Author and poet Stephen Kuusisto gave an uplifting reading at Hart Chapel on Oct. 28. This reading marked the first chapter of the Mary Seifert Series, “Beauty Matters.”
Kuusisto suffers from retinopathy of prematurity, which occurs when the retinas do not fully develop in the third trimester of pregnancy. It causes the retinas to be scarred and blinds the baby. Kuusisto can see only colors and shapes of figures like a kaleidoscope.
Kuusisto is the author of two memoirs: “Planet of the Blind” and “Eavesdropping: A memoir of Blindness and Listening.” His collections of poetry are “Only Bread,” “Only Light” and “Letters to Borges.”
Kuusisto is a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and is a Fulbright Scholar. His work has appeared in the New York Times, and he has been a guest on “The Oprah Winfery Show.”
Professor Philip Terman opened the reading with a sample of Kuusisto’s poetry and a definition of poetry. Kuusisto started off by reading from the first chapter of “Eavesdropping.” This chapter is about his childhood in Helsinki, Finland and how he developed an immense faith in sound.
Between every reading, he constantly joked around. Before reading another chapter, titled “Horse,” he shared that he got his wife a horse, who knows him as the “appleman.”
He shared a humorous and energetic reading from “Planet of the Blind,” since many students in the audience had been reading it in their classes.
He spoke about an encounter he had in New York from a later section of the book. He described it as the coldest day in New York, and he was alone with no guide dog.
“I’m being held together by “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” a TV show in which people wearing designer pajamas regularly defy the laws of physics,” Kuusisto said.
In “Planet of the Blind,” Kuusisto writes honesty about sex and drugs and other experiences.
“Of course, the editor pushed me to write more. Is that because sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll sells books? I think there is truth to that,” Kuusisto said. “I needed more illustrations of life experiences and how that effected me…There is a way that the book speaks to just about everyone in every way, shape, or form.”
Kuusisto also shared newer poetry: “Introduction: Living a long time with poetry anxiety,” “Old Story,” “A divulgence” and a few poems for people departed.
He would go on to share brand new nonfiction about his first guide dog, Corky. In the reading, he spoke about his time at Guiding Eyes and his first experiences with Corky and her “nosey nibbling.” Kuusisto didn’t bring his guide dog with him because she was tired from traveling.
“I think that he is a very uplifting speaker and like how he describes the same things that we see, but in a different and more detailed way,” said freshman Ashley Martin.
Kuusisto said he became a good writer by paying attention to the use of language.
“The truth of the matter is that nouns are images. If you say horseshoe, speedboat, strawberry you’ll see it. Nouns create the sense of vision that isn’t really photographic at all,” Kuusisto said. “Also I read a lot of books because I wasn’t any good at baseball.”
To learn more about Kuusisto and his work, visit his website at www.stephenkuusisto.com.