Section: Arts

Justin Martin’s poetry reading explores issues of disability

Justin Martin’s poetry reading explores issues of disability

In July, Justin Martin ’19 received an invitation from the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) to give a presentation addressing the following question: Where is disability in America now?

“They gave me a ton of freedom as long as it pertains, in some way, to [that question] — which is a nice, big, super open-ended question,” Martin said, laughing.

Martin, who has cerebral palsy, had previously worked with Erin Hope, the woman in charge of organizing this presentation, so Hope had heard of his readings before and asked him to come to this event.

Though Martin was excited by the project, he also expressed how difficult he initially found it to decide on a method of presentation and how to address such a broad subject.

“That was kind of freeing, because I knew I could do standup comedy, I could do poetry, I could do just regular speech presentation, I could do a mix of all three,” Martin said. “In another sense, it was kind of terrifying because [Where is disability in America now?] is a huge existential question.”

Eventually, Martin, an English major, chose to read his poetry.

In front of about 100 people, he read a collection of his poems, titled “Second Pain Relief Cassette,” which offered insight into the realities of living with a disability. “[I am] trying to get across the complexities of disability that I think get kind of scrubbed out of the way we usually talk about it,” Martin said.

Martin’s presentation, which took place yesterday at the CMA, consisted of “45 minutes of straight poetry,” he said.

Each of Martin’s poems drew from his experience dealing with his own disability and with the way others react to him. His writing does not sugarcoat the struggles that he has gone through, and he does not seek the audience’s pity.

“People want very binary answers to questions about disability,” Martin said, “I wanted to, instead of using metaphor or allegory to try to tackle that, just present scenes from my life and do it in a way so there wasn’t a break for people to turn away and contemplate.”

The presentation at the CMA was hosted in conjunction with Building Access by Design 2.0, a convention produced by the State Program on Arts and Disabilities and Disability Rights Ohio.

Martin hopes to eventually publish “Second Pain Relief Cassette” in book form as part of a larger collection.

Devon Musgrave-Johnson contributed reporting.


by Justin Martin

If I woke up just after the horn blew

would I know that I missed it,

and what would it mean if I never knew?

What if I never knew?

Clinging to shirtsleeves of people in packs

what would I lack,

or what if I never knew that I lacked?

What would result from that?

I hear an echo an echo an echo

It’s how I taught myself how to eat

If I dance, then it’s needless to say that I dance

on a pair of never-used feet.

What would it mean if I don’t bear the mark,

do I succumb to the flood or will God

put a crack in the ark?

Can I squeeze into the ark?

What does it mean I was born holding breath?

Is this living death and if yes I confess

I want life after death.

Can I dare to expect?

I hear an echo an echo an echo

It’s why I bother to climb

If I was born timeless, it’s time behind bars

and my life is a victimless crime.


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