think?

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