Voices of Life: A Review
Magnets & Ladders
My first cassette from the Perkins Library Reading Services arrived yesterday.
This cassette is a recording of the Magnets & Ladders Literary Magazine; it arrived in a grey plastic container which identified it and set it apart from the traditional green and red ones we received from the National Library Services. Connect to Perkins HERE!
With the prediction that today will be an all-day rain and cloudy skies, I didn’t wait to listen to this cassette. I wanted to hear human voices that I knew would read the stories and poems to me. Though I lost my sight nearly eleven years ago, I have never adjusted to listening to a mechanical voice. I long to hear literature read with breath, pauses, accents, and even some stumbling over unfamiliar or unexpected words. I wanted to listen to the voices of life from each of the authors in this magazine. I listened with enthusiasm, relished the stories and poems, read with all of the attributes of the human voices that brought each one to life in my mind. I heard the writings in a new way as I listened intently. I listen to cassettes at the same rate in which a person speaks in a real face-to-face conversation. Speed reading, to me, sounds like gibberish. I never intend to speed it up – I am never in a hurry when I read. I want to savour every phrase, pause, and tone. I am a connoisseur of the human voice. The living breathing person.
If I had to choose favourites selections from the wide array of literary themes, I simply could not do it. Instead, I concentrate on listening to each piece and consider what the author had to share with the audience. I felt like I was seated in the front row of a magnificent stage performance of actors on a stage or at a symphony where an array of exquisite music was surrounding me. One by one, the actors took the stage to perform. One by one, the soloists stepped up to the microphone to surround me with music.
What is Missing?
One of the things that is missing when we have very little vision, is a picture of the people we communicate with. I miss this more than anything. When I talk to a person on the phone or on the internet, I want to see them. I want to see their gestures, the expressions they make as we talk together. I want to see someone burst out in laughter at a funny joke. I want to see tears well up in the eyes of a writer who is speaking of personal loss or grief, or the death of a loved one. I want to see the form of a human. As I listen to the voices on monthly phone meetings of the group, I wonder, is she tall, slim, tiny, casually dressed or are her nails manicured or her hair cut short, coloured, or natural blonde? Is he rotund and jolly? If she sounds impatient, does her face show it? If he feels uncertain, does he look nervous? Does he make eye contact with me as we talk or does he seem distracted, impatient, or engaged in our conversation? I think of so many aspects of how we communicate with other people and I think about the visuals that are now absent from my mind as I speak with people. All of this is because I had sixty-four years of visual contact with my world.
Listening to the actors reading on the Magnets & Ladders cassette tape gives me a sense that these people, the writers, are real despite my ability to see them I listen so carefully, searching for the nuances of humanity that is embedded in the stories and poems. I listen for finesse and balance in the works. It’s all there. I just have to pay closer attention to the words and how they are put together. Hearing has become my way of seeing And, hearing is a delicate and thoughtful process. I’s like seeing which takes a long time. It isn’t rushed and it is always present if I pay attention. Am I committed to really hearing this piece? I must ask myself such questions.
First Encounters with Blind Writers
My first encounter with the writers in this magazine was about 6 years ago. I did not know what I was really involved with at that time. I clearly remember my first phone meeting under the jolly direction of Abbie Johnson Taylor. The voice of the new President of the group was warm and friendly. It was a relaxed meeting. I do not remember any other person on that first call I made because I was so nervous. I was not accustomed to communication with a group of people I could not see. I felt like a stranger who just stumbled into someone’s party. But it was o.k. they assured me, when I was fearful of reading my little poem to them. They told me to just go ahead and read it. I chose the shortest poem I had because I wanted it to be over with quickly. And, when my short reading was over with, I took a deep breath and thought, “Ill join this group again another time.” And, I did.
Learning to See Living Voices
I’m learning how to see the people who wrote these pieces I am listening to today.
The writers are not synthesizer voices, not cardboard cut-outs of people, but they are rea. They care about sharing their experiences with the world. They reach out each time they send a piece to be juried into the magazine – or not. Each one breaths their life experiences through words on the pages that we cannot see. But, because of the generosity of the Perkins Library and the actors who are reading on these cassettes – we see them clearly. Thank you, Perkins School for the Blind for the world you open up to us all – sighted or not so sighted.
I hope to SEE you soon on the pages of Magnets & Ladders, when the new Spring edition come out!
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