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Vol. 3 (2022): Reverting the Gaze: Resisting Humanism & Hegemony in the West

For Dana and Her Ancestors: A Poetic Emergence from Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred

November 24, 2021


In this collection of poems, I narratively engage each chapter in Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred to examine disability and Black life anew. My engagement with the tale of longing, time-travel, and slavery that Butler weaves together in the novel is moved by an interpretive, or a phenomenological, disability studies approach, where “the experience of disability, our own or that of others, becomes the scene where we can frame how we experience embodied existence and, thus, disability becomes a place where culture can be examined anew, again and again” (Titchkosky & Michalko, 2012/2017, p. 77). Interpretive disability studies surfaces necessary questions around how we make sense of boundaries that distance ‘normal’ from ‘non-normal.’ Haitian author, Edwidge Danticat’s (2018) desire to make sense of separation is what brought her, in part, “…to the internal geography of words and how they can bridge sentences” (para. 10). Following in Danticat’s footsteps, while remaining indebted to the wisdom of Black women storytellers' writ large, I hope to understand the separations among the characters of Kindred, namely among Kevin, Rufus, Alice, Alice’s mother, Hagar, Dana and her ancestors, and Tom Weylin, and, in so doing, emerge, through poetry, from a geography of words charted by Butler and again encountered. The below poetic emergence reveals all boundaries as bridged, showing how disability can become a place where culture can be examined anew. For Dana and her ancestors, perhaps we might wonder about what it means to be in kindred with notions of normal and non-normal, and to live in kindred with one another.