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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Moon on the Meadow: Collected Poems

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Pound’s idea certainly gave rise to a number of image-driven works, and many poets, modern and contemporary, are indebted to him. I have found the imagist idea particularly inspiring. Somehow, when I see a Michigan birch tree, with its whiteness and its curling bark, I am reminded of the loss of innocence, of how we cannot return to the times of our youth, and of how specific memories are tied to the particular landscapes in which they occurred. If I am writing a poem about my son’s broken leg, I find it wasteful to write about my maternal horror, my sense of panic, of moving in that impossible slow-motion to reach him, to call for help; I find it much more true and effective to describe the bone, shattered and protruding from the skin, the jagged shards stretching marbled tissue and sinew. The reactions of my readers are all the proof I need that my words conveyed exactly what I saw; as a result, the emotion is much more powerfully shared than if I had frittered away the intensity of the observation with abstraction.

Hence, it is a seeing, and seeing again, that shapes my work. It is the direct result of being raised by deaf parents, whose entire method of communicating with me was primarily through our hands and eyes, through a touch on the shoulder. Concrete. Tactile. Animated. Expressive.

Many of the poems in this collection have been published before. Many of them are not directly about the CODA experience; some are. Nonetheless, they are all deeply influenced by a desire to create a visual set of images that convey the meaning, the substance, the “meat” of the poem’s intention. Several of the poems are about my parents, their lives, what they endured, the discrimination they faced. Most celebrate and express gratitude for a life lived in spite of sadness or loss. All are an effort to reach a reader who can share in this decidedly human business of getting up daily to embrace the unexpected. I am grateful and honored that others might enjoy reading my poetry; I often refer to writing as a sacred enterprise, as an obsession, as an act of facing the unavoidable, as a kind of sweet agony. The incorporation of the visual, which emanates from my experiences as a CODA, is an element essential to my ability to write at all.

Most of this work is autobiographical in nature. Some poems rely on the flexibility of poetic license. A few poems are wholly imagined; nonetheless, the germane point is couched in the cross threads of the woven tale, the “made thing,” the poeien. And while the vast majority of these offerings seems to be about loss and woe, I wish to assure the reader that I have lived a full and largely happy life, a persistent optimism being one of my lucky faults.

One critic has written that my poems “. . . set you up and then knock you out.” I’m not so sure about the impact of the work but it is an accurate observation of my method, which is to rely on the visual and to allow the abstract to find its way through the tangible. Like the imagist poets, I prefer to let the actual, the specific, do the “work” of revealing that which is more ephemeral, more peripheral, less concrete. Even in the poems that are not directly about being the child of deaf adults, or that do not have as their subject any aspect of working, living, or breathing within the deaf community, that influence and exposure form the foundation of my approach. This is why I am drawn to art, to mobiles, to the fluttering of leaves in the wind. This is why my eyes immediately dart to anything nearby that is moving. If someone near me raises his hand, I’m on alert, waiting for the ensuing message, even if he’s just hailing a cab.

This is a unique and mysterious life. It is with a sense of joy and gratitude that I regard my parents’ lives, all that they endured, their contributions to my well-being, and their encouragement.

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