On the poem “Feel My Words”
When Jan Wheatcroft and Helen Feller approached me to be a part of their art show, “Text Me That!”, my mind immediately started working on ideas. Text-based things that I wanted to do in my normal mediums of yarn and fabric definitely popped into my mind. However, I also like to challenge my abilities when the occasion arises.
This was one of those occasions.
I thought about the concept of what text means, not only to the individual, but what it means in the broader scope of life. Text is ultimately about communication. It’s about creating a relationship between writer and reader. It’s about bringing different people together to the same place, whether separated by distance or by time.
It can also create a bridge between abilities.
As artists, we use our senses every day to inform and guide our creativity. We listen, we touch, we smell, we savor, and we pore over every detail. We can spend hours, days, years even, perfecting our skills to create a full experience. However there are people for whom the experience is not complete.
The subtle blending of color to recreate a sunset is only as beautiful as the descriptive audio makes it sound. Many galleries and museums have a “DO NOT TOUCH THE ARTWORK” policy. That was when I decided that I needed to do something to highlight notions about art, accessibility, and the need for human connection.
I wrote a poem specifically to be presented in Braille, a form of text used all over the world by the blind and visually impaired. It’s meant to be touched to be experienced. The hope here is that my words will not only be felt literally by the reader, but so will the message I wish to convey.
The poem reads:
As you read these lines
Feeling fingertips along details of
Only known to you
You are doing so much more
Than reading a page
My spirit is placed here
By my own hand
Every knot, acknowledging
A desire for desire repaid
To feel something
As you feel my words
You trace tips
Of fine tuned fingers
Along syllables and syntax
Listening and learning
What lies hidden
In plain sight
You and I are now connected
Beings forever inhabiting an invisible place
Beyond this tactile textile
Beyond any sense of the tangible
At the intersection
Of fixed and fluid time
All because you chose
To feel my words
When I originally displayed this poem, I chose not to include a sighted version. My reasons were based on what I hoped to accomplish with my work. I wanted those people with sight to understand what it means to experience art partially. I wanted to start a dialogue about accessibility and the inclusion of other perspectives into art. I wanted to pay tribute to the blind and visually impaired people in my own life.
Of course, the real challenge came in committing the poem onto paper. My research led me to Blindness Support Services in Riverside, California. The work they do to serve the blind and visually impaired in Southern California deserves recognition. A special Thank You goes to Feliciano Godoy and Christine Davidson for helping my crazy idea become an all too beautiful reality.
You can find out more about Blindness Support Services at blindnesssupport.com. They even have a Braille club that meets on the last Friday of the month.
To everyone for your love and support for this work: To Jan and Helen, to the blind and visually impaired people in my life who inspired the poem, to my friends and loved ones who said “DO IT!” when I was on the fence about writing it, and to Blindness Support Services who helped me with the final important piece to this work, thank you. You all have my deepest gratitude.
-Amber Calderilla, 2019
You can find out more about BSS braill services here at blindnessupport.com/braille.html