Stephen Kuusisto’s “Sand” and “They Say”

Our discussion is about two poems by Stephen Kuusisto, “Sand,” and “They Say.”

Stephen Kuusisto was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. Blind since birth, he attended Hobart College where he earned a BA and the University of Iowa, where he earned an MFA. He is the author of Only Bread, Only Light: Poems (2000) and the award-winning memoir, Planet of the Blind. Kuusisto has received a number of awards and honors ranging from a poetry fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council and a Fulbright fellowship to a distinguished Teaching Award from Hobart & William Smith Colleges.

Participants in the discussion are: Phil Memmer, Executive Director of the Syracuse YMCA Downtown Writer’s Center (DWC); Georgia Popoff, a Community Poet in Syracuse and teacher at the DWC, Stephen Kuusisto (of course), Director of the Syracuse University Honors Program / Professor of Disability Studies for the Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies in the School of Education, and me, Bob  Herz, founder & editor of Nine Mile Magazine, and publisher-editor of the W.D. Hoffstadt & Sons press.

Our discussion is here.

Here are the poems:

They Say

In Korea they say
The crow has twelve
Notes, none of them
Music—not surely.
And here, early,
A pine thrush
Sang when it felt
Hunger, invited
Music came down
Heavily on desire.

In substance
I side with the crow
Whose sound
Is borne heavily—
Because the notes
Are not music,
Because the crow’s
Is a mistake,
Singing that way
To pure, endless joy.

Excerpt From: Stephen Kuusisto. “Letters to Borges.” iBooks.

Essay: Sand

I woke to the waves and sand and realized I’d been dreaming of my father. We were in Finland back in the late fifties, a time when it seemed people didn’t laugh. The water had to do all the laughing in those days. Clouds watched the children. There were very few televisions. I remember the adults reading books by the sea. The ocean was everyone’s philosopher. Those were beautiful days. Everyone had his cup of sand.


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