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Despite This Flesh

Despite This Flesh
The Disabled in Stories and Poems

An anthology of fiction and poetry about people with motor and sensory disabilities.

July 1985
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166 pages | 6 x 9 |

Killed by kindness, stifled by overprotection, choked by subtle if sometimes unconscious snubs, the physically handicapped are one of the world's most invisible minorities. Seeking to draw attention to the various attitudes and perceptions about the handicapped, renowned poet Vassar Miller has assembled this collection of short stories and poems culled from the best of contemporary literature.

The forty-five works focus on characters with motor and/or sensory disabilities. Ranging from optimistic to embittered and from sentimental to realistic, they portray the handicapped and the family; the handicapped and society; the myth of the holy idiot; the handicapped as human being, good, evil, and indifferent; the handicapped as unique. Both instructional and entertaining, this book will be of interest to a wide variety of readers, including the handicapped themselves. It will be especially helpful to professionals in the medical, education, and social service fields. As Vassar Miller says in her introduction, "... the book is meant as a midwife in bringing to birth a renewed understanding of all human beings as so many mirrors of God, however seemingly distorted ..."

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Yoke in His Youth
    • At the School for the Deaf (Robert Pawlowski)
    • Mutterings over the Crib of a Deaf Child (James Wright)
    • Like the Hully-Gully but Not So Slow (Anne Finger)
    • My Family Is Unhappy (Cheri Fein)
  • The Wrestled Angel
    • The Sentry of Portoferraio (Daniel Mark Epstein)
    • Black Lightning (Arthur Sze)
    • The Lace Maker (Barbara Howes)
    • Lying Alone in the Dismal Winter Mornings (Christy Brown)
    • The Freaks at Spurgin Road Field (Richard Hugo)
    • Finch the Spastic Speaks (Gordon Weaver)
  • In Body, a Passenger, and Rumpled
    • Charwoman (Ben Belitt)
    • Veteran’s Hospital (Ben Belitt)
    • Visit to the Institute for the Blind (Felix Pollak)
    • Stutterer (Alan Dugan)
    • The Game (Harold Bond)
    • The Stroke (Christopher Fahy)
    • The Eye (Part II) (Richard Wilbur)
  • Beam in the Eye
    • The Ones That Are Thrown Out (Miller Williams)
    • Average Waves in Unprotected Waters (Anne Tyler)
    • The Street (Natalie Petesch)
    • Beating and Beatitude (James Corpora)
    • Silences (David Keller)
    • The Glen (Josephine Jacobsen)
    • The Grasshopper’s Burden (William Goyen)
    • The Sacrifice (Fergus Reid Buckley)
  • An Unrung Bell
    • The Handicapped (Philip Dacey)
    • How Stump Stood in the Water (David Wagoner)
    • A Late Elegy for a Baseball Player (Felix Stefanile)
    • Seated Nude (Richard Ronan)
    • Wrestling with Angels (Walter Mcdonald)
    • After Being Paralyzed from the Neck Down for Twenty Years, Mr. Wallace Gets a Chin-Operated Motorized Wheelchair (Ronald Wallace)
    • Recovery Song (Barry Wallenstein)
    • Stumpfoot on 42nd Street (Louis Simpson)
    • 9:00 A.M. at Broadway and Walnut on Your Birthday (Ripley Schemm)
    • Bleeder (Hollis Summers)
    • Waiting for Happy (John Gilgun)
    • Saint Flannery (David Ray)
    • Pizarro Teaches the Mentally Retarded to Swim (Lee Bassett)
    • To One Deaf (Sister Mary Lucina)

“...Despite This Flesh contains so many fine pieces of writing that it succeeds in being a remarkable literary anthology as well as satisfying Miller's hope that it might 'serve as a midwife' to a kind of humane and clear-sighted understanding of the disabled.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“This selection of fiction and poetry about handicapped people has no parallel elsewhere in the publishing world.... [It] is not sentimental. It is not unduly symbolic. It does not directly exhort readers, both handicapped and able-bodied, to lead a better life. What it does is to expand all readers' knowledge of the inner worlds of handicapped people and thereby enable all of us to be less frightened, more realistic, more able to embrace our own humanity.... We need—all of us—Ms. Miller's anthology.”
Joanne Trautmann Banks, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca