In May 2022, MFA in Writing graduate (2021), Tea Gerbeza received some welcome news. She had been chosen to receive the University of Saskatchewan Graduate Thesis Award in the area of Fine Arts & Humanities for her long poem How I Bend into More.
For Gerbeza, the project has been several years in the making but it wasn’t until finding her way to the MFA in Writing program that she understood what she needed to write. Gerbeza credits the encouragement, wisdom, and keen editing skills of program head Jeanette Lynes, faculty member Sheri Benning, and her mentor Jennifer Still for the support she needed to tell this part of her personal story. While the story deals with several of Gerbeza’s personal experiences surrounding topics of internalized and external ableism and trauma, she discovered that consent is one of the main themes unravelled throughout the piece.
The project also features paper quilling, a papercraft involving strips of paper rolled together and formed into decorative images. The art pieces are interspersed though the work, interacting with the words to lend another element to the long poem. This is where Gerbeza sees the theme of consent emerge as she uses the narrative created by the paper quilling to allow her to reclaim her body on her own terms.
Screenshot showing how Gerbeza incorporates paper quilling alongside her words in thesis project How I Bend into More
Overall, Gerbeza found the experience of writing How I Bend into More to be both emotional and liberating. Due to the deeply personal experiences she shares in the long poem, Gerbeza did have some reservations about sharing the project. But as she puts it “ultimately…the way that the book resists against ableism and focuses on disabled joy is what made [her] excited to share it”. She is hoping that this book can start to fill the gap about scoliosis and scoliosis-related disability.
While Gerbeza is still refining the manuscript before reaching out to publishers, some sections of the long poem have been published in various literary magazines and in periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics: https://periodicityjournal.blogspot.com/2022/06/tea-gerbeza-excerpts-from-long-poem.html