I’ve Had It….

I’ve had it with these amateur sufferers, these sons of bitches who think their D League oppressions are anything more than a hangnail. Karl Ove Knausgaard for example. He’s what my grandmother would call a shallow piss pot of a man and he should thank his lucky stars he’s writing and publishing his pissant Little Bo Peep books in an age of literary decline. Invented struggle is beneath contempt. Why do I bother? Maybe because there are genuine writers, especially those with disabilities who are ten thousand times more powerful than Knausgaard or Anthony Doerr or Jose Saramago—just to name three writers I cannot stand though for different reasons and I won’t bore you. At least not right now.

What else? I’ve had it with men. All of them. And many women—the Trump girls and the boys club girls—the latter you find in higher ed administration rather frequently. I’ve had it with junior high mean girls who’ve grown up only in physical stature.

I’ve had it with corporation tee shirts, sports radio, Ted Cruz, the Great Cheeto in Chief, the oil and gas lobby, Ax deodorant, Big Pharma television advertising, other peoples fuchsia hair, bad tattoos, New York Yankees hats, BMW convertibles, slick supersonic info wars.

I’ve had it with congress which I won’t capitalize. It rhymes with emptiness.

I’ve had it with the pope the army the endomorphic police state, Vladimir Putin, Teresa May, all the little diapered Nazis who salute the Great Cheeto; I’ve had it with misogynistic rap, Diet Coke, school boards, free hotel breakfasts, cable news, the National Football League, the NCAA, single issue politics, flag worshipers, Monsanto, border walls, nuclear power, and dollar shave clubs. If it costs you, don’t shave.

I love Walt Whitman, Toni Morrison, rain at night, baseball, the Bill of Rights, and sailboats.

Thank you for listening.

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger 

Ode to my Twin Brother Who Died at Birth

Of course I found a spoon in the snow

While missing you, gulls above the harbor

Baltic yellow mid day mid winter light

A policeman talked softly to his horse

I was proud of my new wristwatch 

Cheap but Swiss made

Being of the scholar class

It was a totem thrill on my wrist

You my brother my twin 

Gone in infancy who followed 

And follow—listen

I’m sewing together 

A seahorse like the one

We rode in the womb

Against Bio-political Confusion

It is a mistake I imagine to avow you know much of the world. Its right and proper to admit intellectual limits. One sees this is harder than it should be owing to postmodernity with its filigreed relativisms. These days if you’re educated you’re easily forgiven for saying what you don’t know is of little consequence. What is unknown to you is less important than a celebration of confusion. 

 What if you don’t like confusion? In the best sense this suggests you don’t much like bureaucracies and burdensome hierarchies. You like to drink spring water from a tin cup. You like baseball’s “three strikes and you’re out” and you favor the romanticism disguised in the language of the Enlightenment as revealed in the Declaration of Independence though you know why the document still to this day stands for hypocrisy. 

I cry out: “I am a simpleton!” In bio-cultural terms I’m that citizen who burns his draft card or her brassiere. I’ve no compunction about these acts of protest. As a blind man I know my disability stands for defectiveness when I enter the bank on the corner but I don’t acknowledge the bank or the genome editing biotechnology company that is even now seeking to erase my footsteps from the great German airport of American civic life. (Oh I’m all for curing blindness. If you can modify the genes that cause macular degeneration I’ll applaud. But your medical model of disability as standing for social disadvantage remains unbroken from the days of eugenics.)

Its unfashionable for academics to reveal what they don’t know. Here’s what I know I don’t know: I’ve no idea what the future of genetically modified human beings will look like. What I do know is I’m not confused. I’m for curing illnesses. I’m against eliminating people with Down syndrome or deafness or blindness or any other disabling condition without a constitutional amendment guaranteeing human dignity and human rights and health care and education for every single kind of human body.

Now I will return you to your original broadcast with its tawdry celebration of celebrity fashion. 

Some days…

Some days…

Swans in memory stray dogs dropped mitten
Habits of reading against chaos
Mahler on the radio
Old rent check stashed in a book
Wallace Stevens in that case

How young believing poetry
Grandeur of the moderns
God hiding in semi-colons

I like who I was at twenty
Who loved words, tea, shadows
Knut Hamsun’s Hunger
Though he didn’t know why
But he got this: suffering as custom

s=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-7501″ src=”https://stephenkuusisto.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/steve-and-harley.jpeg?w=150″ alt=”Stephen Kuusisto and Harley” width=”150″ height=”113″ />ABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger 

On Disability and Smokey the Bear

Remember Smokey the Bear? “Only you can prevent forest fires!” Cartoon bear wearing a forest ranger’s hat and a pair of dungarees. I think he had a shovel in one paw. I could look it up but I don’t feel like it.

Smokey’s tag line was an imprecation as much as a public service announcement. If forest fires happen you probably caused them. You didn’t do your job. For it was always “only” you who could save the trees.

I’m in mind of this today because I think Smokey was a cruel ironist. He knew I couldn’t stop all the forest fires. He knew and didn’t care. He was a liar. But you see he was a particularly American type. A spokes bear pushing a social lie.

The poet Kenneth Rexroth describes the American version of the social lie this way:

“Since all society is organized in the interest of exploiting classes and since if men knew this they would cease to work and society would fall apart, it has always been necessary, at least since the urban revolutions, for societies to be governed ideologically by a system of fraud.”

Yes and then there’s this:

“There is an unending series of sayings which are taught at your mother’s knee and in school, and they simply are not true. And all sensible men know this, of course.”

Smokey you stinker! You knew a little boy couldn’t stop the forest from burning down.

Now I’m in mind of him because I now realize I’ve a bad case of “Smokey the Bear Syndrome.”

I think I’m supposed to fix everything that proves problematic and is somehow contiguous with my daily life.

Old Smoke really messed me up.

When I fly its my thoughts that hold the plane aloft.

Its only me can fix the horrid rococo inefficiencies of my university.

Only I can save blind people from being unemployed.

On and on.

This is what we mean by liberal guilt. Smokey did it to me.

He didn’t say “only we together can prevent forest fires.”

Nope. Only I can do this.

This is especially bad when you’ve a disability.

Only you can make able bodied people respect the disabled.

Only you can defuse able bodied tension about disablement.

Only. Only.

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger