Carolyn’s Online Magazine
A SIGHTED WRITER’S INSIDE VIEW
OF A BLIND WRITER’S WORLD
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*.
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.
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