Brianna Fridriksson’s Response to Petra Kuppers’ “disabled lilacs.”

Having taken a poetry course in high school, I have a fondness for poetry that I feel really effects the way I look at reading in general. I have enjoyed all the poetry we’ve read so far this semester, but there was something that really struck me about Kuppers’ “disabled lilacs.” Firstly, the title intrigued me before the page loaded, there was a great paradox between the two words that struck me. Disability paints one imagine in the mind and lilac paints something that is almost on the entire opposite side of the spectrum of thought. Second, the repetition of “disabled” in the first eight lines stuck out because it was something that I have never seen in poetry before. Lastly, there was something even more interesting about the fact that Kuppers’ didn’t continue this repetition throughout the entirety of the poem, but chose to end with four verses that I felt were more weighted than the other verses.

My first reading was not easy. There was something about the wording that made me feel like it was too hard to read. In fact, the reason I chose this poem as my sole response topic was because it made me think more than any other reading. Removing the word “disabled” as I read made it feel more comprehensible but I found that it took out the meaning of the word. Then, I was as guilty as those who overlook disability because they don’t understand it. So I reread again and included the word as I read and found the greater power of the word that time. When you exclude the word “disabled” you can still read it as a poem but the addition makes an impact that you can feel. Kuppers’ uses the lilac to represent the disabled individual, they are seen as delicate like flowers, like they are an object that has to be tended to and carefully dealt with the keep it growing. Her verses are filled with incredible imagery that seems like an incredible dream or an adventure out of a Disney film. It’s a bold stance that says that the disabled are not the incapable. They can still live full and true and worthwhile lives that are worthy of being told like a story.

The final four lines are quite possibly my favorite lines of poetry I’ve read. “I float on my pillow, navigate the veins, sing to you, dance a disabled world.” To me, this illustrated someone having a dream of fantastic adventure, leaving out the word disabled from this section makes for the the two “worlds” of able and disabled people to intersect. These four lines allow for anyone to see themselves in this place and be able to know that feeling of a fantastical dream where you felt removed from the world you know. There is something special about Kuppers’ saying “navigate the veins” I once heard someone say that the veins are the bridges of the body and arteries are the tunnels and this reminded me of that. As people, it feels like life is a journey and for disabled people it can feel like they have had a more difficult journey than others but it’s not always about the journey, but the destination.

Word count: 544

One thought on “Brianna Fridriksson’s Response to Petra Kuppers’ “disabled lilacs.””

  1. Hey awesome job Brianna, reading this actually made the poem a lot clearer for me, as the first couple of times I read over it, I had absolutely no idea what it was trying to say. Your point about excluding the word “disabled,” was fascinating to read and it was very eye opening for me because I think you really hit the nail on the head. With this poem, Kupper is placing readers in the position of someone who overlooks disability and doesn’t understand it. If it were not for your response to the poem, I would never have understood what it was saying, so thank you for that and again, great response.

    – Zachary Welsh

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