4 Erasures: Wilderness as…

Kara Dorris

3 Questions for Kara

What was my process for creating this work?

My writing process has always been messy, and I never fully know where I’m going until I’m there. For National Poetry Month in April 2021, I challenged myself to write one haibun a day. Later, as I was revising, I began to see several themes carried throughout; yet, at the same time, I realized that so many haibuns clustered together could be overwhelming for readers. So, I started trying to revise down to the “essential essence” of the poems, some kind of takeaway or captivating image. By trying to figure the heart of my poems, I accidently created erasures. And once I started erasing, I kept erasing because a poem never has just one heart or one essential meaning.

What is the significance of the form I chose?

I am drawn to disability poetics and hybrid forms and so began creating erasure haibuns. Disability poetics shows the strangeness, the “abnormality” of everything, not just disability, often focusing on how the perception of others, Danielle Pafunda’s “universal peeping eye,” generates more damage than disability itself. Through this hybrid form, I want to focus on embodiment, on the physical experience of what is said and not said.

What is the significance of this work to me?

I was inspired by Audre Lorde’s biomythography, which often employs multiple genres and crosses boundaries and disciplines to explore one’s history and creation myths. In my haibuns, I black out or redact to show how much we don’t understand. Then, I white-out the original to create blank space and absence. In these poems, biography, pop culture, myth, literary ancestry, and history combine to question, and, hopefully, create insight on what it means to live in the world today, especially as a disabled female writer.

In The Poetics of Disobedience, Alice Notley asks us to stay open to all possibilities, to question what we see. By paring this idea with Keats’s negative capability, embracing uncertainty, I create awareness, empathy, and vulnerability. But it’s hard to be open. It’s hard to expose the hidden, not-so secret so-called shame around disability. To embrace being exposed, bare, without coverups. Poet Nancy Eimers once said prose poetry is “a hushed, bare description of a dangerous moment.” I realized the danger to me has never been about pain; it’s always been about exposure. I have always been hampered by “normal” definitions I have internalized (neither if which I realized for the longest time—the hampering or the internalizing). Exposure has felt negative, as has vulnerability. Yet exposure to new experiences can feel positive. I think this is why I am so drawn to hybrid forms, defamiliarizing the familiar. Interrogating who invented definitions in the first place, and why. And breaking down our expectations of not only disability but poetry as well.

Kara Dorris is the author of two poetry collections: Have Ruin, Will Travel (2019) and When the Body is a Guardrail (2020) from Finishing Line Press. She has also published five chapbooks including Carnival Bound [or, please unwrap me] co-written with Gwendolyn Paradice (The Cupboard Pamphlet, 2020). Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, DIAGRAM, Hayden Ferry Review, RHINO, Tinderbox, Tupelo Quarterly, Wordgathering, Puerto del Sol, and Crazyhorse, among others literary journals, as well as the anthology Beauty is a Verb (2011). Her prose has appeared in Waxwing and the anthology The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked (2016). She is an assistant professor of English at Illinois College. For more information, please visit karadorris.com.

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