A Sighted Writer’s Inside View of a Blind Writer’s World

Carolyn’s Online Magazine




No, don’t take my arm.

This was the first lesson I learned from my blind friend, Russ—that I was to let him take my arm and position it to his needs.


Ours was an unlikely friendship. Russ was white-haired, lacked physical vision, a lifelong resident of a small town, and a member of a fundamentalist church. I was brunette-haired, had physical vision, a new resident of this same small town, and a member of the local United Methodist Church.

In fact, I was not only a member of the church. I was the wife of the new pastor.

As our friendship grew Russ offered me glimpses of his world of blindness, his world without physical vision. I became a voyeur, standing on the outside looking in, all the while learning about the life of a person who was blind.

One area we shared was a love of writing.

Russ wrote poetry, and was frequently asked to write a poem for birthdays and special occasions. His collection of poetry, created and stored on audio tapes, showed creative vision. Through the five years I was in his town he invited me into his writing world.

At the time I myself was just stepping into the writer’s world. The town’s freelance journalist wanted to retire. I was ripe to try this new venture.


Russ and I each had a cartoon character made our relationship interesting. His A’nonymous (a mouse) exchanged letters with my Cochran Cornell the Cantankerous Cockroach. One such letter was DEAR A’NONNIEMOUSE FROM COCHRAN (COCKROACH)*.

Our writing worlds differed. I had vision—physical vision, that is. I could read, watch media, type on the computer, and observe people’s reactions when I was interviewing them. He wrote by speaking into a tape recorder, which others had to transcribe. His poetry demonstrated his creative vision.


Russ couldn’t pull out a file folder to find a poem. He had to listen through a pile of audio tapes, hoping he could identify the correct one through his use of Braille.

Russ never lamented about his loss of vision, which happened in totality at age 19.

I entered deeply into his world when we decided to publish a booklet of his poems. He selected his favorites and I transcribed them.

His community didn’t have a writer’s group which would critique his poems. After we had the selection he reluctantly agreed to meet with a selected group of people who would review his work with him.

Because I’d already left town I had to return to his community. Thus, we only had two days to act as a writers group. It was very rough on him to hear some of the comments, but he came to understand most of them, even agreed with them. However, the painfulness of a first time critique that was very concentrated wasn’t lost on me. Later, he decided to discard most of the changes.

I gathered photos for illustration and produced the booklet: My Homely Poems, Vol. 1*.

Cover is actually light gray.

Cover is actually light gray.

Since Thanksgiving is this week, I’ll share his Thanksgiving poem:


T is for the thanks we give thee O Lord

H is for holiness, the Christian’s reward

A is for all the answers to prayer

N is for the nearness to God we share

K is for the keys for the Kingdom of heaven

S is for sins, that have all been forgiven

G is for God, who answers our prayers

I is for interest that shows us He cares

V is for victory, the Christian’s intent

I is for investment, the price that was spent

N is for nothing the Lord has left out

G is for His greatness, and there’s no doubt.

Thanksgiving is not just once a year

But every day when Christ is held dear.

In Russ’s world he couldn’t see the result of his efforts. He had to depend on sighted person’s evaluations. I wondered what it would be like to be in his world, never being able to see the fruit of my labor?


Being on the outside of Russ’s world, looking in, taught me much about blindness. By observing his world I realized how difficult it is for a blind person to become a writer, and came to appreciate how easy I have it.

We all have our handicaps and challenges. Russ overcame his. His poetry is visionary. He was respected in his community for his efforts.

We each need to evaluate our handicaps and challenges and work, like he did, to overcome them. That’s vision of a different type.

Russ 'looks at' a cross bent in a fire at Wesley United Methodist Church in Connellsville, PA

Russ ‘looks at’ a cross bent in a fire at Wesley United Methodist Church in Connellsville, PA

The most valuable lesson, which had little to do with comparing our writing worlds, is that blindness allows relationships without outside cues. Russ knew not my race, my hair color, my eye color. He evaluated me based on who I was, not on what I look like. That’s the vision that came through in his poetry.


Also read Blind Man’s Touch

*   DEAR A’NONNIEMOUSE FROM COCHRAN (COCKROACH) is posted in CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS, predecessor to Carolyn’s Online Magazine.

**  My Homely Poems, Vol. 1* can be ordered by emailing Carolyn Cornell Holland at chollandnews at yahoo.com


NOTE: The WordPress writing  prompt for May 13, 2016, is vision. Perfect for a writing about a blind poet.

NOTE: The WordPress writing prompt for November 18, 2015, is The Outsidersthe experience of being outside, looking in


About carolyncholland

In several if my nine lives I have been a medical lab technician and a human service worker specializing in child day care, adoptions and family abuse. Currently I am a photo/journalist/writer working on a novel and a short story. My general writings can be viewed at www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com. My novel site is www.intertwinedlove.wordpress.com.
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3 Responses to A Sighted Writer’s Inside View of a Blind Writer’s World

  1. Pingback: Rethink Church Lenten Photos 2016: Week 2 | Carolyn's Online Magazine

  2. I just came across this when I did a search on Google for, is anyone looking for a blind writer? I am blind and have been so for nearly 30 years. It is difficult but I love to right. In a sense technology today has made it easier to do so, but on the other hand my difficulties lie when it comes to checking grammar etc. Technology brings me joy because I have more opportunities but at the same time aggravates the dickens out of me LOL. Anyway thanks for sharing this it was great!


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