“Letters to Borges”
Book Description: Best-selling memoirist Stephen Kuusisto uses the themes of travel, place, religion, music, art, and loneliness to explore the relationship between seeing, blindness, and being. In poems addressed to Jorge Luis Borges—another poet who lived with blindness—Kuusisto leverages seeing as negative capability, creating intimacy with deep imagination and uncommon perceptions.
Kuusisto’s is a life one wants to know, detailed sparingly by a man one wants to know, inscribed in a generic form one finds oneself not merely compelled but honored to read. Letters to Borges is highly recommended for those who still find honor and beauty in both simplicity and–can it be?–actually having something to say. Read more of Seth Abramson’s reviewfrom the Huffington Post, Huff Post Books, November 2012
If we account for Kuusisto’s restricted sight, the brilliance of his verse acquires deeper resonance, for his work imagines a realm between sight and sound composed of the sensory stimuli we all know and recognize, but split, fractured, and juxtaposed to inhabit the mind’s ear of his readers, a feat unique to this truly gifted poet. — Diego Báez, Booklist Advanced Review
Reviews from Steve’s first book of poems:
Only Bread, Only Light
Kuusisto has written: “I see like a person who looks through a kaleidoscope; my impressions of the world are at once beautiful and largely useless.” So it is fitting that in his poems mortal vision is uncertain, supported only by curiosity and the ardor of imagination, by the grace of lyric surprise. Exploiting the seeming contradiction or poetry’s reliance upon visual imagery with his own blindness, Kuusisto cultivates a world of listening – to nature, to the voices of family and strangers, to music, and to the words of great writers and thinkers. Sensually rich and detailed, Kuusisto’s poems are humorous, complex, and intellectually engaged. This collection, Only Bread, Only Light, introduces a major new talent.
“These compelling self-portraits take us toward an understanding of the unfathomable condition of blindness. But, more importantly, they lead us to a superb poet.” – Carlos Reyes
“Kuusisto’s poetry is spare, reflective, with an intense quality of listening to the world. I want to experience the world all the time in the way his poems lead me to experience it. It often feels as if he reaches past physical detail and instead provides you with metaphysical descriptions, so that instead of the particulars of an experience you instead capture its essence…. Stephen Kuusisto’s own “warmth of heart” permeates his first book. It’s a pleasure to be introduced to such a major talent.” – Cristen Brooks
“His blindness is simply one facet of his work, to be considered as well as any other aspect of his writing persona. If there is any influence, it is an advantage-all the sensory language is lyrical and equally well-crafted, as though only through his night season could the senses, including the absent one, be equally balanced in these poems.” – Anne-Marie Oomen
“Only Bread, Only Light is a book you’ll want to keep close at hand. The minute you open to any one of these gorgeous poems, you’ll remember those rare and unspeakable moments of clarity. Is it not ironic to think that it may take a blind poet to lead us straight into the light, who teaches us how to appreciate the sensual beauty of nature?” – Jacqueline Marcus