Jim Ferris


Poet and performance artist Jim Ferris was born outside of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. Due to a mobility impairment which caused one leg to grow faster than the other, Ferris spent much of his childhood in and out of hospitals. He attended the Spalding School for Crippled Children in Chicago, as well as a number of parochial and public schools. As a child, Ferris encountered many doctors intent on “fixing” him through intense surgeries and rehabilitation; these interactions within the medical establishment inform much of his creative and critical work. Before becoming the chair of Disabilities Studies at the University of Toledo in Ohio, Ferris, who himself holds a doctorate in performance studies, taught communication arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His scholarly work was preceded by a handful of odd jobs, including newspaper reporting and gas pumping. His debut collection, Hospital Poems (Main Street Rag, 2004), which Ferris describes as a “memoir in verse,” critiques the aforementioned “fix-it” ideology. Ferris’s essay “The Enjambed Body: A Step Toward a Crippled Poetic,'' first published in Georgia Review, has become a hallmark of theoretical studies at the intersection of poetry and disability. In addition to his celebrated poetic endeavors, Ferris has received awards for mathematics and creative nonfiction. The former president of the Society for Disability Studies, Ferries continues to perform his work widely.

Poems With Disabilities

I’m sorry—this space is reserved 

for poems with disabilities. I know 

it’s one of the best spaces in the book, 

but the Poems with Disabilities Act 

requires us to make all reasonable 

accommodations for poems that aren’t 

normal. There is a nice space just 

a few pages over—in fact (don’t 

tell anyone) I think it’s better 

than this one, I myself prefer it. 

Actually I don’t see any of those 

poems right now myself, but you never know 

when one might show up, so we have to keep 

this space open. You can’t always tell 

just from looking at them, either. Sometimes 

they’ll look just like a regular poem 

when they roll in... you’re reading along 

and suddenly everything 

changes, the world tilts 

a little, angle of vision 

jumps, your entrails aren’t 

where you left them. You 

remember your aunt died 

of cancer at just your age 

and maybe yesterday’s twinge means 

something after all. Your sloppy, 

fragile heart beats 

a little faster 

and then you know. 

You just know: 

the poem 

is right 

where it 






Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Body & Body Image


Health & Illness

Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


a literary device that is used in narratives to omit some parts of a sentence or event, which gives the reader a chance to fill the gaps while acting or reading it out.

Extended Metaphor

a metaphor that extends through several lines or even an entire poem

Interrupted Clause

a word group (a statement, question, or exclamation) that interrupts the flow of a sentence and is usually set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing


the use of irony to mock or convey contempt