Book Review: Voice by Adam Pottle

Voice: On Writing with Deafness – Adam Pottle (University of Regina Press, 2019)

Sound and hearing is something I rarely think about. And something I almost never think about in relation to the written word. Obviously, this is an example of the privilege I have as a hearing person and something I take for granted. So not only was it good to be reminded of this privilege through Adam Pottle’s book Voice but it was an interesting perspective to read about a writer who is deaf.

Pottle tells a lot of his own experience with deafness, as a child and as a teenager. The ways it separated him from his peers and the ways he used it to his advantage and how it created disadvantages for him. He talks about practising his speech as his hearing loss increased and he talks about hearing aids and cochlear implants and his choices regarding both.

Most interesting of all I found was his look at how hearing and deafness have affected the way he writes. I wouldn’t have thought that being deaf made much of a difference to writing – which is a rather insular, silent activity anyway. But Pottle discusses why he needs silence when he writes. He delves into how growing up reading closed captioning has affected the way he approaches poetry. And he talks about his explorations of disability and their portrayals in media. (He’s rather self-congratulatory when he talks about his own writing but maybe he has reason to be. I’ve never read anything else by him.)

The book has some infrequent interludes that seem to be a dialogue between Pottle and someone named Lemmy (?) and I just did not get the purpose of them. This other voice seems to be prodding Pottle to discuss things he’d rather not – sex and music and depression – but it felt really unnecessary to me. It was also the only time in the book with a lot of swearing so that also made it feel jarring and discordant with the rest of the book.

Overall, this was a short and fascinating read and a good reminder to all of us who are privileged with hearing to be more aware of life for those with different abilities.

(Adam Pottle will be one of the featured authors at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts this summer and I read Voice as part of my Writers Fest 2019 challenge.)

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: Voice by Adam Pottle”

    1. It is! I had really never thought about it before but if you had asked me I probably would have said deafness doesn’t affect reading/writing but Pottle does a great job of explaining how it does.

  1. I just read a review over at Jackie Law’s blog that is a collection of poetry by a Jamaican British deaf man. That book honestly sounded more interesting than this one, and if you are interested in reading about deafness, that might be the book to read next.

    1. I’ll have to check that out. I think it would be more interesting to see what he talks about in action rather than just reading about his experiences. Pottle kind of seems to assume that the reader is familiar with his previous work.

  2. Hmm I think I’ve followed this guy on twitter before? He sounds familiar. That’s kind of funny that he came across as self-congratulatory! It’s strange when writers assume readers have read their earlier work, it seems kind of pompous, but maybe they don’t realize it comes across that way? It would be nice if editors pointed that out more.

    1. Yeah, I just thought it was strange that he kept referencing his own work when I’d never heard him before. I would have liked to hear more from other examples of deaf writers but it’s possible there just aren’t enough out there. (Though he does mention a few names.)

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