Words Like Fate and Pain

Fiser, Karen

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney
  • Date of entry: Apr-03-2000
  • Last revised: Nov-19-2009


This volume is divided into four parts, each containing powerful and fairly short poems--rarely longer than one page and often less than 30 lines--that share the author's experience of disability. The four sections unfold the struggle of coming-to-terms with disability organically, beginning with the body and concluding with the will to survive and transcend the physical.

Section One considers the role of fate or luck (The Short Song of What Befalls--see this database, "Words Like Fate and Pain"), the burden of chronic pain ("Night Shift," Pointing to the Place of the Pain--see this database, "Slow Freight"), the desire to escape physical limitations ("Not Down Here," "What Comes Next"), and the difficulty of adjusting to an altered self image ("What Happened to You?" "Protect Yourself From This").

The sections that follow offer poems that attempt to understand disability intellectually and viscerally ("Levels of Being," "Loving the Clay,"), to look beyond the suffering self to the suffering of others ("Beginning to Write," "The Word 'Class' Should Not Appear in the Poem"), and finally to love and accept what's given ("What Keeps Me Here," "Dreaming the Tree of Life").


What makes this collection both moving and universal is that author Karen Fiser writes about disability without self pity or sentimentality. Her poems are deceptively simple, drawing the reader in on multiple levels--we experience both the complexity and power of disability from the author's point of view as well as from the vantage of an observer who is not yet, but may at any time become, disabled (see Across the Border, annotated in this database).

All of us face physical decline and death, and those of us who are caregivers touch disability daily. The questions posed and the answers given in this volume are instructive and comforting.



Place Published

Cambridge, Mass.



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