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This report is taken from PN Review 264, Volume 48 Number 4, March - April 2022.

Sitting with Discomfort
Part II Body and Word
Vahni Capildeo
Is it possible to ‘read’ our bodies’ reactions, when we are reading, and feed that into a literary appreciation of a poem’s art? Do somatic responses simply indicate personal triggers, or are there patterns in our reading body that interplay with the text, not in a way that makes meaning from the text, but in a way that uncovers poetic form? I have been experimenting with a method of workshopping readings of the text via readings of the body. This piece will conclude by outlining the method. However, it is very new. To open up approaches beyond what I can perceive, I would like to retrace how I arrived at this type of reading.

First, a question: what image comes to your mind when you read the phrases ‘sitting with discomfort’, or ‘sitting with difficulty’, in connection with poetry? Are you literal-minded? Is it the image of a white cube art gallery with low-level, woven, circular seating? Is it the image of rustic benches with no backs in a dark upstairs room? Is it the pain of knees that will not lever an arthritic person up from the gallery’s meditative, orientalist floor cushions? Is it the image of a crumbling spine rearranging itself inside an unsupported back, till nerves scream, internally drowning out any words?

Younger poets who live with chronic pain, invisible illnesses, or other disability, like Polly Atkin and Karl Knights in England, have not stayed silent about what it would mean for poetry, so often encountered via the ‘poetry event’, to be accessible. The ‘Inklusion Guide’, pioneered ...


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