A Fate Worse than Death
Poems that interrogate the complexities of disability, based on the author's evaluation of her own medical records
A Fate Worse Than Death is a stunning poetic investigation of the worthiness of disabled life as told through the author's evaluation of her own medical records over the course of a decade. Living with treatment-resistant diabetes, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and complex chronic pain, Nisha Patel reveals how her multiple disabilities intertwine with her day-to-day life, even when care and treatments are not available. As she works through bouts of illness, neglect, and care, Patel reveals how poetry provides her a way to resist the sway of medical hegemony and instead offer complex accounts of pain, sickness, and anger, but also love.
Navigating the menial and capitalist systems of health care and paperwork, documentation, and forms, Patel uses clinical texts in visual poems that show how words like patient and client underscore medical access and denial of coverage more than words like person and care. Patel asks us to consider if her life is worth living - and saving. The future of her disabled body and her desire for it is a building meditation as the collection progresses, ending not so much with a finite ending of cured illness and disease than with a look at how we can embody hope and joy in a disabled body, as it is the body that, like time, goes on.
A Fate Worse Than Death is polyvocal by necessity: to be disabled, Patel reminds us, is to be riven. Riven by medicine, riven by ableism, riven by sexism, riven by racism, riven by access friction, riven by our shifting identities coexisting in tension. Patel crips unexpected forms, from case notes to Wikipedia entries to patient handouts to medical imaging, to reveal how "the disabled body is the most possible." -Travis Chi Wing Lau, author of Paring and Vagaries
A Fate Worse Than Death is a stunning achievement - rarely have I encountered a book so compelling and vulnerable. Nisha Patel's poetry burns with a fire that genuinely makes space in the world where we can exist and survive. Everyone needs to read this book. -Jordan Abel, author of Injun and NISHGA
A Fate Worse Than Death is precise, dynamic, courageous, and careful. Confronting self- and medical examinations of disability, these poems show that a "fate" caused by repeat disappointments, inaccessibility, and costs leaves Patel no choice but to invent new terms of advocacy in order to document a glaring sense of agency and visibility. A certain voice, refusing to be erased, blooms in spite of the barriers and constraints both within the medical system and on the page. -Britta Badour, author of Wires That Sputter