Montgomery News: Kaier Tames Tangled Body Image in ‘Beauty is a Verb’

March 14, 2012

Montgomery News featured Anne Kaier, Adjunct Professor of English, for her contribution to Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press), edited by Jennifer Bratlett, Sheila Black and Michael Northen, on March 13. The collection of poems and essays provides insight into the lives of Americans with disabilities and was selected by the American Library Association (ALA) for the 2012 Notable List of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, as reported by columnist Nicolette Milholin.

Local poet, writer and professor Anne Kaier’s work follows her essay “River Creature,” in which she discusses her rare skin condition, ichthyosis.

She ponders, “How, I wondered, should I handle my flawed body? What attitude do I take? What language do I use?”

Recalling a childhood incident and a historical painting’s depiction, Kaier wrestles with perception and conveyance.

“I knew that the way in which I characterized my body would affect the way I invited others to look at me, know me, accept me,” she writes.

“I didn’t want to be feared. I didn’t want to inspire only pity or horror. I wanted to write about my skin in a way that would assuage terror, tame it. But first I had to tangle with my own feelings about my body.”

The poet found a way to discuss her body by using images of a peeling and enchanting yew tree and a “scaly, strange, and beautiful” river creature.

A skilled poet whose work is seductively rhythmic and precise, Kaier’s poems are among many gems in the well-crafted collection.

“I hope that the book will change the perception of the way that people with any physical difference create,” she says.

Kaier will read with Northen, Hal Sirowitz, Lee Merrill Byrd and Bobby Byrd at Arcadia University’s Visiting Writers Series, March 23. Prior to the reading, the Byrds will also be holding an open workshop on the art of publishing from 2 to 4 p.m. in Grey Towers Castle.

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alumnicollege of arts and sciencesenglishmfa in creative writingvisiting writers