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.