Micaela Bombard challenges the definition of disability in her work

Micaela Bombard’s scholarly and creative drive is obvious the minute you look at her CV.

She has an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, an MS in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University, and will graduate in December with her PhD in English from Mizzou. Her work is clearly influenced by the unique blend of creative pursuits and analytical analysis that you would expect from someone with both an MFA and an MS. 

Her research is just as nuanced as her degrees might suggest. Bombard’s recent work examines the ways in which chronic illness could be better included in the concept of disability and in the field of disability studies. 

She explains that the current theoretical models don’t account for the experience of chronic pain both in disability studies and activist circles. That oversight ends up leaving out a wide swath of people whose disability is deeply rooted in experiencing chronic pain. And it means that people with disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or fibromyalgia aren’t always included in disability definitions or discussions. 

Bombard’s poetry is a response to the exclusion of pain in the discussion of disability. Her poems weave together the influence of theory with the experience of the body — particularly a body that grapples with chronic pain. 

And it’s no accident that Bombard chose poems as the vehicle for her ideas. She argues that poetry is an uniquely accommodating genre. Poems are not only designed to be read aloud, which encourages a greater sense of embodiment — but they also allow for more stylistic fluidity when it comes to expressing the concept and experience of pain. 

In a time when a greater number of medical decisions and diagnoses are being made by legal or medical institutions, Bombard works to reorient the discussion of disability around the individual. 

Her dissertation is a collection of poems entitled “Grievances and Appeals” — a nod to the department of insurance companies that most often deals with the claims of its patients with a disability. 

Bombard graduates from Mizzou with a PhD in English in December 2023, and will be joining the University as an Instructor in the Spring.

Get to know Micaela Bombard

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to? 

I’m currently reading Stephanie Burt’s “Don’t Read Poetry” and watching Star Trek: The Next Generation & The Great British Baking Show.  

What can’t you get enough of? 

My nieces, music. 

What are you looking forward to in the new year? 

Reading for pleasure again (it’s been hard to come by!). 

What is your current/next research focus/teaching focus? 

I’m focusing on revising my poetry manuscript to send out. I’ll be an Instructor in the English Dept. here, teaching English 1000 in the spring, and hope to continue teaching narrative medicine for Columbia.  

What’s your favorite(s) Columbia, MO spot? 

The Deer Run trail at Rock Bridge Park  

When you’re not on campus, what can you be found doing? 

Paddle boarding on Little Dixie Lake, going to concerts, hanging out at Uprise.  

What’s one fun fact about yourself?

I’m an identical twin.  

Where did you grow up? 

Waitsfield, Vermont 

Why English? Why do you want to teach/research in your field? 

Words have always been my home. English and creative writing were my first loves in school, and that hasn’t changed. At this point, I can’t imagine ever not teaching. I enjoy demystifying the craft of poetry with students, and I’m lucky to get to share the transformative potential of words, which so many writers and teachers have generously shared with me.  

Micaela Bombard is a poet interested in narrative medicine, disability studies, and the poetics of embodiment. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Four Way Review, The Anthology of New England Writers, Health Affairs, DMQ Review, and others. Micaela has taught Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, and currently teaches composition and poetry at University of Missouri, Columbia.