Poety Moment: Sharan Strange, 'Sight'

Poet Sharan Strange reads and explains her poem Sight, based on a true story which, for Strange, represents the role of the artist in society.

ED GORDON, host:

Now here's a selection from our Poet's Moment.

Ms. SHARAN STRANGE (Poet): My name is Sharan Strange and this is my poem, "First Sight."

`A beginning, and like a newborn you're dazzled by sight. After 50 years, a corridor is no longer a corridor. A window is solid, holds a picture like a movie screen. The doctors have undone a lifetime of darkness. For what? You still close your eyes, won't turn on lamps at home. The city seems a mirage, dishonest with constant movement, or so shy it flattens into image, then shimmers.

`Seeing is strange. Free of the dark, sharp spots of color float, shapes wave, bounce, an endless cacophony of surfaces. You're vulnerable, trying to fashion it all into a tapestry that means, "This I know." This knowledge is surrender, faith. You've yet to learn you cannot hold these shapes in your hands, like objects that marry this world to you. Eyes closed, all things are yours in three or more dimensions. Open, they seem flirtatious as stars, winking, distant, beyond the touch, receding with delight.'

"First Sight" is based on the true story of a man who had been blind all his life until an operation gives him sight. But his doctors discovered that although he could technically see--his eyes functioned physically--he wasn't truly seeing, seeing with a capital S. So in other words, the necessary consciousness, the integration of the mind with what the eyes are observing, was missing. So his doctors gained the insight that sight involves more than the mere apprehension of objects. And this became a metaphor for me for what is crucial to the artist, which is seeing with that capital S. The story had an ironic footnote in that the man eventually went blind again, although the doctors couldn't find any medical reason for it.

GORDON: Sharan Strange teaches creative writing at Spelman College in Atlanta. Her collection of poems is titled "Ash."

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