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.)