In 32 short, free verse poems, this collection addresses subjects with personal meaning to the author, including disability, family, and loneliness. The book’s title alludes to Porgy, the crippled beggar from the musical drama Porgy and Bess.
Although not the book’s focus, a few poems refer to author Erika Abbott’s physical disabilities. For example, in “A Famous Poet Once Wrote,” she unemotionally describes an experience visiting a school: “One by one, they ask me/ Why my hand was curled./ I said, “That’s the way/ I was born into this world.” The poem “I Am Your” begins with: “I/ Am/ Your/ Crippled/ Poet,/ But/ I/ Am/ Not/ Browning.”
Most of Abbott’s poems contain only one word per line. While this style is often used with ABC poems (each word’s first letter is alphabetized) or acrostic poems (initial letters spell out a word vertically), here the staccato writing style seems merely a personal preference.
One of the most authentic pieces is “Personal Ad,” in which the poet seeks a mate: “Poet/ Craves/ A/ Lover,/ Partner,/ Confidant,/ Passionate/ Soul/ With/ Vast/ Intellect,/ Courage/ […] Empowered/ By/ Whitman,/ Blake,/ Gershwin,/ And/ Sondheim./ Poet,/ Yuppie,/ Or/ Scholar,/ Find/ Me/ In/ Los/ Angeles/ Alone.”
“Chessboard,” another powerful poem because of its imagery, blends a chess game with her surroundings during a sickness-induced haze as a child. She hears her mother in the kitchen “Gliding/ Like/ A/ Queen,/ Across/ The/ Checkered/ Floor” and her father “Arriving/ Home,/ One/ Dignified/ Sidewalk/ Square/ At/ A/ Time:/ Our/ King.”
Readers may wonder what artistic merit the author gains with this staccato style. Dividing the poems into fuller lines would have been easier to read and equally effective. Also, two poems by Abbott’s parents, although excellent, don’t fit with the rest of the collection in terms of style and content. Finally, artwork by the author’s young relatives does little to enhance the poetry.
Reading one capitalized word at a time presents challenges. Nonetheless, the author often conveys fresh imagery and intriguing ideas. Poetry lovers with disabilities in particular may appreciate this collection.
Also available in hardcover and as an e-book.