A Dog Loves Me

A dog loves me.  The cleansed skins of the apple trees darken with morning sun.  A dog loves me.  Before the first light of day Venus appears from behind a winter cloud.  A dog’s love is not presumptive: it is no mere wish.

There are mythical scenes in human lives—light bulb moments, the college kid understanding Emerson for the first time, and, as a friend of mine would say, he “bumps along the ceiling of his skull” for myth is one of the lauds, the oldest prayer.

But a dog loves me.  She wakes me early.  We stand beside the Asian Maple tree, its hydra branches dusted with snow and we talk.

When a man or woman talks to a dog its not always a spoken thing.

My dog scents the new snow, putting her snout deep in a snow bank.  She snorts like a horse.  Snow magnifies the delicate scents of mice.  The man says nothing but sees inwardly expanding circles on water—smells broadcast in snow—and as he thinks it, he sees what his dog sees.  Forget your occupation or ideas of sensible success.  The man and dog stand in the cuneiform world of things unseen.

But forget poetry.  This can be diverting, this business of man and dog moving together in subordinate thought.  In a business meeting I hear my dog sigh from under the table.  She’s heard the grey voices above her, voices so monotonous she is asking: “who among the humans besides my good man is happy to be alive?”  I know this is what she’s saying.

In an elevator she smells one man’s fear and another’s sorrows.  We’re just going down two floors.  It’s an ordinary day.  “The people,” she thinks, “are passively borne by dark emotions.”  I know this is what she’s saying.

Riding an escalator in Macy’s (the original flagship store in New York) she knows the false symmetry of human occasions, thinks the place needs a thousand wild birds.  I know this is what she’s saying.

We move to and fro.  Swiftly.

She loves me.  There is never a moment she does not love me.  We move to and fro.  All day, every day, we have light bulb moments.

We talk.

We ride uptown on Fifth Avenue and for once the cab driver is friendly.  He likes dogs.  He’s from Egypt.  His sister back in Cairo is deaf.  He knows a lot about struggle.  My dog smiles at him.  Honestly.  She smiles.  He asks if he can pet her.  I tell him he can.  He smiles.  I know he’s telling her to keep up the good work.  I know she’s telling him about her fleet footed life.  She’s telling him life is life and we can go places.

We move to and fro. A dog loves me.

**

Once upon a time, years ago, long before I got a guide dog, I climbed to the top of a ski jump tower in Finland.  I was with a friend who thought this would be fun.  The skiing season was over and the tower was deserted.  We climbed a ladder that seemed to never end.  Up and up.  I’ve never been good with heights.  My stomach felt green and cold.  But I didn’t want to appear cowardly.  I kept going.  The top of the ladder met a platform where the skiers line up.  The mighty drop beyond was a terrifying thing.  We stood there for a time, right at the lip.  I remember thinking as I stood there, that truth and love will always go astray but visceral fear—that you can count on.

But now a dog loves me.  She stops me at the edge of the railway platform.  We talk.  She likes her life.  She knows a great deal about quelling fear.

We talk. She says fear is not what people suppose—its not just danger, its not knowing what to do.  She says dogs know what to do.  She likes her life.  She loves me.

Dog Schmooze

Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges has just been released. Listen to Steve read “Letter to Borges in His Parlor” in this fireside reading via YouTube. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled What a Dog Can Do. Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com

Huffington Post: Dogs in the Playing Field

I’m so very pleased to mention I’ve been invited to be a guest blogger for The Huffington Post. It’s quite an honor. Below is an excerpt published yesterday, December 4. I’d be grateful if you’d visit the site and if you like the post, please feel free to share it with your social circles.  Thank you!

Dogs on the Playing Field

Steve Kuusisto & guide dog, Corky

No one gets a free pass to public life — “public life” — the elusive goal people with disabilities strive for. While the village square is sometimes difficult to enter often a service animal can help. In my case I travel with a guide dog, a yellow Lab named Nira who helps me in traffic. Together we race up Fifth Avenue in New York or speed through O’Hare airport in Chicago. We’re a terrific team. But even 23 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and 70+ years since the introduction of guide dogs in the U.S. life in public isn’t always friendly. Lately it seems more unfriendly than at any time since the late 1930s when the blind had to fight for the right to enter a store or ride a public bus. What’s going on?

Read more of Dogs on the Playing Field

Dog Schmooze

Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges has just been released. Listen to Steve read “Letter to Borges in His Parlor” in this fireside reading via YouTube. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled What a Dog Can Do. Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com

Dog in Heart

If there's a dog in your heart it will do no damage.

Dog Man Writes to Parts of Himself

If there’s a dog in your heart it will do you no damage. If there’s a thistle inside you, you’re in trouble. Only weeks after getting my first guide dog, and walking freely on the ordinary streets I met the thistle hearted all around me. They were people who lived in the famine of effect—unhappy inside and projecting unwarranted hostility outside. Meeting them with a dog at my side, and a dog inside me, a protective dog of the heart, well, that was different—to say the least. Standing in line at the bank a thistle-woman caught sight of Corky and screamed quite literally: “You damned disabled with your damned dogs!” She waved her arms like she was on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. There were three or four other customers. They all backed away. She kept shouting her wild gibberish. And Corky wagged her tail. I felt it against my left leg. She was telling me that two worlds described our rewards, we were in tandem, we were in accord.  We were a musical chord. Her tail was saying: “each lives in one, all in the other.”

So I smiled. Just smiled. I probably looked like a simpleton. But our dog heart was smiling. The woman turned and bolted out the door. Of course that’s when the other customers began speaking up. “Wow, she was really out of line!” “There must be something wrong with her!” But I had Morse Code dog heart—which was all I needed.

While still at Guiding Eyes I’d kept a journal—titled “Dog Man Writes to Parts of Himself”.

One entry read:

You were always a dog in your heart—you were forced to conclude the matter when, one morning, early, you felt a giddiness, a happenstance wakeful half-assed joy. It wasn’t the electrolysis of sex or the sticky dendritic jazz of chocolate or bourbon that marked your inner life. It was dog, dog-ness, dog all the while. You were standing at the window, still wearing your pajamas. You felt like running into the yard and rolling in snow. You didn’t care what the neighbors might think. A good snow roll in your PJs was in order. You saw that now, saw it was always “the thing”—to be a dog and sharply alive with all your senses in order. No tax forms. No darkness blotting out hope. Dogs are the darkness. Dogs are hope. You saw there was nothing more to be said about the matter.

**

I was insensibly happy. The person bearing my name had been transformed. He was lighter, like a character in fiction—the fairy tale dog man was walking, running. He didn’t have to explain himself. That was the great thing. He didn’t have to explain the convoluted gears and motors of his brain.

Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges has just been released. Listen to Steve read “Letter to Borges in His Parlor” in this fireside reading via YouTube. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled What a Dog Can Do. Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com

Dog Language 101

The utility of language resides in two questions: what’s upwind and what’s the best way to get there?  For all I know dogs may have poetry—sonnets of smell—amusing to think so—but when I took my first solo walk down the subway stairs with guide dog Corky I knew she had a bold and ancient comprehension of our circumstances.  When you feel the language of others, even when its silent, you’re sensing competence.  Some days a silent language is all you need.

Once, riding a train from Helsinki to Tampere, I sat beside three old women.  They knew one another well.  You could see it in their postures, long familiarity.  One was knitting.  One had a book.  The third looked out the window.  Every now and then one of them would say a confirmatory thing—“snowing again” or “coffee?”  It was easy to be in their company.  I was a young man writing poetry and starting to understand the delicacies of language and consciousness.

With a dog you don’t have to be all tricky and wild.  Trouble free words will do.  Heartfelt silence will do.  Walking through the subway with Corky I let her guide me and kept my mouth shut.

Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges has just been released. Listen to Steve read “Letter to Borges in His Parlor” in this fireside reading via YouTube. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled What a Dog Can Do. Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com

Thank you, Poetry Daily, for This Honor…

 I’ve been designated the “Featured Poet” for today at Poetry Daily.  Needless to say I’m delighted.  I’m grateful, too.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges has just been released. Listen to Steve read “Letter to Borges in His Parlor” in this fireside reading via YouTube. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled What a Dog Can Do. Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com

MacDowell Downtown Presents Activist Stephen Kuusisto This Friday, March 1

The following content was originally posted on the MacDowell web site by David Macy, Resident Director

MacDowell Downtown on Trusted Companions

This Friday evening at 7:30 p.m., author and Colony Fellow Stephen Kuusisto will share stories of guide dogs and their people experiencing the world together. A New Hampshire native and Fulbright Scholar, Kuusisto has appeared on programs such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Animal Planet, and National Public Radio.

Entertainer and intellectual, poet and activist, Kuusisto could also be described as a surrealist comedian with a wise man’s heart. In the late 90s he served as Director of Student Services at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a charitable nonprofit dedicated to training guide dogs for people with multiple disabilities. In 2000 he returned to his alma mater, the University of Iowa, to teach creative nonfiction at the graduate school. Today he directs the Renée Crown Honors Program at Syracuse University where he also holds the post of University Professor.

Returning to Peterborough after a hiatus of 18 years, Steve is the author of Planet of the Blind, a New York Times notable book, and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening. In his most recent book,Letters to Borges, published by Copper Canyon Press earlier this month, Kuusisto explores seeing, blindness and being through themes of travel, place, religion, music, art, and loneliness. In May he will be traveling for the U.S. State Department to discuss human rights and literature in Azerbaijan, Turkistan, and Kazakhstan. He is a fascinating character with a lot to say about a lot of things, and for Friday night the thematic link will be man’s best friend.

Please spread the word to those who might be interested… I look forward to seeing you all at Bass Hall!

David Macy
Resident Director

PS- check out the Friday Arts program from WHYY in Philadelphia; this documentary short by filmmaker and MacDowell Fellow Michael O’Reilly… it tells the story of visual artist Marc Brodzik and the impact his MacDowell experience has had on the arc of his career.

MacDowell Downtown
Talk and Reading by author and MacDowell Fellow Stephen Kuusisto

“A Place Among Dogs, or, How Service Animals Make Our World”

Friday, March 1, 2013
7:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Bass Hall at
The Monadnock Center for History and Culture
19 Grove Street
Peterborough, NH
Cost: Free

Jim Ferris, Laurie Clements Lambeth and Stephen Kuusisto Reading at Syracuse University

Disabilities as Ways of Knowing: A Series of Creative Writing Conversations: Part II

The Disability Experience and Poetic Verse

Reading by Poets Jim Ferris, Laurie Clements Lambeth, and Stephen Kuusisto

March 28, 2013
Reading 7:00 to 8:00 pm at Watson Theater
Reception and book signing from 8:00 to 9:00 pm at Light Work
SU Campus

Jim Ferris, Laurie Clements Lambeth and Stephen Kuusisto will be reading from a selection of their poetry, followed by a reception and book signing, for all members of the S.U. community. While this event is geared specifically to raise and support awareness among undergraduates, everyone is welcomed to participate in this exciting set of opportunities. This event will feature works from Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press) and launch Letters to Borges (Copper Canyon Press), where “best-selling memoirist Stephen Kuusisto uses the themes of travel, place, religion, music, art, and loneliness to explore the relationship between seeing, blindness, and being. In poems addressed to Jorge Luis Borges—another poet who lived with blindness—Kuusisto leverages seeing as negative capability, creating intimacy with deep imagination and uncommon perceptions” (from http://www.stephenkuusisto.com).

American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation will be provided during both the reading and the reception/book signing. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) will be provided during the reading.

If you require accommodations or need information on parking for this event, please contact Radell Roberts at 443-4424 or rrober02@syr.edu.

This event is made possible through the Co-Curricular Departmental Initiatives program within the Division of Student Affairs, and cosponsorship by the Disability Cultural Center, the Renée Crown University Honors Program, the Center on Human Policy, Disability Studies, the Burton Blatt Institute, the Dept. of Women’s and Gender Studies, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Slutzker Center for International Services, the Creative Writing Program, the Disability Law and Policy Program, the Disability Student Union, the Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee, and the Disability Law Society.

As aspects of variance and diversity, disability cultures and identities enrich the tapestry of life on and off the SU campus.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges has just been released. Listen to Steve read “Letter to Borges in His Parlor” in this fireside reading via YouTube. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled What a Dog Can Do. Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com

Just Released! Letters to Borges by Stephen Kuusisto (Copper Canyon Press)

Stephen Kuusisto Reads from Letters to Borges, His New Book of Poems

JUST RELEASED!  Best-selling memoirist Stephen Kuusisto uses the themes of travel, place, religion, music, art, and loneliness to explore the relationship between seeing, blindness, and being. In poems addressed to Jorge Luis Borges—another poet who lived with blindness—Kuusisto leverages seeing as negative capability, creating intimacy with deep imagination and uncommon perceptions.

If you enjoyed this reading and would like to listen to several more poems from Letters to Borges, it’s easy enough to arrange.  This FREE recording is yours to enjoy at your leisure, preferably from your favorite cozy chair with a cup of coffee or a nice glass of wine in hand. Simply fill in the “Join me for a cozy ‘fireside’ poetry reading…” form found to the right of this blog post or make your request below.

REVIEWS:

Seth Abramson Seth Abramson, Poet

Kuusisto’s is a life one wants to know, detailed sparingly by a man one wants to know, inscribed in a generic form one finds oneself not merely compelled but honored to read. Letters to Borges is highly recommended for those who still find honor and beauty in both simplicity and–can it be?–actually having something to say.  Read more of Seth Abramson’s reviewfrom the Huffington Post,  Huff Post Books, November 2012


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If we account for Kuusisto’s restricted sight, the brilliance of his verse acquires deeper resonance, for his work imagines a realm between sight and sound composed of the sensory stimuli we all know and recognize, but split, fractured, and juxtaposed to inhabit the mind’s ear of his readers, a feat unique to this truly gifted poet. — Diego Báez, Booklist Advanced Review

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”.  His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges has just been released.  He is currently working on a book tentatively titled What a Dog Can Do.  Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com
 








 Join me for a cozy “fireside” poetry reading…

We respect your email privacy

Email Marketing by AWeber

Lia Purpura Interviews Stephen Kuusisto

Attendant Surprise: An Interview with Stephen Kuusisto

By Lia Purpura (originally published in The Georgia Review)

This interview took place at Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland, on 8 November 2007, before Kuusisto read as part of the Modern Masters Reading Series.  I had just finished Eavesdropping and was renewed by Steve’s approach to the memoir; to my mind, he had created a form that was fresh, lyrical, and flexible enough to move deftly through well-built scenes without sacrificing an essentially poetic stance.  Although his approach to memoir in Eavesdropping is not wholly unlike that of Planet of the Blind, I felt that in some profound ways Steve had advanced and deepened the form. When Steve arrived at Loyola on 7 November, our informal conversation took flight as we traded enthusiasms for new books we had read, talked about teaching at the University of Iowa and elsewhere, and discussed the dual-genre life we share as poet-essayists.   Read on…

*************

Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges, is scheduled for release in February 2013.  He is currently working on a book tentatively titled What a Dog Can Do.  Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com

The MacDowell Colony: Stephen Kuusisto’s Current Home Away from Home

Any writer/artist lucky enough to stay at The MacDowell Colony is indeed very lucky.  Here, Steve Kuusisto and his guide dog, Nira, can do their best thinking.  Nira’s job is to provide inspiration as Steve works on his next book, tentatively titled “What a Dog Can Do”.

Steve Kuusisto and guide dog, Nira

Photo and post submitted by @ConnieKuusisto: Steve, in red sweater, is sitting in a Stickley chair in front of the fireplace in the cabin he’s staying in. His yellow Labrador guide dog, Nira, is lying on the floor by his side.