Question:  Is there anyone out here who did not suspect that our own William Preston would be the Writer’s Digest’s Poetic Asides 2013 Poet Laureate?  I suspect not. This gentleman is not only an amazingly prolific writer of superb poetry, but is also one inexhaustible encourager.  My kind of guy!

MARIE ELENA:  Bill, I’m going to take back something I just stated.  I do think there was someone who was genuinely surprised when Robert Lee Brewer announced that you were selected as the PA Poet Laureate:  YOU.   I’m going to start you off with what may be a difficult question:  How do you actually feel about your own writing?  

WILLIAM: That’s a fascinating question. For the most part I don’t “feel” anything when I write. I just write. In the cases of poems, I sometimes feel a sense of satisfaction when I think a poem has come out “right,” but over the years I’ve learned that many poems I think are good, seem not to impress others; whereas other poems that I didn’t think were so good, did seem to impress others. I can’t figure it out. But for me, in any case, writing is almost as natural as reading; it’s something I just do, and it feels intrinsic.

MARIE ELENA:  You’ve been writing poetry for a few decades.  What or who originally sparked your interest?  Do you still have (or do you remember) the first poem you ever penned?

WILLIAM: Sorry, but I can’t remember my first poem word for word. I do remember that it was a piece I wrote for our mother, from my sister and me, but I’ve long since forgotten the words. It had something to do with thanking her for all she did for us over the years (she was old and dying when I wrote it).  As for what originally sparked my interest in poetry, it was songs. I loved to listen to singers like Bing Crosby, Pat Boone, Rosemary Clooney, and Perry Como (and Guy Lombardo’s band), but I almost never understood the words they sang, owing to a profound hearing loss. So I looked up the words, and in the process got to know the work of great lyricists from Stephen Foster and Henry Clay Work to Johnny Mercer, Oscar Hammerstein, Gus Kahn, Lorenz Hart, and many others. I wanted to write like that. I remember that music moved me, and when I began to read the works of some poets (notably Robert Frost) who also moved me, I think that inspired me to try my hand at it. That was pretty late in life, though; the release to begin writing poems came a year or two after my first wife died in 1987. I think the most noteworthy point for your readers might be that it was musical poetry that I wanted to try; that is, to write words and lines that had a rhythm or beat and somehow “sang” to convey that soul-lifting experience I got from the ways certain singers sang (and Guy Lombardo’s band played).

MARIE ELENA:  “What science cannot declare, art can suggest; what art suggests silently, poetry speaks aloud; but what poetry fails to explain in words, music can express.”  ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan.  Yes. Yes. 

You, Walt and I share a profound love of music. You’ve made it no big secret that you are deaf.  Personally, I have glaucoma, which could possibly lead one day to blindness … but I always say that if given a choice, I’d far rather be blind than deaf.  This is solely because I cannot imagine a world without music.  I have to wonder what your experience with deafness has been like, and what effect it has had on your life.

WILLIAM: I was not born deaf but came pretty near: I had meningitis when I was two years old, and lost a big chunk of hearing from that. It progressed from there, and now I am as profoundly deaf as many in the Deaf community. I’ve been deaf for so long, it seems normal to me. The music I listened to as a kid was via hearing aids, so what I heard was not what most folks hear. For example, I never heard pitches higher than about 1500 Hz till I got my cochlear implant in 2003. What I responded to was the beat and the melody (if it was simple enough, which is why I liked Guy Lombardo so much) but I have no idea what harmony is. I know, however, that some sounds or melodies (Greensleeves and Beautiful Ohio come to mind) and some words (i.e., Johnny Mercer’s Skylark) lift my spirits with an almost palpable impetus, which is probably why I wanted to try to do the same. That’s the main effect music has had on my life: that uplifting feeling; it’s like having a friend for life, similar to reading. (By the way, I’d rather be deaf than blind, maybe because I’ve had some experience with a soundless world, and don’t fear it.)

MARIE ELENA:  “A friend for life,” indeed.  So, music pretty much placed your feet on a poetic path.  How has your poetry changed over the years?

WILLIAM: I hope it’s gotten better. I still cringe at some of the stuff I wrote when I started writing poems more or less regularly. I cringe less these days, so I hope that means I like my work better. I still write stinkers, though. (Which raises an interesting point: I don’t always know a stinker when I first write it; it becomes obvious, however, when read months or years later.) My poetry hasn’t changed much in that I’ve always liked rhyme, meter, and trying various forms, some of which don’t use rhyme or have a standard meter. I’ve also never liked free verse, and still don’t; I do try it from time to time, though. Far from the canard (as I see it) that form and structure hinder creativity, I think they unleash it.

MARIE ELENA: Form and structure unleash my creativity as well.  They force me to be more inventive in how I express my thoughts.  That said, there are forms I cannot wrap my head around.  If it feels too much like work, I will quickly give up.

And speaking of work, I saw in your Poetic Asides interview that you work as a medical writer and editor for the Department of Radiation Medicine, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, California.  Yet you live in New York.

WILLIAM: Yes, I lived in Loma Linda for six years; I moved there after Marge, my first wife, died. I went at the invitation of my boss, Dr. James Slater, with whom I’d worked on a cancer-teaching text in years before Marge died. I loved working with him and the folks at Loma Linda, but I used to take my vacations in autumn, when I’d come back to New York for the fall colors. I met my present wife, Marti, on one of those trips, and moved back east when we married. I thought I’d have to give up that job then, but Dr. Slater made it possible for me to continue via computer. I’m grateful to him for that because I think his department and the people in it are superb, as is he. He’s the kind of doctor every doctor should be: his admonition to everyone in his department was (and still is), “Treat patients as if they were your own mother and father.”

Living in Loma Linda, by the way, helped spur my poetry because I answered a call for entries to a local poetry contest sponsored by the San Bernardino chapter of Chaparral Poets. That entry led me to join that group, and I still am a member at large of Chaparral, albeit the local chapter is now defunct. To this day I still think of that group as my poetry “home.” At present I am a member of the Wayne Writer’s Guild, a congenial gathering of local writers who meet regularly at Books, Inc., in Macedon, New York, to encourage each other. Maybe that’s why I encourage other poets; I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement from the Guild.

MARIE ELENA:  Medical writing seems a far cry from creative writing.  Can you explain exactly what you do?  Is it something from which you derive enjoyment?

WILLIAM: My educational background is education, not medicine. I’ve worked with physicians, mostly oncologists, since 1966, mainly because my first job happened to be with a cancer-teaching program at the University of Rochester. Working in medical (mainly cancer) writing just grew from there. At first I wrote programmed instruction texts with various oncologists (mainly surgeons and radiation oncologists) around the country (that’s how I met Dr. Slater), but over the years that evolved to writing and editing papers for peer-reviewed medical journals and other medical communications. I should add that even when I “write” for those journals, it’s not my material; I always work from the medical content that the physicians supply. Basically, their job is to share information with their peers and the public, and my job is to help them do it if needed.  As for deriving enjoyment from that work, yes, I do, mainly owing to the people I work with and partly because I think it’s contributing to important knowledge and, maybe, better outcomes for cancer patients. By the way, I don’t think medical or scientific writing is all that removed from creative writing. In fact, I think my medical writing improved after I took some creative-writing workshops in Taos, New Mexico, with Natalie Goldberg in the early 1990s. Dr. Slater saw the connection too; he encouraged me to take those workshops.

MARIE ELENA: I find that absolutely fascinating.  Good for Dr. Slater, seeing the connection and giving you that encouragement.

I’m so sorry to hear about your first wife, yet happy to know you are no longer alone.

WILLIAM: Yes, I’m married to Martha, who goes by Marti. She has three daughters, Maria, Lisa, and Susan, whom I think of as my daughters too, despite the “stepfather” tag. Maria and Lisa each have two children and Sue is about to have her second, so Marti and I have five grandchildren and another one imminent. Maria’s kids, Maximus and Giulia, are teenagers; Lisa and Derrick have two girls, Anna and Emily, and Sue and Guillermo have a little girl named Dove. I have a sister, also named Susan; she and her husband, Ken Stenzel, live nearby. I love all of them, and am especially proud of Marti who, in the words of an officer at the University of Rochester, “is one of the most respected administrators in the University.” (Ken, by the way, is a musician; he’s set some of my words to music, and these can be heard at his blog: http://mymusicandmore.com/just-one-information.html )


MARIE ELENA:  Your family sounds just lovely, Bill.  Thank you for sharing them with us today.  And for sharing your music as well!  I love the jazzy sound Ken offers.  It’s great that Ken afforded you to opportunity to publish some of your poetry, via his music.  How wonderful!

Bill, I pulled this quote from your interview with Robert:  “Some have suggested I self-publish it, but I doubt I’ll do that; I’d prefer some peer review, if you will, as confirmation that it’s worth others’ reading.”  The “it” refers to a collection of your bird poems.  Will you please expand on the idea of not wanting to self-publish your work?

WILLIAM: To me, self-publishing seems like self-indulgence. In my professional work “peer review” is a standard; before something is published it has to pass judgment by others in the field. If it passes, that means that others who know the field think it worthy of being shared; it contains useful information or insights. “Creative” writing is different, I suppose, in that the writer is leading the way toward a new vision, but in my view science is like that too, and yet science runs on interaction amongst scientists. In the case of poetry or other creative writing, I think of writers and editors as being something like that.

MARIE ELENA:  Is there a William Preston blog in your future that we can look forward to?  *hint, hint*

WILLIAM: Not likely. I am a private person and don’t like social networking stuff such as tweeter and face-book and their ilk. As for a blog, I can’t imagine why anyone would or should care about what I think about anything, even if I was of a mind to share it. I have noticed that many of the blogs that your readers have, are strictly poetry vehicles, but even then I can’t imagine why I should offer up what I’m writing about, just because I wrote it. Your blog and Robert Brewer’s are different, or so it seems to me: there, I am responding to prompts and am testing myself as a poet. I do admit that your blog and Robert’s have introduced me to new friends and superb poets such as yourself and RJ Clarken and Jane Shlensky, and I suppose the same could happen if I had my own blog. Still, I doubt I’d ever have one.

MARIE ELENA:  I’m curious as to what your friends out here will have to say about that. 😉

What, besides writing, is your favorite pastime, Bill?

WILLIAM: Reading. In fact, I’d reverse that order: reading, then writing. For that matter, I’d say that reading and being exposed to all kinds of authors and poets has helped to nurture my writing.

MARIE ELENA:  Lest you think we’ve moved on to easy questions … 😉 … What would you say you enjoy most about being William Preston?

WILLIAM: I’ve no idea how to answer that. I just am. I can tell you some things I like, such as bird-watching or photography, but I never thought of “enjoying” who I am.

MARIE ELENA:  On the flip side, what would you change (if anything) about who you are and your life in general?

WILLIAM: I’d make music.

MARIE ELENA:  Great answer.  I’d say that is entirely possible.

And now, Bill, if you could share only one thing about yourself with us, what would it be?

WILLIAM:  I think I already have, through the poems on the blog that you and Walt created, and on Robert Brewer’s. That’s why I submitted them in the first place.

MARIE ELENAHear, hear.  I’ll even let you get away with that. 😉   Which of all those poems would you choose as a favorite?

WILLIAM: This is one I wrote early in my poetry-writing attempts, around 1990. It’s a favorite because it’s a pantoum, and I like French forms; it’s also a favorite because it’s about a favorite subject, hawks. Finally, it’s about flight; I always liked the view from the air.


 As homing hawks parade across the sky,
ascending high on rivers in the air,
they kiss with life the land they overfly
and follow north the streams to everywhere.
Ascending high on rivers in the air,
they gaze ahead, beyond the curving earth
and follow north the streams to everywhere;
to breeding grounds, and feasts of cycling birth.
They gaze ahead, beyond the curving earth;
with trusting wings they ride a thermal road
to breeding grounds, and feasts of cycling birth.
My heavy heart feels lightened of its load.
With trusting wings they ride a thermal road;
they kiss with life the land they overfly;
my heavy heart feels lightened of its load
as homing hawks parade across the sky.

copyright 2013, William Preston

 MARIE ELENA:  Thank you so much for your willingness to let us pry into your heart and life, and for your presence here with us.  It means a great deal to count you among our many friends here.  Also, Walt and I simply cannot thank you enough for stepping in to help out during his much-needed sabbatical.  Truly.

I’d like to end with one of my own favorite poems of yours.  I feel it represents very well your sense of rhythm and soft rhyme, and the beauty with which you write.


I watch beneath eternal starry skies
that sail above the softly crashing sea.
They bring to my enraptured senses free
delights: the whites and blues of massive size;
a global cluster whose collection lies
beyond the Milky Way; the orange glee
of Betelgeuse; the greens content to be
reflections in the ocean’s midnight guise.
All of these stars, it seems, have always known
my needs; ever they proffered comfort when
I failed and cried; they never did condemn.
Once, in a silent time; a time alone
in endless, friendly space; I knew it then:
I know them all, for I am born of them.

© copyright 2013, William Preston


  1. Bill, it is a grand pleasure to meet you! You are prolifically inspiring 😀
    I am just in awe of your poetic voice.

    Marie: thank you for giving us a unique glimpse of a very private person.

    Thank you, both.

  2. William, thank you for sharing YOU! I enjoyed reading your interview and your poems. I also love rhymes and meters and cadences, and I can’t stand free verse. It just doesn’t seem like poetry to me. And music…what is there to say that you haven’t said here? Music is such a major part of my life as well. My piano is my comfort and constant companion, and I listen to other artists/composers repeatedly. I definitely understand the love you have for it.

    Once again, thank you for sharing. This garden has benefitted so much from your muse and creativity…I know I have. Thank you. 🙂

  3. Thank you ME for throwing William P into the limelight and specially for the two poems at the end.

    William, you say “(Which raises an interesting point: I don’t always know a stinker when I first write it; it becomes obvious, however, when read months or years later.” All the courses, workshops and textbooks I have ever followed/read say that when we “finish” a poem it should be put aside for days/weeks or even years, before the faults become glaringly obvious and editing/polishing can take place. This is one of the problems with prompt sites like this one – there are always time constraints, the need to post more or less as soon as the last word is written. This is why I post my poems to my blog, and often go back through the archives in an attempt to make them as good as I possibly can. My blog has made me innumerable poet friends, some of whom I have had the good fortunbe to meet fact to face: A wonderful interraction.

  4. Lovely interview, Meg… William, it is so nice to read your life’s story, and, of course, your poetry… and, I thank you for always giving such a great encouragement!! Thank you, so much for sharing your time with us!!

  5. Thank you both so much for this interview!

    I’ve learned a great deal more about William as a poet and a person and I consider it to be a great privilege.

    I absolutely love that you’re inspired of the birds. They’re amazing and your poetry is unique and enjoyable.

    Your work fits so well with music. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing all of these facets of you, Bill and thank you Marie for bringing them out to shine with your thoughtful questions.

  6. Lovely interview. I’m so glad you found Poetic Bloomings and Poetic Asides William. Your comments always lift my spirits. I love your bird poetry (probably because I’m a birder too). I also love how you have stayed firm on not joining social media website. Although I would love to read more of your poetry, I can understand the detraction of social media sites. There is already too much information about “us” floating around out there! Love how your spirits are lifted in your hawk poem. Wonderful poem. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I so enjoyed the interview, Marie; well, done as always. William, thank you for sharing some of your life with us. You are an interesting (and humble) man who writes beautifully such varied poetry… heartfelt, deeply thoughtful, as well as comic. I appreciate your comments on my poetry, as I know everyone else does on their own. You always find something positive and encouraging to say. Thank you!
    My oldest daughter is profoundly hearing impaired but manages well with hearing aides. Her two sons are following her pattern very closely so it is probably genetic they tell us. All three are articulate, smart and outgoing. I couldn’t be more proud of them.

  8. Thanks, William and Marie. An inspiring interview. I am with you on the benefits of struggling within a form – being forced to say less can certainly help us say something better (or even something we hadn’t set out to say).

  9. Congratulations, William on your commendable achievement– Writer’s Digest’s Poetic Asides 2013 Poet Laureate. And thank you for sharing your poetic story with us. Marie is right, you are the ultimate encourager. I’m so honored to read your voice and perspective. Your love for music flows through your poetry. I’m encouraging you to rethink that blog issue. We all would love to see a W. Preston Poetry site. Another superb interview, ME!

  10. William (Bill): You amaze! It is great to put a face to associate with the talent. Thank you for sharing. Think of a blog as your own Indie Press. You’d be surprised how interest is out there. Admittedly, I could not sustain one on my own. I wound up partnering with a writing partner.

    Marie: Another fantastic interview.

    (The Form Challenged Author)

  11. When I saw this interview, I knew I had to take the time to read it. Marie, thank you for the questions which helped elicit information about William’s life. I had no idea you were deaf. When I have a chance, Also thank you for sharing about your family. I will need to find the Poetic Asides interview also.

    When I saw the picture it said friendly, When I saw this interview, I knew I had to take the time to read it. Marie, thank you for the questions which helped elicit information about William’s life. I had no idea you were deaf. When I have a chance, Also thank you for sharing about your family. I will need to find the Poetic Asides interview also.

    When I saw the picture it said friendly, encouraging, and the word gentleman, which Marie used. I love the fact that some people are so good at showing a natural smile for the camera. My guess is you have learned to smile at the photographer and not the camera. Thank you, William, for being an encourager.

    So far I have not noticed any “stinkers” in your poetry, William. Yes, I have liked some more than others, but none of us can be perfect every time. I enjoy your use of form. Like Mena Rose I am often form challenged. Meter is at times hard for me, just as dancing sometimes is. Over the years I have learned to appreciate free verse but not prose poems, which I do not get.

    Since a person can do only so much I can understand your not wanting or needing to be on FaceBook or Twitter. As for a blog, you have plenty of outlets for your poetry. All of us need to have our own priorities. William, thank you for joining Poetic Bloomings and encouraging even those of us who use forms sparingly. , and the word gentleman, which Marie used. I love the fact that some people are so good at showing a natural smile for the camera. My guess is you have learned to smile at the photographer and not the camera. Thank you, William, for being an encourager.

    So far I have not noticed any “stinkers” in your poetry, William. Yes, I have liked some more than others, but none of us can be perfect every time. I enjoy your use of form. Like Mena Rose I am often form challenged. Meter is at times hard for me, just as dancing sometimes is. Over the years I have learned to appreciate free verse but not prose poems, which I do not get.

    Since a person can do only so much I can understand your not wanting or needing to be on FaceBook or Twitter. As for a blog, you have plenty of outlets for your poetry. All of us need to have our own priorities. William, thank you for joining Poetic Bloomings and encouraging even those of us who use forms sparingly.

  12. William, it is so thoroughly satisfying to know more about you.
    The ties that are formed in a community like this may be thin and narrow because of the restraints of social media: but because of the nature of poetry, they are strong, like spider’s silk, or like steel wires…and become stronger as we learn and discover more about one another. As a poem reveals the poet, the knowledge vibrates that thin line, and music results.
    Your love for birds resonates with me too. A pair of hawks nest on our creek every spring. They begin courting early, circling in our sky and shrieking their joy down over woods and pasture. I’ve stopped my gardening to stand and stare and listen and learn their ways and their joys.
    That’s what this site does for me. I’m so grateful, Marie, for this interview. With each interview I can hear William and our other poets more clearly than ever before.
    William, what you share here and elsewhere enriches my life and writing. Keep on, and thanks again for taking up during Walt’s retreat.

  13. Thank you, Marie, for such a great interview with Bill, and thanks to Bill for being so nurturing and kind to others who toy with words. I’m a sucker for the birdie poems, as you know,(I raised a hawk I named Hubert, and now imagine every hawk I see is him), but I’m also amazed at the depth and breadth of your knowledge and sensitivities. I’ve learned so much reading you. I look forward to your songs. Go for it!

  14. William, it was lovely to “meet you” indirectly through this interview. There is a profound sensibility and delicate, flowing cadence in your poems and it was wonderful to see these traits reflected in your beautiful smile and in your words about yourself. Although I also write free verse, I love form poetry as it gives me something to strive for. As for music and poetry, I sometimes think the are one and the same thing 🙂

    I also loved to see that there was another poet working in the field of medicine here. I also did some medical writing and Romanian to English translations of medical texts when I was a student and thoroughly enjoyed the work. I will probably take it up again when I have more time.

    I understand your stance regarding social media. Although I find that I must have an account in order to get in touch with my friends when I want to (who are spread out around the world these days), but I rarely use it (or, God forbid, check it daily) to post details about my life – it’s a bit too time-consuming for me.

    Keep writing from the heart because your poems are wonderful inside and out – as many of our friends from here have already said, we “smell” no stinkers out there! 🙂

  15. Thanks, all of you, for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it, but more than that I appreciate seeing your work and learning from it. I thank you, Marie, for the opportunity and for your skill in making an e-mail exchange look for all the world like a sit-down chat over tuna-fish sandwiches.

  16. His poems never disappoint; his melody is in his poetry…which resonate with humor, vivid insight and the most clever and enlightening turns of phrases. We are all uplifted by his incredible gift to delight and inspire and by his ardent support and encouragement of the members of our merry band. Kc Meyer, Wayne Writers Guild

  17. Marie Elena – thank you for this interview. It totally rocked. William – you are a gentleman and a scholar!

    As you may or may not know, I am in my second year as a degree student, studying ophthalmic science. When I graduate, (and then pass the boards hopefully) I’ll be a licensed optician. My goal is to help people see well while feeling good about how they look in their glasses. However, I don’t want to stop there. I want to write research papers about eye issues (obviously,) and I also want to study (to start with) Spanish and Sign Language, so I can better communicate with my patients and therefore assist them more completely.

    Reading your interview here only strengthens that resolve. Thank you.

  18. William – Thanks for sharing this with us. Your writings just astound me – not just the quality but the volume as well. Your inspirational well seems to be bottomless and bountiful with refreshment for all those that pass. Thanks for your encouragement and your positive outlook. It’s been a pleasure to meet you.

    Marie – As always, you never let us down. You have such a knack of slipping behind that curtain to give us so much more depth to the writer’s pen. Thanks for taking the time to get to know the writers on a personal level; to help us get to know the writers and their hearts.

  19. Marie Elena – another stellar interview…William, I think it was RJ stole the words I would use, you sir are a class act, “a gentleman and a scholar” as we used to say…I’m so glad I noticed your interview was up (I haven’t been all that observant as of late)…It was great to get a glimpse of the oh-so-private you, and read a couple of poems I hadn’t read before. Congratulations also re being Poet Laureate of the “street”…I’m not sure if I offered my kudos before or not, but they bear repeating in any case…I can’t think of a better choice. And thank you for doing “gardening” duties here while Walt’s on sabbatical…another perfect choice.

  20. My dear friend — what a pleasure to hear you “speak” from so far away. Your picture brings tears to my eyes as I remember how you’ve influenced my own aesthetics. I remember with great fondness the day my ex-husband and I surprised you at the Chaparral award ceremony (and yes, I still have the newspaper clipping). I can always count on your work to raise me up. Thank you endlessly for your friendship and inspiration these nearly 25 years.

    For all those reading, Bill is amazing through and through. A true friend, an inspirational gentleman, and a master craftsman with poetic forms. I could never lay down a line with the emotional and spiritual prowess of his words. You, my friend, are a gift to the world.

    • Thank you, Tracy.

      For others who may read this, Tracy Teel and I have, as she says, been friends for a long time. She is not only my friend; she is a superb poet, one whose heart as well as mind are evident in all she writes. I note that she’s provided a link to her site; I urge everyone to visit it.

  21. William,
    You are a testimony to the fact that hearing (as known by the hearing world) is not a requirement for having a fantastic knowledge of words and word-meanings. (…and being very successful in the business world) Oral speech can be learned and use by some deaf people. Oral is only one from of communicating, the whole body is used.
    At 16 months, my son lost his hearing, as did you, as a result of Meningitis. We were in Australia at the time and we were advised to put him in the Oral School for the Deaf. When we returned to the US 4 years later, we all started learning “Exact English” as taught in the Spec. Ed at the public school. In 7th & 8th grade he went to the Wash. State School for the Deaf and was introduced to ASI. He spent a short time a Gallidet (?). Today (at 41) he uses Oral, ASl, Mime, body language, writing, etc. Most of the time, he uses two aids.
    I do wonder how much hearing (if any) you have? Do you use hearing aids? ASl or other? and Oral speech?
    I began losing my hearing in my 30’s. One ear is gone, the other requires an aid. Without the aid, I can not hear unless the sound is a few inches from my ear. I feel that my deafness is a gift I was given. I generally turn the aid off because I much prefer quiet.
    I be interceded in your response. Thanks Marjory

    • I am sorry to be so late in replying. I hadn’t looked at this page in a while, and only knew of your note from your comment in a later prompt.
      I appreciate your sharing your experience and your son’s. They are almost like bookends, in my opinion, inasmuch as your son lost hearing just when he was beginning to use speech (I presume), whereas you began losing yours as an adult. They are different worlds; my experience is closer to yours inasmuch as your son began leaning ways to use other languages (or pidgens) an in infant, whereas I grew up in a school environment that discouraged ASL; the “special education” classes I was sent to taught lip-reading, which was just a way to understand English. Sign, as you probably know, if a completely different language, and I wish I grew up with it. Its economy of expression and beauty of manifestation are stunning, in my opinion.
      You say your son uses a variety of ways to communicate. So do most Deaf persons I know, but then, ASL, as I understand it, is really a combination of all those things anyway. SEE (Signing Exact English), like lip-reading, is (or was) just another way of asserting the primacy of English; understandable to Hearing folks, I imagine, but vastly irritating to Deaf folks. I envy and admire your son and his ability to use such a variety.
      I never thought of deafness as a gift, but it makes sense, especially when you can turn off this noisy world. I do too, all the time. My computer, in fact, has no speakers. Deafness may have been a gift for me also, though I never thought of it, in that it forced me to read up on lyricists so I could know the words of songs I liked. As I noted in Marie’s interview, that led me to know many wordsmiths who taught me much. I think they are poets, too. Some, like Johnny Mercer and Lorenz Hart, were masters, in my opinion.
      You asked when I was implanted. it was in 2003, more than a decade ago. I am glad I had the implant, but the reason I had it was not so I could be more like Hearing folks; the impetus was a dramatic reduction in hearing that made it impossible for me to use a hearing aid anymore. If that hadn’t happened (in 1998), I probably would never have gotten the implant, as my “normal” world was that that I “heard” through hearing aids, and saw and touched and smelt. I think my deafness forced me to use other senses more, and I suspect that those experiences fed into sensations and perceptions I eventually used in my poetry.
      Without my implant (right side) or hearing aid, I hear nothing, not even sounds a few inches from my left ear. (The implant operation, by the way, destroyed whatever residual hearing I had in the right ear.) I have a hearing aid for the left side, but that’s mainly so I can hear a little bit of bass sounds when I play music; the ear is useless for speech recognition, even with a powerful aid. Except for the “sounds” of tinnitus and the other sensations you mentioned in the comments for prompt 136, I have complete silence when I am not wearing an assistance device of some kind. As noted above, I like that, often.
      Having said that, inasmuch as I grew up in a Hearing world and was schooled to have English as my language, I am glad that cochlear implants are available and I recommend them for like folks; that is, for folks who can no longer use hearing aids. For folks who grew up Deaf, though, I would not presume to do that. Deafness is a culture, not just a physical deficit. Folks who advocate things like lip-reading and SEE for Deaf persons remind me of a comment made about folks who brought Christianity to people of other faiths: did they think they were doing them a favor?
      I imagine this response goes far beyond what you asked about. Thanks for asking, though. I’d just like to add that I always enjoy reading your work, and, now that I know of your own deafness, I’ll have extra appreciation for it.

  22. Thank You Wm,.
    My son’s (Michael) use of so many tools of communication comes from our moving (Australia, Wash State) and the various schools he attended.

    Age 16 months (In US), he lost his hearing -but we did not know how much he lost [he also had to re-learn all his motor skills] At 27 months we went to a Doc. in Australia, and for the first time heard to word Deaf in relationship to Michael. A word avoided in the US, but a common everyday term in Australia. A month later he was fitted for aids.

    Age 2-5 – At the Australia Oral School for the Deaf, he got a good base for using his voice, learning things like breath and speaking and ‘feeling’ sound. In 1972-1977 [maybe still today] there was a tall, thick (resentful) brick wall between the people who advocated speech or sign. At the AOS The students could not even use gestures.

    When he was 5.5 ys, we returned to the US – we went with the idea that ALL forms of communication were acceptable if they helped him to communicate and relate to others.

    Grade 1-5 – (Special Ed where they uses SEE and he had a wonderful Speech Therapist who taught him how to say the sounds of letters based on the location, feel and shape of the sound as it moved through his mouth, throat, etc.) The students of the class of deaf students, communicated in their own way and were main-lined for a couple classes. Friend-ships were developed between some hearing and dead students.

    Grade 6- He was main-lined in a different public school (with an interpretor) and was the only deaf student in school. He is not shy and likes to be with people, so he found others who were not opposed to finding ways to communicate with him. He even tried to learn to play the violin – not very successfully.

    Grade 7-8 – State School for Deaf – he lived in a dorm, bused 260 miles home on week-ends, holidays. There he learned about ASL and all sorts of stuff other boys his age could teach him, and worked his way through the ‘pecking order’. and he resented the fact that he had not been taught ASL earlier. It was his introduction to the Deaf Culture.

    Grade 9-12 Back home – Main-lined with interpreter for most classes, though some, like English were for the slower learner. Again (most of that time) the only deaf student. He was in FFA (Future Farmers of America) where they individually raised and showed animals (at fairs), Learned about plants and gardening, and took various shop classes, etc. At home he was learning about animal farming, field work and wood cutting.

    About the time he was in the 10th grade – I was introduced to Sign-Singing (no formal teaching.) We (Individually and as a team) performed in various programs. We successfully competed in several Grange-sponsored contests, did shows at various local clubs, and churches. He went to the National FFA Convention to represent WA FFA in the National Talent Show. At the end of his Sr. HC year, he took part in the Sr Class talent show where he received a standing ovation from his class-mates on his Sign presentation on the song “Let Freedom Ring”. He uses a combination ASL and Mime.

    Well, I think this is more than you expected and I have only made it to 1991!!
    ..and it was just in response to your comment about his use of many forms of communication.
    If you are interested in his next 20-some years, I’ll write another installment. 🙂

    • Thank you for this story and history. It is fascinating and in many ways familiar, and I would like to know more about him and you.

      I’ve had nowhere near such variety in my life, but I have learnt that communication is multifactorial. I also learnt that many of my ways of communicating are similar to those of Deaf persons, albeit I didn’t learn any Sign till late in life, and then only in dibs and dabs. Not having sound led me to form habits of communication similar to those of ASL. You probably know that ASL repeats some signs for emphasis. Similarly, when I want to describe the behavior of a bird, such as an albatross, that soars seemingly forever, i might say “soar-soar-soar.”

      Communication is a fascinating thing to study, and a lot of it, I think, is intrinsicly human, regardless of the language used.

  23. I’m very late to this party William. Really enjoyed reading about you and I felt kinship in two of of your comments–1. I’ll write a poem I think is good and people are not impressed and others I don’t think are that good and everyone else does 🙂 Also, I had the same feeling about having a blog–“who would want to read this?” and also, “why impose this on people who already have enough blogs to read” However, I’ve found there is a lovely bunch of poetic communities out there who love reading poetry and sharing poetry–so if you ever wanted to have a blog, there are plenty of people who would enjoy it 🙂 Having said that, I get the impression also that you are a humble man and fairly busy too, so I think that Poetic Asides and the “garden” here are probably where you bloom best. I have always been a big fan of your poetry. It is beautiful, lyrical and makes me smile.

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