Beautiful Mutants

Adam Pottle

In this jarring collection, Adam Pottle cracks open the world of disability, illuminating it with an idiom that is both unsettling and exhilarating. His subjects are gritty and multifarious: drug-related shootings; amputee sex swingers; institutionalized adolescents coerced into sterilization.

Difficult as their circumstances may seem, Pottle’s denizens learn to navigate the world with creative resolve, even defiance, searching for an identity that includes their disabilities rather than spites them. His poems scrape our nerves; they test and undermine poetic forms, challenging our own sensibilities in the process.

View from a Saskatchewan Country Hospital Room

 

He stands at the window. It’s April. Grey. The field’s flat
and patchy with spring stubble. Some kind of crop. He doesn’t know.
He chews on a hangnail. In the distance a falcon hovers, circling
around something on the ground. Behind him his daughter lies on the bed.
Nearly comatose with pain and medication. Her legs and trunk thick with bandages.
Eyes soldered shut with bruises. He keeps thinking She’s only eleven.
As though there’s a right age for this sort of thing. When he looks
at her he hears the metal shrieking, the bones skidding, the vertebra
shifting. How do nerves sound when they break?  Cables snapping.
She’ll need diapers now. Feels like last week she just got out of them.
They used to joke. When she was a toddler she once got into
the diaper pail and put a soiled diaper in her mouth. Will they
joke now? He bites down. Tears off the hangnail.

The falcon’s gyre widens, loosens. He can’t see its target; ground as
grey and indistinct as the day. He forces up a sliver of blood from the hangnail.
Wonders how he’ll comfort her. Grunts.  Rubs his eyes.  Squints,
focuses on the falcon’s target. Thinks he sees something brown
but the grey overtakes it. His daughter’s reflected in the window.
He looks for her eyes but can’t find them amidst the grey.
Sighs and glances at her over his shoulder. Her eyes clench a little.
Relax. When he looks outside again the falcon’s gone.
Nothing moves in the field. He searches in vain before sighing
and sitting beside her, staring at her blackened eyes.

“Adam Pottle’s Beautiful Mutants — a striking, powerful debut collection of poems — is not just a book, it is a ‘city made out of language’ where words are the traffic. They yawp and jaw, nudge and quibble, zing, zip, zap—these poems are agile. And Pottle shows us that gaps and absences are replete with complex meanings. Like the blind woman who cranes her neck upwards to the Sistine Chapel ceiling, we see what can’t be seen. We hear what can’t be heard. Read this book.”

— Anne Simpson
winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize for Loop (2003)

Saskatchewan Book Awards: Nominated for Award for Poetry and First Book Award (announcement April 28, 2012)

Adam Pottle talks to CBC North by Northwest