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Sunday, 4 March 2012

Michele Leggott

Michele Leggott is a poet from New Zealand who has lost her sight. On this page you can find a list of her poems. My favourite poem is 'Do you see me?' which is in the Audio section. It uses language to try and capture the pain of failing sight. I found this poem deeply moving because it is not a wholly negative account. The anguish evoked is immediately countered with 'no anguish'. In this poem, the poet moves from a profoundly visual place where the sky is a 'clear blue', to a different land. It is true that this move is described with the potentially negative 'falling'. But this is not a poem of exile or trappedness. Here 'falling' seems to be closer to the exhilaration of sky diving. The 'wide white threshold' that the blinded poet crosses opens up new possibilities in another world, where light has gone but where it has been replaced by something else. By what? The fact that this poem remains long after the light has faded suggests that transient and temporary luminosity is followed by the permanence of language. I like this poem for its measured hopefulness and for its suggestion of alternative, even enticing worlds. It dares to suggest that blindness need not be a bad thing. But I like it best for the poetic voice at its centre. It is rare to hear the blind poet speak, particularly the female one. As the title of the poem suggests, the blind are more often than not imaged as objects to be viewed, frequently clandestinely, by the sighted. But in this poem, the poet turns the question voiced in its title on its head. In a world where light has vanished, the question is meaningless because no-one needs to see anyone anymore. As I sit listening to MIchele Leggott read her poem I silently answer her question: 'No, I cannot see you, but I can hear you'.

Many thanks to Naomi Foyle for introducing me to Michele Leggott's work.

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