These middle months of summer are a time when many writers who support themselves by teaching or working in educational institutions take advantage of the break provided by the school year to seek out writers’ retreats where they can devote some serious attention to developing their writing. While retreats for writers abound, it is a pretty safe bet that no many of them are created with the object of developing the field of disability literature. Poets Jennifer Bartlett and Sheila Black, whose work is widely recognized in the disability literary community, are hoping to chip away at this lack of opportunity through the recent launching of Zoeglossia.
In Black and Bartlett’s words:
“Zoeglossia is a non-profit that implements and fundraises to support an annual four-day retreat for emerging writers with disabilities, called “Zoeglossia.” The retreat involves professional development of attendees by prominent, established writers with disabilities. This includes writing workshops, lectures, panel discussions and literary readings. The emerging writers with disabilities who attend are selected competitively based on their writing and their expenses at the retreat are covered in order to facilitate participation. Writers selected attend the retreat three times over a five-year period to attain the credential of “fellow.” While people with disabilities are the largest minority group in America (20% of the population), writers with disabilities are vastly underrepresented in academia in general, and specifically in publishing, creative writing programs and the organizations that govern the field.“
While Zoeglossia is still in the process of establishing itself, its first foray into public presence will occur on July 30 when it takes part in the New York City Poetry Festival. Bartlett, together with poets Kathi Wolfe, Anne Kaier and others will be reading on the festival’s Chumley Stage at 11 AM. (For more information about the festival see: New York City Poetry Festival.) Bartlett and Black have already demonstrated their ability to pull together the work of established writers with disabilities in their ground-breaking anthology, Beauty is A Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Zoeglossia, with its emphasis on providing opportunities for emerging writers, seems the next logical step.