Two poems   Leave a comment

Huge thanks to Former People Literary Journal for giving these poems about disability a place to be visible. Please check out their unique mission and other authors.

Bangs, Whimpers, Arts, Culture, and Commentary

by Natalie E. Illum

Disabled Ars Poetica

Writing a poem is

building a skyscraper; words
that need to load bare, to scale.

The poem always has windows,
but also a bunker, a shelter-in-place, a gas mask.
Hopefully, a cafeteria. Maybe I’ll find a message

in the oldest office of my memory, discover something
about my body in the elevator shaft.  Maybe not.

When I write, I choose one line to be the strongest beam.
The others are all scaffolding; the punctuation marks
become super glue and we’ll say anything to keep

that one image from plummet.
That scaffolding makes it harder
to jump, but it’s not impossible.
Poetry is

both janitor and CEO; the analyst
and the assistant, who is a secret

who often won’t tell you how to translate
what you found carved into the original
blueprint of what you’ve been
trying to say.  Which is:

my father…

View original post 444 more words

Posted January 10, 2018 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized

Roxane Gay’s Memoir Hunger   Leave a comment

Tonight I am seeing #roxanegay discuss her memoir Hunger at All Souls Church. It is a powerful book about the body: what is done to it and what we do to it to protect ourselves. To make ourselves feel safe, or loved or worthy, or to begin to discover how to do that, even in our 40s. What privileges certain bodies have, or don’t. The traumas of my disabled body are not the same as the author’s. But I did recognize myself throughout the book as a disabled woman. The situations I put myself in to feel “normal,” what the trauma told me it would take to love me, to tolerate me. I’ve been in that space, and spent years writing poems and essays about it. I’ve said and done things that make those words true. I’ve put my body in ableist situations to prove I could be there, even when it meant dealing with consequences that many people don’t experience. Like Roxane, I’ve scanned rooms for a comfortable chair, for a hand rails or an elevator, or something that doesn’t erase me from the room by having no room for my body. I’ve wanting to be a wallflower. My disability is visible and yet some people will walk right into me. Throughout the book I kept wondering if Roxane noticed any similarities with her experiences and how they overlap with the disabled, many of whom have also been violated and sexually assaulted, and shunned, and shamed, and turn inward on themselves. I was glad to see this page. I wish we could talk about these intersections more. I know we could help each other be seen.  Read the memoir! and learn more here  

#Feminism #intersectionality #hungermemoir #hunger #thebodyisnotanapology #nobodyshaming #disabled #disability #writer #365dayswithdisability #dclife


Posted June 20, 2017 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized

It’s been a minute…   2 comments

First off, Happy New Year!! (because it’s been several since I’ve reached out!!) Happy summer, because we all need more Vitamin D.  Happy surviving, getting through, breathing and thriving (however brief or long), though that process isn’t necessarily a happy one.

To that end, I’ve in hiding, or on hiatus, or if I’m being honest, had given up on my poetry.  Not poetry in general, never that.  I kept ingesting it, and listening to/reading it. But just because poetry can be comforting and inspirational doesn’t mean that I could continuing writing my own.  It sounds cliche, but I lost my voice in the sea of amazing poetic voices.  I thought, Can I really keep writing about my body, about disability and dysfunction, and childhood and love gone wrong?  That doesn’t feel like enough in our current political and social climate.  Which translated into my work is not enough, which meant I wasn’t either.  Plus, there are so many talented disabled writers and performers, it felt like it was time to step back and let them shine in the way I used to.  (To that end, I’m going to do another blog post of poets I know and want you to check out.  I SWEAR, like before the end of June.)

Of course, this was mostly my depression talking.  There is more than enough room for all of our voices.  I recently attended the Capturing Fire 2017 slam, and one of the top poets did 6 poems about his mental illnesses and body shaming and each one was unique and important and well-written and engaging.  He wasn’t boring or a broken record capitalizing on his life experiences, and neither am I.  Neither are you.

Recently, I put together an updated, full-length manuscript for publication.  I’ve done this before, in 2011, in 2012, but it wasn’t an earnest project.   I always thought I’ll write I book once I’m done performing.  I’ll sit down in my late 40s, or early 50s.  Once I’m tired of a microphone, or once I drop it.  Haha.  Now I know how naive I was.  We don’t get to choose when our bodies stop being capable of the road, or when the stage is too high to climb on.  My body is older than my will.  Which doesn’t mean I’m done performing.

But what it does give me is a sense of urgency.  Why not write a book and love it as much as performing the poems in it?  Why not turn the page into a different stage.  The current manuscript contains 17 years of poems, some of them new?  If I wanted to, I could go back further (but those poems really do suck!!)

So, I’m submitting it to contests and publishers this summer and fall.  I’m crossing my fingers someone will see it as valuable enough to publish without my needing to crowdsource or go (further) into debt to get it “out there.”

And I’m still singing with All Her Muses (you can follow us on our Facebook page.  We still love rearranging covers, but we’re moving forward with original music (and hopefully an album in 2018!!)

Writing lyrics is hard, but I’m slowly strengthening that muscle.  Coming back to poetry is a different kind of hard, but that muscle hasn’t atrophied.  It’s the kind of hard that comes from tough love.  It’s the longest relationship I’ve had, and though we were in a trial separate, we’re back together again.  And it’s going strong.  Even on our bad days, we never go to bed angry.  Because, especially in the uncertain and dark times we are living in, what’s the point of that?

Because what’s the point of punishing yourself and giving up on what you love the most?  I know you know what I mean.  And I encourage you to keep diving into the wreck and soul of it, and keep finding gentleness and compassion where ever and whenever you can.  It’s still out there.  More soon, I promise.

Much gratitude for still following this blog, Natalie xox

Posted June 13, 2017 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized

All Her Muses Plays at Gypsy Sally’s Vinyl Lounge Tomorrow at 7:30 pm. Free!   Leave a comment

Grey Jacks of the Grey A Band

Grey Jacks of the Grey A Band

Original Photo by Corwin Levi

Original Photo by Corwin Levi

Posted September 10, 2015 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized

Goodbye Poetry (for now), Hello Cover Band!!!   1 comment

All Her Muses Debut Show Details

Hello friends and followers,

I’m in a cover band now.  Turns out I can sing.  Please come to our very first show at one of my very favorite venues in DC. All Her Muses featuring cover songs by Natalie E. Illum and The Grey A first full-length show will be The Fridge on JULY 9 with special musical guest Nancy Eddy (of the Pushovers). Doors 7:30pm. $10. We are all so excited to sing for you.

Grey and Natalie met in mid 2014 and immediately found a wealth of common music loves between them and a mutual talent. They quickly discovered there was a special blending their voices could achieve and All Her Muses was quickly built. Their first performance on July 9th at The Fridge DC is not to be missed and has been months in the crafting. Be sure and reserve your tickets today.

Natalie E. Illum is a performance poet, disability activist and storyteller living in Washington, DC. She is a founded board member of the mothertongue poetry series, a DC women’s open mic that lasted 15 years. Her work has appeared the anthologies Word Warriors: 35 Women of the Spokenword Revolution; Full Moon on K Street; and the upcoming Write Bloody collection We Will Be Shelter. Her stories have appeared in Feminist Studies and on NPR’s Snap Judgment. She has competed on the National Poetry Slam circuit since 2008, and is the 2013 Beltway Grand Slam Champion. Natalie has toured with many national artists, including Michelle Tea, Eileen Myles, Buddy Wakefield and Andrea Gibson. Her writing centers around disability, identity and autobiography. She recently started a position as a guest blogger with the Huffington Post. She has an MFA in creative writing from American University, and teaches workshops in a variety of venues.

Grey is a songwriter and artist who’s journey has lead from Dallas, Texas to Nashville, TN. He studied music at James Madison University and graduated from Middle Tennessee State, moving into Washington, DC early 2009.

Posted July 2, 2015 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized

I’m hosting a new open mic at Busboys and Poets Brookland: The Bodies Visible Series Starting March 30, 2015   Leave a comment

The Bodies Visible Open Mic is a unique event open to ALL, but one that gives priority to performers who wish to celebrate the struggles and triumphs of the human form. I want to be clear that you do NOT need to have or identify as a person with a dis/ability to perform, nor to you have to disclose what you “have” in order to be heard. The open mic is open. However, priority will be given to those whose bodies are often too visible or invisible and/or not part of the mainstream.

This month’s feature will be touring poet Anna K Binkovitz. The other dates for this open mic series are currently June 29, August 31, and November 30. The event is hosted by yours truly. First time hosting a series since the @MothertongueDC days. Please spread the word.

Anna Binkovitz is a recent graduate of Macalester College, with an honors degree in Creative Writing. While at Macalester, she represented the school at three consecutive College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational Tournaments, competing on finals stage in 2012, when the team placed 2nd in the nation. Anna has also competed on two Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam team finals stages, and placed 7th in the 2013 Great Plains Poetry-Pile Up. Most recently, she competed as a part of the Twin Cities Unified Poetry team at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, and this past summer her work was a finalist for the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series. Her poem “Asking For It” has been featured on websites like Upworthy, Jezebel, and the Huffington Post. More of Anna’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Control Literary Magazine, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, and the Freezeray anthology “Again I Wait For This to Pull Apart.” Anna enjoys mac n cheese and applesauce, because she is a goddamn adult.

Asking For It:

On Being Left:


$5 cover. Wristbands are available for purchase online here at midnight and in the restaurant starting at 10:00 AM (cash only). No refunds. Ticket purchase limit of 4 per person. Tickets will be sold at the door if available. Guests must have their wristbands (tickets) on upon entering the event.

Seating is available on a first come, first seated basis. No saved or reserved seats are allowed. Failure to check in within 30 minutes of advertised start time may result in forfeiture of seats.

Posted March 25, 2015 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized

New Work Featured on Jezebel’s Newest Beauty Blog, Millihelen   Leave a comment

It’s not your mother’s beauty site. It is a blog by non-models for everyone. Here’s my offering. Please enjoy and help spread the word.

Posted January 29, 2015 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized

Febraury 4th Feature at Busboys & Poets (5th and K St, NW)   Leave a comment

Busboys Open Mic Information

It’s true.  I’m writing new poems, just for this feature next week at Busboys & Poets!
Tickets available in advance on the day of the show, and at the door. Only $5. Hosted by the amazing Holly Bass.

Posted January 28, 2015 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized

‪#‎shoeholesolidarity   Leave a comment

Image of right foot.  Trying to put on silver clogs, which are wore out and scratched from toe dragging while walking with crutches.

Image of right foot. Trying to put on silver clogs, which are wore out and scratched from toe dragging while walking with crutches.

Huge thanks and solidarity to Maria Town, who featured some of my shoes on her blog,

What are your favorite winter shoes? Are they inclusive or strictly for those who have the strongest gait? When I was little, my mother had to replace my sneakers monthly, not because my feet were growing, but because of the holes from dragging my feet. We all pound the pavement, some with more force than others. ‪#‎shoeholesolidarity

Posted January 28, 2015 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized

NEXT SHOW JULY 3. I’m featuring at 8×8, This show will be filmed. FREE with RSVP   Leave a comment

8×8: 8 performers, 8 minutes each

Hosted by Brandon Wetherbee with musical accompaniment from Andrew Bucket

Performances from

DDm (music)
Earth, Wind & Fire (improv)
Michael J. Foody (comic)
Natalie E. Illum (poet)
Nate Johnson (story teller)
John F. O’Donnell (comic)
Jenn Tisdale (comic)
Haywood Turnipseed Jr (comic)

and special guests

This is a private show with a capped attendance. All attendees must RSVP. Once the list is full a waiting list will open. The show will be filmed. RSVP here:×8-8-performers-8-minutes-each-tickets-12028053231


Posted July 1, 2014 by Natalie E. Illum in Uncategorized