The Light in the Lives of the Sightless

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The Light in the Lives of the Sightless

Even without the visible or audible word, a poem expressed from the heart of the sightless can bring hope and joy in life to the hopeless.

Homer is famous for the world's greatest epics, "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey". Although little is known about his birthplace and life, we know he was called the Blind Poet. John Milton - "God's blind poet-priest" - and deaf-blind poet Jack Clemo - all spoke to the world in silent eloquence.

Early in September, Yoo Jung-seon, herself blind, started a new life with the publication of her first volume of poetry. The collection of 70 poems is entitled "Awaiting the dawn in the sea of darkness".

"I cried a lot after losing my sight," Yoo says. "I felt like complete darkness engulfed me and there was neither hope nor light. Then later, I came to realize that helping others could bring me back in touch with the meaning of life."

Yoo, born with a weak heart, became blind at the age of 27 in 1979 after her fourth heart surgery. Her new blindness first caused her to retreat from the world, until she realized that the tribulations of life are visited not only upon the disabled but upon all. After deciding to help out less fortunate people, she began devoting herself to writing verse.

Her first clumsy attempts at writing poetry resulted in "The Warm-Hearted Man", written in 1996 after she met a government officer, Shin Won-chol, who treated her with kindness and encouragement.

Two years later, she called Yoo Seung-woo, a professor of literature in Inchon University, in desperate need of help in writing. He volunteered to assist her and helped bring her 70 poems to life. They are a result of the trial and error of the past four years.

Professor Yoo remembers bursting into tears himself many times while instructing her. "I sometimes had to teach her how to fight against very deep-rooted emotions, such as depression and self-abasement, and how to bring herself out of it. Her poems are life itself, shaped and molded by her tears," he says.

Whenever she comes up with poetic inspiration, she records it on tape instead of writing. Despite her disability, she puts her soul into "writing" at every moment. "It's not just poetry but the light in my life. Since writing, I have decided to love - even the reality that I am blind," she says, quoting from her poem "Even Reality".

These days, she lives fully, instead of only the half-life of darkness. Happy, she no longer remembers her hours of solitude. Joy and the precious power of self-expression were the rewards for the person who found the golden key to unlock her prison door.

by Kang Min-seok

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