Archive | February, 2012

The Book Collector

27 Feb

by Mani G. Iyer

For years,
he rescued them from
dark, dingy stores,
some with rickety stairs
leading to dingier floors, where
they wallowed in unread silence.
Sometimes, he found them
in swank stores with
fancy coffees and plush couches, where
they lay in chaotic clumps
crying out their unfair prices.
He brought them home,
Carver, Cheever and Chekhov,
Kafka, Marquez and Nabokov,
Narayan, Roth and Saramago,
Bukowski, Szymborska and Tagore,
and myriad more,
put them in sunlit, cherry habitats,
where they live together
as good neighbors
with fences, hard or soft.
They smiled, when
he took them all out, and
before putting them back
to their orderly lives,
lovingly dusted their jackets,
read their fronts, backs, and
random pages aloud, and
trumpeted their achievements.
They loved this attention, and
he glowed in their
luminous presence.
These days, he cannot
read their spines.
The neighborhood has
a forlorn look, and
all he can offer is,
to sit in front of them,
stare at their blurry profiles, and
recite names in full,
from scraps of memory,
and hope
they forgive him.

 

 Mani G. Iyer was born and raised in Bombay, India and has lived in the United States since 1985.  He is deaf-blind due to Usher Syndrome.  He became deaf by the age of 4, night-blind by the age of 12, and now has very little usable vision.

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Creative Person of the Week

25 Feb

Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963) was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel writing, film stories and scripts. Huxley spent the later part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death.

Aldous Huxley was a humanist, pacifist, and satirist, and he was latterly interested in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism. He is also well known for advocating and taking psychedelics.

Aldous Huxley was born in Godalming, Surrey, UK, in 1894. He was the third son of the writer and schoolmaster Leonard Huxley and his first wife, Julia Arnold, who founded Prior’s Field School. Julia was the niece of poet and critic Matthew Arnold. Aldous was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, the zoologist, agnostic and controversialist (“Darwin’s Bulldog”). His brother Julian Huxley and half-brother Andrew Huxley also became outstanding biologists.

Huxley began his learning in his father’s well-equipped botanical laboratory, then continued in a school named Hillside. His teacher was his mother who supervised him for several years until she became terminally ill. After Hillside, he was educated at Eton College. Huxley’s mother died in 1908 when he was 14. In 1911, he suffered an illness (keratitis punctata) which “left [him] practically blind for two to three years”. Aldous’s near-blindness disqualified him from service in the First World War. Once his eyesight recovered sufficiently, he was able to study English literature at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1916 he edited Oxford Poetry and later graduated (B.A.) with first class honours. His brother Julian wrote,

I believe his blindness was a blessing in disguise. For one thing, it put paid to his idea of taking up medicine as a career … His uniqueness lay in his universalism. He was able to take all knowledge for his province.

Following his education at Balliol, Huxley was financially indebted to his father and had to earn a living. He taught French for a year at Eton, where Eric Blair (later to become George Orwell) and Stephen Runciman were among his pupils, but was remembered as an incompetent and hopeless teacher who couldn’t keep discipline. Nevertheless, Blair and others were impressed by his use of words. For a short while in 1918, he was employed acquiring provisions at the Air Ministry.

Huxley completed his first (unpublished) novel at the age of 17 and began writing seriously in his early 20s. His first published novels were social satires, beginning with Crome Yellow (1921).

(Excerpt taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley#Early_life )

Bonded Through Blindness

23 Feb

by Marilyn Brandt-Smith

Melinda stole the sugar bowl tonight,

We stayed in study hall till almost eight.
With cinnamon and bread in secret flight
We ate it all down by the campus gate.
 
I never thought when I set out from home
About the boring hours after class.
The lengths to which we go astonish some,
“Don’t break the rules, don’t chance the sure harass.”
 
I see myself a teacher years from now
And wonder, will I know a girl like me
Who needs to know the when and where and how,
But wants her mind and body to be free?
 
We’ll find a prank tomorrow to contrive,
It keeps our creativity alive.

 

Marilyn Brandt Smith’s writings reflect memories of her childhood at the Texas School for the Blind (1955) and at home on a ranch in south Texas.  She taught children in summer programs and adults in year-round rehabilitation centers and in their homes. Marilyn also worked as a counselor and a director of rehabilitation for several agencies across the country. She is now totally blind and lives with my family in a hundred-year-old home in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Toast

20 Feb

by Paul Hostovsky

When Gilbert asked me to be his best man
I started writing this little toast in my head
about the National Braille Press where we all
work, me in transcription, Gilbert and Lisa
in proofreading, where they fell in love among
the dots, reading volumes in the goose bumps,
reading love in each other’s voices. And I knew
there’d be lots of blind people at this wedding,
faces tending to the sides and to the ceiling,
heads swaying to the music of their bodies. And I
pictured the white canes sticking up out of the pews
or folded in the laps in red and white bundles.
And I compared the first time I saw them kiss (I
couldn’t help staring) to two single-engine planes
coming in for a landing, zero visibility, turbulence
as they navigated the air currents and crosswinds
that separated them, touching down successfully
with a bump, then coming to a complete stop
which they held for a very long time, like a lost
suitcase the hands believed they would never
see again. And I described how I loved to look
at the hands reading, and would often eavesdrop
over the shoulders, watching the fingers flying
like the pursed lips of the wind. And when I was done
I brailled the toast and gave it to Gilbert to read,
to run it by him before his big day. But he didn’t
like it. In fact he hated it. It was all about me, he said.
My sensibility via his blindness. The story of his
life. And he didn’t need it repeated on his wedding day.
And he tore it up before my eyes, and sprinkled it
on the floor like so much torn up braille. 
 

Paul Hostovsky is a sighted Braille instructor in Boston. He is also the author of three books of poetry, Bending the Notes (2008), Dear Truth (2009), and A Little in Love a Lot (2011). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. To read more of his work, visit his website at www.paulhostovsky.com .

Visions In The Dark

19 Feb

by Stella De Genova

I am involved in an art show this May that is called Visions In The Dark.  It will highlight the artwork of myself and 2 other visually impaired artists, Angie Geis and David Simpson.  It’s an exciting project that we hope will bring an understanding to the community that even if an individual has physical limitations, there is no limit to creativity.  Not only will there be artwork, there will also be music recorded by blind artists and some of the essays and poetry from this blog.  What I will be doing is re-posting some of our most popular pieces which I will be displaying at the art show.   Enjoy – again!

Creative Person of the Week

17 Feb

Sir George Shearing, (August 13, 1919 – February 14, 2011) was an jazz pianist who for many years led a popular jazz group that recorded for Discovery Records, MGM Records and Capitol Records. The composer of over 300 titles, he had multiple albums on the Billboard charts during the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s. He died of heart failure on February 14, 2011 in New York City, at the age of 91.

Born in Battersea, London, Shearing was the youngest of nine children. He was born blind to working class parents: his father delivered coal and his mother cleaned trains in the evening. He started to learn piano at the age of three and began formal training at Linden Lodge School for the Blind, where he spent four years.

Though offered several scholarships, Shearing opted to perform at a local pub, the Mason’s Arms in Lambeth, for “25 bob a week” playing piano and accordion. He even joined an all-blind band during that time and was influenced by the albums of Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller. He made his first BBC radio appearance during this time Shearing won seven consecutive Melody Maker polls during this time. Around that time he was also a member of George Evans’s Saxes ‘n’ Sevens band.

In 1947, Shearing emigrated to the United States, where his harmonically complex style mixing swing, bop and modern classical influences gained popularity. One of his first performances in the US was at the Hickory House. He performed with the Oscar Pettiford Trio and led a quartet with Buddy DeFranco. In 1949, he formed the first ‘George Shearing Quintet’, a band and recorded for Discovery, Savoy and MGM, including the immensely popular single “September in the Rain” (MGM), which sold over 900,000 copies; “my other hit” to accompany “Lullaby of Birdland”. Shearing, himself, would write of this hit that it was “as accidental as it could be.”

Shearing’s interest in classical music resulted in some performances with concert orchestras in the 1950s and 1960s, and his solos frequently drew upon the music of Satie, Delius and Debussy for inspiration. He became known for a piano technique known as “Shearing’s voicing,” a type of double melody block chord, with an additional fifth part that doubles the melody an octave lower. In 1956, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He continued to play with his quintet, with augmented players through the years, and recorded with Capitol until 1969. He created his own label, Sheba, that lasted a few years.

In 1970, he began to “phase out his by-now-predictable quintet” and disbanded the group in 1978. One of his more notable albums during this period was The Reunion, with George Shearing (Verve 1976). Later, Shearing played with a trio, as a soloist and increasingly in a duo. Among his collaborations were sets with the Montgomery Brothers, Marian McPartland and Kenny Davern. In 1979, Shearing signed with Concord Records, and recorded for the label with Mel Tormé. This collaboration garnered Shearing and Tormé two Grammys, one in 1983 and another in 1984. Shearing remained fit and active well into his later years and continued to perform, even after being honoured with an Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. He never forgot his native country and, in his last years, would split his year between living in New York and the UK, where he’d bought a house with his second wife, singer Ellie Geffert. This gave him the opportunity to tour the UK, giving concerts, often with his long-time friend and collaborator, Mel Tormé, backed by with BBC Big Band. He was appointed OBE in 1996. In 2007, he was knighted. “So,” he noted later, “the poor, blind kid from Battersea became Sir George Shearing. Now that’s a fairy tale come true.”

 

(Excerpt taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Shearing#Early_life)

Love, Love, Love Again

13 Feb

by Nancy Scott

(Acrostics are poems where the first letter of each line spells out a word.  So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day . . .)

Let go of disbelief and myth.
Only fools seek perfection.
Varied will be the times and privileges but
Everyone gets the chance at love.
 
Listen and show that we’ve heard.
Otherwise, vows are voids.
Value such work.
Engage the heart.
 
Late at night I hold
Only your voice and this phone–
Vibrating tongues that will never meet
Enchant anyway.

 

Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is an essayist and poet. She is blind.  Her over-500 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries.  Her third chapbook, co-authored with artist Maryann Riker, is entitled “The Nature of Beyond.”