Insights from the Planet of the Blind: An Interview. Part 1.

After reading Planet of the Blind, Kathleen Avery, Senior Director of Marketing at Cleinman Performance Partners, had occasion to talk with the author (Stephen Kuusisto) about his story and all that he’s come to understand.  Thank you, Kathleen, for allowing us to share this with our readers.

Kathleen:  Your book is so rich with visual metaphor, just the most vivid descriptions.  I’m curious how you are able to reference such diverse imagery.  Comparing a man in a rain coat to the sails of Tristan’s ship or an elephant’s ear, for instance…

Stephen:  Well, the first answer to that question is about language.  All nouns are images.  If you say strawberry…or horse…or wheat field…or lighthouse in Maine – you automatically see these things in your mind.  This is why ancient people believed that poets were magical.  They could make you see things.. They once had a radio advertisement on NPR: “Listen to the Theater of your Mind.”  That’s how poetry works.  It throws off powerful nouns and the reader sees them; they’re called power nouns.

Kathleen:  But how do you know what a lighthouse in Maine looks like?

Stephen: I either do or do not (laughs).  And that’s the second answer.  There is a way in which imagination approximates things.  You can actually create things with language that don’t exist.  The poet Charles Simic says, “Go inside a stone, that would be my way…”  He takes you inside the stone and it is the universe all over again.  The truth is you can’t see that at all, but you can trick the mind into seeing what can’t be seen.  This is also why ancient people thought poets were magical.

And, of course, people describe things to me.

You know, people think that blindness is like living in a vacuum.  The general public tends to think that blind people are trapped inside the stone.  They will ask me how I could possibly go to an art museum.  Well, you pick your friends.  You go with friends who will describe what they see.  Is it an immediate experience?  No.  But I like it, because there is poetry in it.  It is mediated.

Kathleen:  Oh, how interesting would it be to listen to different people describe the same Picasso?

Stephen: That would be a fabulous NPR piece!

You can read Kathleen Avery’s interview in its’ entirety by visiting www.cleinman.com/insights-from-the-planet-of-the-blind

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Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges, is scheduled for release in October 2012.  As director of the Renee Crown University Honors Program and a University Professor at Syracuse University, Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com

 

Kudos to NPR on the Subject of Chen Guancheng's Blindness

Thanks to Alan Greenblatt of NPR for writing today about the issue of Chen Guancheng’s blindness and the overtly dynamic positioning of the “b” word in the press coverage of the Chinese dissident. Greenblatt’s piece, entitled “A Factor in a Much Larger Life: Debating Chen Guancheng’s Blindness” does a nice job of arguing that people with disabilities are not, in fact defined by those disabilities, and I’m glad to have been asked for some comments on the subject. Kudos to the folks at NPR for bucking the media’s fixation on the blindness as a determinant symbol of what is indeed a much larger life.

Previously published on Steve’s other blog, Planet of the Blind

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Professor Stephen Kuusisto, blind since birth, is the author of “Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir “Planet of the Blind”, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. He has also published “Only Bread, Only Light“, a collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press. As director of the Renee Crown University Honors Program and a University Professor at Syracuse University, Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy.

Flying Boogers

In his column the "Middle Seat" for The Wall Street Journal,
Scott McCartney writes about the state of the airline industry and what
that means for all of us as we rely on this mode of transportation for
business and for pleasure.  Let me rephrase that.  We rely on the
airline industry to take us to places for business and/or pleasure.

Today I happened to catch Fresh Air on NPR as McCartney explained in disgusting detail why to avoid the middle seat
on an airplane and were I near a phone I would have called in to state
my case as to "why to avoid any and all seats…"  I was
unable to make such a call but that won’t stop me from sharing my
latest experience with all of you should you decide to continue reading
this post.  Consider that a warning…

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