Many newcomers will see the backcover blurb on my book, think, "Cool, a blind poet," and then come away from reading it thinking, "BUT WAIT! How does she imagery?"
This is a perfectly reasonable question, especially for those who don't know me personally. I've answered this on a number of occasions since publishing, but I thought it might be cool to share here in case anyone else was wondering.
So, close your eyes. I see a little more than the light you see through your eyelids. My laptop monitor is a featureless, glowing rectangle (sometimes it's not even a rectangle). I can make out Jordan's silhouette if the lamp on the endtable next to him is turned on. I can see the sky if it's blue enough, grass if it's green enough, or a firetruck if it's close enough. Things like that. But my vision isn't functional enough that I can't walk without my white cane or read/write without Braille or speech output. So for all intents and purposes, I tell most people that I have light perception. It's simpler that way.
My condition is called Cone/Rod Dystrophy, and believe it or not, literally about half of my mom's side of the family is blind. It's actually kind of neat, so I don't want you to feel toooo sorry for us. Blindness can be a pain at times, but blind folks in my family (and everywhere) experience fullness of life. It's just another lens to look through, if you will.
I digress, however slightly. Cone/Rod Dystrophy is a degenerative condition that affects the retinas starting during fetal development and, depending on the strength of the gene causing it, can result in total blindness later in life. This is true in my family's case, as the mutation was particularly strong. Most people I know with CRD retain partial vision and might have one or two other family members with the same condition. If you think of your eye as a camera and your brain as a laptop, your retinas and optic nerves serve as connections between the two. If something is fairly wrong with either of those things, the pictures can be corrupted or even lost.
All told, I had a bit more vision growing up, hence the visual memory evident in my poetry. Even for my love of words, stories come to me in picture form, so I'm all about painting word pictures.
Synesthesia also has considerable bearing on my imagery. I mention it a little in my book, but I'll explain a bit more here. Etymologically, the word "synesthesia" means "senses together," so synesthetes associate senses with each other. For me it's colors. Music, voices, and some ambient sound have color; words and numbers have color in both print and Braille; textures and pain have color; and smell and taste sometimes even have color. It's a harmless condition and one that has been highly stigmatized, but thankfully we're moving into a more accepting space where synesthesia is concerned. Honestly, I think it's a gift; it's like my visual cortex just said, "I'm bored!" and started making things up. It's really enriched my life. I rarely misspell words, I can do mental math pretty quickly, my recall with phone numbers and birthdays makes me my family's calendar ... the list goes on.
I started incorporating synesthesia into my poetry when I discovered other writers in Deviant Art's literature community who had managed it beautifully. Sometimes my synesthetic poetry is literally, "I see this when I hear that"; other times it's more deeply embedded. In my book, "Earl Grey" actually details a synesthetic experience I had while drinking Earl Grey tea. And here's another fun fact: John Bramblitt, my amazing friend who painted the artwork featured on my cover, is also a blind synesthete! Be sure to check out his paintings and his memoir!
I would say you can open your eyes now, but many of you had to in order to finish reading this. Thanks as ever for your support and for stepping into my world!
awesome read, thanks for sharing.
I always love hearing about your synesthesia, the way you are able to experience things differently visually and how it helps with your writing.
Oh my goodness, I was just thinking about this - like are some blind people synesthetic, allowing them to see - and apparently some are! That's so cool ^u^
I've often heard of people with disabilities, namely ones affecting sensory perception like blindness, deafness, and autism, are more likely to have it. Some of the blindies in my family are actually synesthetes, too, most notably my baby sister. My dad who is sighted also has said some things that lead me to believe he may also have it, so it's even on both sides of the family. But to my knowledge mine is the strongest. As for totally blind people who maybe didn't have vision previously, I have had friends who have other types of synesthesia, like personified numbers or audiotextural, that sort of thing.
This was an interesting read I quite enjoyed. I always like learning about those I admire - and you are certainly quite high on that list, darling. I admire your strength and your abilities.
With love into the New Year,
With love into the New Year,
Whenever I hear you speak about your synesthesia, I always think of a book I had when I was little called "I See A Song." I always thought it was really cool.