The Trouble With “I”

by Dan Simpson

Last month, at the invitation of Michael Northen, editor of Wordgathering, an online journal of “disability literature,” I wrote an essay called “The Trouble with I.” The piece raises questions faced by all poets who write first-person poems which may be read as at least partly autobiographical, but it focuses particularly on how those questions play out for writers with disabilities. I am honoured that Mike has published this essay as what he calls a “reading loop” in the December issue of Wordgathering. The idea of the reading loop is to introduce readers to the work of poets with disabilities by presenting their work as complete poems within the context of a thematic framework.


I started this blog because I wanted to write about living the “wide awake” life in all its various aspects. Poets have long functioned as some of the most awake people in our societies. I hope you will check out the poets and poems in this reading loop and that you will find plenty to awaken you. And if your first reaction is that poetry isn’t for you, don’t let that stop you; all of the poets discussed in my essay are quite approachable and accessible. You can go directly to “The Trouble with I” by clicking on this link:


but I invite you to browse the entire December issue at


About Wordgathering Mike Northen writes:


“Wordgathering was founded in March 2007 by members of the Inglis House Poetry Workshop, a collaborative of writers with disabilities who reside at Inglis House in Philadelphia, Pa. The workshop, established in 1998, has been meeting, sharing and critiquing poetry for the past fourteen years. In addition, they have worked to promote the writing of poets with disabilities through the annual Inglis House Poetry Contest and its resultant chapbook productions.”


As you can see from Mike’s description of the latest issue, Wordgathering, while primarily focused on poetry, contains a lot more:


“As Wordgathering ends its sixth year we are glad to be able to say that since our beginning, we have published the work of over 230 poets and helped to encourage the work of these writers through more than seventy book reviews. This issue continues to introduce readers to the poetry of writers new to this journal including Ann Carson, Nina Crowin, Monika Dryburgh, Catherine Edmunds, Kevin Honold, Aby Kaupang, Sandra Lindow, and Jason Teeple, as well as to that of Laurie Clemens and Daniel Sluman, two poets previously introduced by Mark Burnhope in our first reading loop. We also welcome back past contributors Jennifer Bartlett, John Lee Clark, Ann Eustace, Kathryn Jacobs, Marie Kane, Kim Roberts and Kathi Wolfe. Two poets have provided us with bilingual versions of their poems, Michelle Fernandez (Spanish) and Cristina-Monica Moldoveanu (Romanian).

We continue our attempt to make readers aware of current disability-related fiction in our book reviews section. Three of the books reviewed, those by Catherine Edmunds, Gretchen Henderson, are novels. Two other reviews take a look at the first books of poetry by two British writers, Joshua Davies and Daniel Sluman. We’ve also included brief excerpts from Ringman’s and Henderson’s books.

The essays in this issue are by Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Terry Tracy, Claudia Vesterby and Michael Northen. They are a varied group, described more fully in our index to the essays. On that page the reader will also find links to interviews with three exciting experimental poets, Amber DiPietra, Denise Leto and Rusty Morrison. The Art section follows up on our September issue’s look at Haverford College’s “What Can a Body Do?” project with more pictures and discussion of that event.

Finally, the reading loop, our newest feature, is hosted by Daniel Simpson who discusses issues with poems by blind writers through a look at the work of Stephen Kuusisto, Lynn Manning, Nancy Scott and David Simpson.”