We are reaching out to you as supporters and people who have expressed interest in Zoeglossia, a new non-profit, formed in 2017, to establish an annual retreat for poets with disabilities.  Zoeglossia provides a free four-day retreat with workshops by established writers with disabilities for emerging poets, who become fellows, able to attend the retreat for free for three years over a five-year period.

Zoeglossia began – as so many things – do with a conversation. This conversation was one we had with poet Kathi Wolfe, who was Zoeglossia’s first keynote speaker.  Kathi was talking about the difficulty she had as a person of low vision accessing opportunities that would develop her writing career.  Over the conversation, we all agreed that it would be a good idea to try to form the kind of supportive organization for poets with disabilities that Cave Canem has provided for African American poets and CantoMundo for Latino poets. Following these models, we came up with the concept of creating a mutually supportive community of poets with disabilities eager to pursue their craft and attain artistic excellence. 


In May 2019, we hosted our very first Zoeglossia retreat.  While we knew an organization like ours was needed, we did not realize how needed until the retreat itself. During those four days, we spoke extensively with our eleven fellows, all of whom reported facing immense difficulties with access, feeling isolated and excluded standard writing communities.  More important, we saw how the fellows—and we as organizers—benefited from being in a disability-positive space and the sense of  community that resulted.  Following this experience, we at Zoeglossia, set ourselves a few long-term goals.  We decided to work to ensure that:


·      Disability poets in the US and internationally have significantly better access to opportunity and professional development

·      Our fellows and their communities are supported to be effective ambassadors for increasing the visibility of disability identity and culture

·      We will promote a vision of disability identity and inclusion that emphasizes the intersectionality of disability issues with race, gender, class and other issues of diversity

This year, the all-volunteer staff and the board of Zoeglossia have led this fledging non-profit toward taking some important steps toward realizing this vision.  The Poetry Foundation enthusiastically supplied some seed money right from the start. The Ford Foundation gave us a grant to fund a strategic planning process, an important step for Zoeglossia to become a lasting and sustainable resource.  Also, the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, committed to working for greater inclusion of people with disabilities around the world, has agreed to become the host of the Zoeglossia moving forward, providing key support in terms of access to ASL interpreters, CART services, and accessible transport. 

Yet, we still need funding to allow Zoeglossia to move forward.  The three of us have been organizing Zoelgossia on a purely volunteer basis, including raising funds to put on the annual retreat.  We do our best with what we have, but every little bit allows us to do a little more.  On our wish list, this giving season, are: 

-       Funding to add an extra third teacher to our workshop schedule

-       Funding to be able to pay travel costs for fellows who need this financial assistance

-       Funding to put together an annual Zoeglossia anthology

-       Funding to help cover administration and coordination costs – perhaps even a stipend for a staff member to ensure organizational stability

Every dollar you give helps us promote access for a poet with disabilities and to increase the number of people we are able to serve.  We know Zoeglossia performs a vital service and we could not be more committed to doing all we can to move the organization forward.

We want to just close with some of the voices from the fellows at the first Zoeglossia retreat, who express better than we can why Zoeglossia matters:


“I just wanted to say a huge thank you again for letting me be part of Zoeglossia. What an incredible couple of days. I have returned home enthused, invigorated and so full of ideas. Everything from the fellow poets to the workshops to the readings was just wonderful and I truly loved every second of it. Fingers crossed I can find a way to attend future ones as I would really love to continue being a part of this wonderful community we have created.” 


“The Breakfast Club maybe temporarily disbanded, but you are all forever in my heart.”


“Thank you so much for your vision, intention and coordination of this inaugural year. I'm deeply grateful for the experience and feel like the time together will continue to unfold in rich ways. The connections within the group and the overall supportive and celebratory environment nourished me deeply. I don't have the words for how meaningful the space shared was, more a gesture of arms stretched wide in embrace being met with so many other beautiful arms and beings.”


“Brim-filled after a fabulous conference”.


We know from the organizations on which we have modeled ourselves that projects like Zoeglossia – that aim to provide long-term support to individual writers—build traction in our field and have a greater impact over time, ultimately changing and broadening cultural spaces. 


People with disabilities remain among the most excluded populations globally.  People with disabilities are often unemployed and are among the world’s most impoverished populations –those with the least voice and access to the cultural institutions and structures that shape public perception and understanding.  In our small way, Zoeglossia believes we can help change this, supporting and empowering our fellows to provide new expression and voice for disability culture and experience. 


Please give if you can—and thank you for listening.


Happy Holidays!


  • Noah Boswell 
    • $25 
    • 8 mos
  • Jim Stokes 
    • $25 
    • 8 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $20 
    • 8 mos
  • Raymond Luczak 
    • $25 
    • 8 mos
  • Cynthia Sherman 
    • $50 
    • 8 mos
See all


Jennifer Marie Bartlett 
Brooklyn, NY
Zoeglossia Inc 
Registered nonprofit
Donations are 100% tax deductible.
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