Review by P. F. Anderson
The title of this book gets to me. The Ending Hasn’t Happened Yet. I’m thinking of a dearly loved one who I last saw at the memorial for my kids’ dad. She came, even though she’d recently been told she had a year to live, maybe. That was two years ago. She’s still here, teetering on the edge of an invisible line, veering towards and away. Each day, I don’t know what the story will be for her. There are endings, then there are other kinds of endings, then there are the endings that are beginnings, the endings we make for ourselves, and the endings we make of ourselves.
This magnificent collection of poetry focuses a lens on the intersection of disability and the experience of trauma. When I ordered the book, I thought I knew what the title intended—something determined and hopeful, a kind of disability activism mantra-to-be along the lines of “nothing about us without us.” I should have guessed it wasn’t going to be that simple. It is, but it also isn’t. My first clue was in the introduction by editor Hannah Soyer, where she writes, “Our bodyminds are not just stories, they have stories written upon them by others, and also then tell their own stories. They become both the story and the storyteller.” Reading those lines I realized almost every word in the title has multiple meanings, and that the meaning of the whole changes as you repeat it, emphasizing different words each time. It’s a title that you need to look at in sunlight and dark, need to pivot and twist, need to query deeply. Coming back to the title during the reading of the book, it meant something different after each of the poems I read. Each time I realized another way to read it, my mind went, “AH! Why didn’t I see that before?”
The cover of the book echoes that experience, with an image that seems subdued in quiet colors, perhaps subliminal, until you look at it closer and realize it is neither abstract nor realistic, but bits of each, with a face that is calm and fractured, viewed over and over from different perspectives at different times. The structure of the collection, four sections identified only by Roman numerals, similarly gives nothing away for free, but invites the reader to discover their own structure and meaning. I suspect that, just as with the title, each time I read the book the significance of the groupings will change. On first reading, I saw one section as being about the experience of being fragmented by trauma, while the next time I read the same section it seemed to be about the people around the poets, some who harm, some who heal, some who stand with the poet and experience the same trauma from a different direction.
Because the poems are about trauma, there is survival on every page. Because the poems are by people with disabilities, there are surprises on every page — clever, creative, innovative, insightful perspectives, all wrapped up in language that pivots from somber to fierce, juicy to a wail. In the Kindle version, I found myself unable to pass a single page without highlighting phrases like:
- “You braid your head into a migraine” Nnadi Samuel
- “A body is god-stolen. Self-ordained.” sara youngblood gregory
- “All / these alphabets / I didn’t know / could be unlearned / and written again” Ellen Samuels
- “My inherent value / defined by / a word not uttered.” Noah Seback
- “A planet where hurt is the mother tongue.” Margo LaPierre
- “Subtract all clothes / limx→0=ƒ(those that pull over or pull up + all shoes that do not slip on.)” Therí A. Pickens
- “So she watches you like notes Blowing out of a wailing horn, Searching for the tremble in the air” Charlee Huffman
- “Your proud constellation of scars.” Kathleen Downes
- “The circuit boards of my body play tag” Korbin Jones
- “That unholy god / who dared / inflict life on the living.” Judith Skillman
- “The T cells are especially bitchy today and not willing to play.” Sean Mahoney
- “In the dartboard of my chest” Haley Bell Keane
I expected the book to be on the heavy side, if not physically, then emotionally and visually, but it isn’t. The pages are printed in a large format, with considerable white space, using a sans-serif font that is determinedly airy, open, spacious. The layout and book design slow the reading to a leisurely pace. Reading it in print is such a different experience from reading it as an ebook. In print, this isn’t a book to skim, or whiz through in an hour or two, but rather one to read in sunlight on a calm day, a few pages at a time, then take a deep breath and a break, sip something comforting, and come back. As an ebook, it’s easier to dive in, drawn from poem to poem, piling emotion on emotion, raw and real, saying, “You, too?”
Skimming the table of contents (which you can do at WorldCat if you don’t have the book yet), it’s easy to recognize a number of notable names in disability poetics—Naomi Ortiz, Jillian Weise, Raymond Luczak, Petra Kuppers, Stephanie Heit, and more, as well as poets both known and new writing not just on disability but in other communities (BIMPOC, LGBTQ, etc.) similarly excluded from America’s constructions of power, influence, control. In the words of Cali Linfor, this book includes “All of us / that do not fit / the factory shape” (p.51).Hannah Soyer deliberately included writers that don’t necessarily fit even in other anthologies of disability poetics. It’s truly extraordinary to see a collection that bears witness to so much, from so many, and which holds space for anyone who has ever walked through the world with a wound, visible or invisible.
Title: The Ending Hasn’t Happened Yet
Editor: Hannah Soyer
Publisher: Sable Books
Note: From the back cover: “Proceeds from sales of this book will go to Zoeglossia – A Community for POETS with Disabilities”
About the Reviewer
P. F. Anderson self-identifies as a queer, non-binary, neurodivergent Jew with multiple disabilities, both visible and invisible, who has spent the pandemic time focused internally, quietly blurred out of the intensity of the pandemic by having Long COVID, from which they are still recovering 28 months later. P. F. Anderson writes both poetry and technical works, has an insatiable hunger for books (especially poetry), and struggles to declutter in mind and space and time.