Wednesday, October 01, 2014

David Simpson: The Way Love Comes to Me

     It is rare to come away from a book launch somehow feeling a little bit better about humanity, but that was my experience last night attending  the first public outing for David Simpson’s collection of poetry, The Way Love Comes to Me.  Those who know Dave Simpson’s work – which is probably most people likely to be reading this - know that he and his twin brother Dan, both poets and musicians, were born blind.  Several years ago they combined their work to produce a CD called, straightforwardly enough, Audio Chapbook, but the volume being shown off last night was Dave’s first published print book of poetry.
     Dave sat at a table in the front of the room, flanked on either side by poets Molly Peacock and Ona Gritz whose combined efforts had helped to see Dave’s book come to life through Mutual Muse Press. The line forming to  have Dave sign books stretched back to the entrance of the room in Avianna restaurant where the event was held.  Though the room was humming with activity, Dave knew just about every person who came up to have a book signed and told Ona what he wanted written down for each person as she signed the books for him.  Dan, who was serving as emcee for the evening announced, after several attempts to break through all the conversation of the writers, musicians and lifelong friends, that Dave would be reading for twenty minutes or so at about 7:30.  Dan himself was surrounded by people who came up to ask him about his own upcoming book.
     Despite delaying the starting for his reading by about 15 minutes, Dave only made it through signing the books of half the people in queue.  Molly introduced the book, explaining that Dave had chosen the cover and the paper on which the book was printed based upon  the feel they carried and that the print was raised enough to be felt with the finger tips.  Dan introduced his brother.
     Dave pulled the microphone closer to him and began by saying, “As most of you in this room already know, about a year ago I was diagnosed with ALS.”   We did know.  Despite having a lost some of the vivacity and strength of vocal inflection characteristic of his readings, Dave read in a clear voice that reached everyone’s ears.  After reading half a dozen poems, he would need to stop and catch his breath taking drinks of water from the bottle that Ona handed him.  At one point, a listener in the crowd asked  if he could request a certain poem, Dave who was reading from Braille and did not have that particular poem in front of him invited the listener to bring up a copy of a the book and read the poem.  Near the end of the reading, a long time friend came to the front and began to play a song for Dave on a well-traveled trumpet; Dave and most of those in the room sang along.
     What is remarkable about David Simpson’s poetry is his ability to convey a sense of what it is like to be a human being making his way through the ordinary ups and downs of life.  Yes, he asks the big questions and, yes, many of his poems are what it is like to experience life as a blind man, but his gift is to be able to tap into the emotions of everyone in the room. Whether they were blind, able-bodied, or use a wheelchair faces last night as they nod or laugh, knowing exactly what he is talking about.   Any writer with a disability who fears that taking a stand and reading in public about their life experiences will somehow set them apart from their audience should literally take a page from Dave’s book.
     The reading went on until almost 9 PM. Near the end, Dave talked a bit about the invaluable experiences that he had  at the yearly writers workshops he attended at Cape May, how much they had helped him develop as a writer and how it helped him to learn things that would enable him to publish and sell his work. But then he added, though those things important to him, he had forgotten most of it.  What remained for him - what was most valuable - was how much fun it had been to be with all of those other people.   That was the sense that pervaded Dave’s book launch last night.  The people were there to celebrate Dave’s life and work. The atmosphere in the room vibrated with it.  It wasn’t schmaltz. It was genuine.  That’s what made it such a rare event.


Anonymous Dave Simpson said...

What a lovely summary of the evening. Thanks, Mike. The book launch was a real personal highlight, and you captured the feeling of it all, so well.

October 03, 2014  

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