Thanks to Write Out Loud for Brilliant Review of ‘What Meets the Eye’

What Meets the Eye? The Deaf Perspective: eds. Lisa Kelly, Sophie Stone, Arachne Press

by Kathy Owston

Saturday 7th May 2022 9:08 am (first posted 6th May 2022)

entry picture

This first week of May has been Deaf Awareness Week and this past year has seen Deafness and the Deaf community attract a lot of positive media attention. What a good time to read and reflect on this collection of poems, short fiction and scripts by UK Deaf, deaf, and Hard of Hearing writers. 

The winner of Strictly Come Dancing, profoundly deaf contestant Rose Ayling-Ellis, was seen on our screen, week after week, using BSL (British Sign Language) signs in Sign Supported English (SSE). Some of her performances incorporated the imagery of silence, dancing with no musical background. This captured the imaginations of her British audience and judges. However, as most Deaf and Hard of Hearing people will tell you, they don’t ever actually hear silence; Deafness creates all manner of perceptions of sound, as are reflected in many of the poems in this collection.

And in Hollywood, we saw Troy Kotsur become only the second Deaf person to be nominated for an Oscar. He won! The film CODA – an acronym for “Child of Deaf Adults” – saw deaf actors in deaf roles, getting the recognition that they deserve.

What Meets the Eye?, published in 2021, explores the theme of movement, as perceived by the Deaf. This is interpreted in many different ways, including mobility, stillness, being emotionally moved, movement within and after lockdown, being part of a political movement, and freedom of movement. 

It’s edited by Lisa Kelly, poet and co-editor of Magma 69, The Deaf Issue, and actor and writer Sophie Stone. The preface is by Deaf writer and award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus. He himself has recently published a new poetry collection, All the Names Given, which takes the reader on a journey, like reading a novel. Both collections consider the miscommunications that are experienced by the Deaf/deaf community, sound and silence, and movement, which by Antrobus is interpreted via travel. The writers in What Meets the Eye? have a much broader interpretation of movement.

There are over 50 contributions, by all British writers. Some of the pieces link to BSL videos produced by the authors and translators, making them accessible in both languages, English and BSL. This year also marks the legal recognition of BSL as an official language, after years of Deaf activism.

So many of the contributions met my eye, but to name just a few:

Mary-Jayne Russel de Clifford in ‘Label’, the movement throughout her life of being labelled as Deaf, Girlfriend, Graduated, Mother, Divorced, Vegan:  “I am here/I reject your labels/Life moves and I with it.”

DL Williams, “MAPping a New Landscape”: the majority of profoundly deaf children, and some adults in the UK, now use cochlear implants to enable them to hear the sounds of speech and environmental sounds, through electrical impulses. Their implant speech processors need to be set with programmes, called MAPping. The MAPs are created using hearing tests which are done in an audiology clinic. “A new map is being drawn/with each new sound/another shade appears. / New countries/ entire new continents/ rise from the abyss/ …  This territory of noise/ comfort levels/ and threshold limits/ denote the boundaries/ of acoustic tolerance …  Here be monsters/ Beware of the cackling/crackling crisp packets …”

Lisa Kelly’s ‘A Map Towards Fluency’ describes something completely different, the handshapes needed to learn to use BSL signs, in her weekly signing class. It is beautifully observed and described with humour. Jean the teacher “as a child was forced to sit on her hands”.

Living life as an adult with a cochlear implant is very well described in prose in ‘Neutral’ by Sophie Woolley. This piece is set during lockdown. It uses different formats: plain text for Spoken English, BOLD for BSL, italics for actions. I loved this observation: “They’re both giving me the look that says ‘you’re wearing a facemask in a car with us?!’ There’s a disappointed air – like I’ve brought orange juice to a party instead of a bag of weed …”

This lengthy piece contrasts with the six-line poem of David Callin, ‘Coastal Walking for the Hard of Hearing.’ Pure simplicity, telling the experience and frustration felt by the majority of people with age-induced deafness. Hearing aids are helpful, but they do not restore hearing to normal, and are simply useless in some situations:

“The wind is a bully, in hearing aids/ making itself/ and nothing else heard. /So out they come/ and calm is restored/ the world reduced to a silent film.”

Many of the poems and prose in the collection, although written by Deaf and Hard of Hearing writers, do not allude to their hearing status or lack of sound. Movement is the theme explored. ‘Where is Syria’ by Hala Hashem, the rap ‘Pushing Boundaries’ by Clare-Louise English, and ‘In memory of our Father’ by Ayesha B Gavin, are all of special note.

In summary, a special read. So much explored. Well done Arachne Press.

Kathy Owston is a recently retired teacher of the Deaf of over 40 years. She has worked in the UK at Oak Lodge School for Profoundly Deaf pupils in Wandsworth, London, as an Advisory Teacher of the Deaf in Oxfordshire, in London and in West Sussex, and as an Implant Centre Teacher of the Deaf (ICToD) at St Thomas’ Hospital Auditory Implant Centre, London.  Kathy has also worked with Deaf children as an educational audiologist in Harare, Zimbabwe, and more recently in Jinotega, Esteli and Leon in Nicaragua 

What Meets the Eye? The Deaf Perspective, edited by Lisa Kelly and Sophie Stone, Arachne Press, £9.99

Poets for Ukraine Fundraiser

Please consider donating to the Poem-a-Thon on Sunday 27th March which will raise vital money with the goal of achieving £10,000 for charities Hope and Aid Direct and Goods for Good. Find out more details below and thanks for your support.

A few words from Poets

Poets for Ukraine and JW3* are collaborating on a fundraising, awareness-raising, spirit-raising day and evening of poetry in solidarity with the people of Ukraine at this time of great peril and suffering. 

This will take the form of a day-long, hybrid Poem-a-Thon where sponsored poets each read for up to five minutes in front of both live and virtual audiences.

The Poem-a-Thon will be followed by an evening Gala Event where our special guests will showcase Eastern European and English language poetry. 




  • JW3 & Online (link to be shared soon)
  • 341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ET


  • Sunday 27th March


  • 11am-5pm: Poem-a-Thon
  • 6:30 – 8pm: Gala Event

Our Poets are raising funds for two separate charities – poets raising funds via this fundraising page will be donating to Hope and Aid Direct.


Hope and Aid Direct are a 100% volunteer led UK based humanitarian aid charity operating mainly in mainland Europe. They are a non political, non religious charity: “We take aid, not sides!”. They have volunteers spread throughout the UK. Nobody takes a salary, so all of the money you donate ends up providing aid to people who really need it.

Hope and Aid Direct stand with the people of Ukraine. We are planning our response to this crisis and details of how we are going to provide assistance will be posted on this page. Whilst some charities are already on the move, at Hope and Aid Direct we aim to ensure that all aid that we take to the people of Ukraine is needed. As such, our operating model is to partner with an aid agency on the ground. They can then provide us with a specific needs list which we can gather, sort, loads on to our trucks and deliver to those most in need.”


Deaf and hard-of-hearing poetry that meets perfectly eye-to-eye 

December 8, 2021 – by Melissa Mostyn


What Meets The Eye?, a lyrical anthology edited by Sophie Stone and Lisa Kelly (Arachne Press) left reviewer Melissa Mostyn both pondering and pogo-ing for days.A book cover with a blown up image of an iris

What Meets the Eye: A Deaf Perspective. Book cover

Right now it feels like my community — the Deaf Community — can do no wrong.

This year has witnessed landmark court victories for BSL access to government COVID-19 briefings and stadium pop concerts; two dedicated teachers of Deaf children becoming the UK’s Lockdown Heroes; Raabia Hussein’s Two Deaf Travellers reaching the finals of the Best British Short Film Awards; and of course, Rose Ayling-Ellis’ sparkling promenades on BBC TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, which have fuelled Google searches for British Sign Language (BSL) by 488%.

Imagine my joy, then, upon receiving What Meets The Eye?, a lyrical anthology edited by Sophie Stone and Lisa Kelly (Arachne Press) that left me both pondering and pogo-ing for days.

This is rightly not, the editors stress, a “definitive take on deafness.” Rather, it’s an invitation to “join us venturing in exciting and varied territories where mountains of prejudice must be climbed, emotional currents swum, and landmarks reached that lend breath-taking perspectives on what it means to be Deaf, deaf or hard-of-hearing.”

And what variety! In under 150 pages the book comprises over 50 short forms, mainly verse, and includes a delightful comedy drama by Sophie Woolley, Neutral, which explores what constitutes sexual assault in the soul-baring age of social media.

What Meets the Eye? is a loose response to the anthology theme of Maps and Mapping set by its publisher, the second in a series and the only one by Deaf and hard-of-hearing writers. It uses its own theme of Movement to maximise opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing British writers to flex their creativity and imaginations in a unique landscape where technology, history, language, culture, sentiment and belonging collide like no other.

“Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home,”said Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is especially true of the book, which was written and complied during lockdown. Once Raymond Antrobus sets the tone with his gorgeously meandering foreword, there’s a sense of travelling to the end throughout with ease metaphorically, literally, and poetically.

I sense a dialogue between its two editors – Lisa Kelly and Sophie Stone are both also actors – indicated by their own poetry, that has helped cultivate a profound and well-crafted interaction between BSL and English. Thus I see no conflict between Sahera Khan’s My Glow, as a piece of evocative BSL poetry, and the extraordinary bilingualism present in Kelly’s A Map Towards Fluency. I’m equally pleased that Arachne Press has committed to publishing BSL translation videos of the book on its website, and look forward to seeing more.

Other compositions like Bones Under Their Feet, by Josephine Dickson, tingles my spine with their haunting, esoteric flow:

            “Again, again the swing of light. Everything grows                                                          upwards. Blown by the wind/ in the dark what can I do                                                          to find your shores?/“

Not all the contributions are inspired by the pandemic, but the restrictions become a timely reminder of the aggravated isolation that deaf and hard-of-hearing people face. This can be evidenced in Julie Boden’s Fish and a Blue-Arsed Fly:

“Before this illness grew within                                                                                                I used to travel everywhere.                                                                                                            Now, fish – without gill, tail or fin                                                                                           I’m lost in water; lost in air.”

Movement, of course, can also mean sign language in motion, or the dance of an audiogram. As a cochlear implant user I could relate to MAPping a New Landscape, DL Williams’ witty retelling of their adjustment to new sounds with a new processor.

“Here be monsters,” Williams laments. “Beware the cackling/crackling crisp packets/seeking the last crisp./Forfend the blaring, waffling,/singing, chattering TV adverts.” The ones that are abated by Ayling-Ellis’ signing in Strictly Come Dancing, I hope?

As well as wit, humour and poignancy, there is charm. Charlie Swinbourne’s DeLorean is an adorable imagining of “a real, blue-eyed living boy who couldn’t say his s’s” in the iconic car of the Back to The Future film franchise that “reverses/Past twelve thousand eye rolls and smirks…To now/Where I explain again that I just misheard.”

Meanwhile, Colly Metcalfe’s Coffee Shop transported me back to the everyday palpitations of ordering a cappuccino while baristas “perform their arm choreography” in a scenario surely familiar to deaf consumers in metropolises everywhere. Would you not feel the anxiety rise of needing the only barista face in the shop that you could read?

“Words paused on tip-of-tongue ready. Pink lips looks up, eye                              contact, smiles                                                                                                                          I breathe in, and…                                                                                                      SHE LEAVES!”

This is a world that sidelines its deaf and disabled citizens too quickly in a pandemic. (A prime example, of course, being the Prime Minister’s own flagrant breach of formal court judgement: his briefing on the new COVID-19 variant omitted BSL interpretation altogether.) In such circumstances each new triumph becomes more potent. As a Deaf writer, What Meets The Eye? was a book I badly needed to see.

What Meets The Eye? The Deaf Perspective is out now published by Arachne Press. The publisher is seeking contributions to help fund more BSL translation videos of the anthology. Go to the website for more details.

‘Mainly Smuts’ in the Carcanet newsletter spreading some spores

In this newsletter…PN Review 260Gladstone’s Residency ShortlistPolari Prize ShortlistJason Allen-Paisant InterviewBook LaunchesCaribbean Reading Room

Red Data List of Threatened British Fungi: Mainly Smuts

Smut, lie down with me in annual meadow grass that tickles
our pelts. Smut, be barley covered and reeking of beer,
a bearberry redleaf prim on each pinkish part. Smut, with your bedstraw hair,
bestow no interloper a bird’s eye view. My promise, a primrose
with its fairy caretaker that no bog asphodel, no bone-breaker
will I brook, smut. As a chick weeds out a worm, I will weed out
all burrowing doubts, all jealousies, all winter green looks
on our love, smut, which would shrivel us, smut. Smut, be not false.
This oat-grass ring, I twine about your finger, smut.
Think of me when a foxtail, smut, lifts to expose a gland,
stinking of March violets, to deceive you, smut.
They’d have you frogbit, smut, back in the pond where you
were spawned, mounted and belly grasped. Glaucus sedge creeps
in damp ditches, smut. Weep for such green hell bore away
with earth’s daughter, smut. Loose your hair. See how sedge flowers in spikelets,
smut, and love always pricks. Lie down with me in meadow grass that tickles
our pelts. Revel in mudwort, smut. I could call you close to Limosella, smut,
cloaked in tiny white stars, a northern bilberry redleaf prim on each pinkish part.
Passion marks us, smut, with a purple small-reed stripe, smut.
My rare spring sedge, smut, tender as fresh shoots.
My reed canary-grass, smut, sensitive to noxious airs. Saxifrage smut,
I cannot help but repeat saxifrage smut, the brassy instrument of you played.
Sing of prickly yuletide, sea holly smut. They are small spored
with their white beaks, sedge smut, poking and prodding and stinking, smut.
They are not sweet – they confuse carnal with vernal, smut.
Damn the white beak-sedge, smut, worn by quacks as if we were plague, smut,
with their aromatic herbs, smut. What rare pathogens we are, smut.
What gall smut, to detest our dark teliospores. Yellow toadflax
on them all, the cowards that croak. Yellow toadflax on them all, smut.

By Lisa Kelly in PN Review 260.

PN Review 260
Edited by Michael Schmidt & John McAuliffe 

The July-August 2021 issue

Major account by Poet of Europe Sinead Morrissey of her experiences in Gdansk, with reflections on the Belfast troubles among which she grew up

Sujata Bhatt breaks a long poetic silence with a suite of new poems

Rory Waterman and Poetry London editor Andre Naffis-Sahely converse, and sparks fly

Caitlion Stobie’s amazing tribute to Tony Harrison’s V, a new poem entitled W, bridges the gap between his politics and ours

New to PN Review this issue: Padraig Regan, Jordi Sarsanedas, and Kare Caoimhe Arthur

and more…
 Read a section of the Editorial from PNR 260 below, and the rest here.On 14 June 1986 – just over a quarter of a century ago – the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges died in Geneva. He is a figure who has haunted PN Review since it took its first steps as Poetry Nation I. He remains with us, his poems and fictions reviving their more than enigmatic ironies.A sonnet from 1964 entitled ‘Un Poeta del Siglo XIII’ (‘A Poet of the Thirteenth Century’) sees the poet looking through the crumpled drafts of his poem. It is about to become the very first, as yet unrecognised, sonnet. In his drafts Borges’ poet has mixed quatrains and tercets, not yet quite regular. He labours on a further draft, then hesitates:‘Acaso le ha llegado
del porvenir y de su horror sagrado

un rumor de remotos ruiseñores.’Perhaps he has sensed, says the poem, radiating from the future, ‘a rumour of far-off nightingales’. Of things to come, a suggestion of a new form and maybe (a step beyond it) of impending clichés.Read PN Review onlineRebecca Watts
Gladstone’s Residency Shortlist

Congratulations to Rebecca Watts, who has been shortlisted for the prestigious Gladstone’s Library Residency next year, with her second collection, Red Gloves!

The award is now in its eleventh year. Final judging will take place on 4th October, and winning authors will be offered a residency extending up to a month at Gladstone’s Library. To see the full shortlist and learn more, visit the library’s website here.
 Learn moreCaroline Bird
Polari Prize Shortlist

Congratulations to Caroline Bird, who has been shortlisted for the Polari Prize, with her wonderful collection, The Air Year!

The Polari Prize was established in 2019 and awards an overall Book of the Year. It is open to writers at any stage of their career (except debuts). The 2019 prize was won by Andrew McMillan (Playtime) and the 2020 prize was won by Kate Davies (In At The Deep End) The Polari Prize is sponsored by D H H Literary Agency, with the winner receiving a cheque for £2,000.

The shortlist will be announced at an event in Heaven on July 28th with special guests Kate Davies, Keith Jarrett, Paul Mende, Golnoosh Nour. Tickets can be booked here.Learn moreJason Allen-Paisant
Interviewed in Spelt Magazine

Jason Allen-Paisant, whose debut collection, Thinking with Trees, was published in June, was recently interviewed by Spelt Magazine, and you can now enjoy the full interview on their website for free!

‘I go into Roundhay park a lot, just because of where I live. I live on the edge of the park. I go into the park and I go into the woods. My favourite part is the woodland sections. Because they remind me of woodlands that I knew growing up. I go into the woods, the woodland because they’re quieter. I’m not hearing engines of cars. It’s a different kind of sound. You hear trees swaying, you hear rippling, the rippling of water, you hear streams, you hear twigs falling, those sounds are nature sounds, birds. That sense of connection is important with the world, you know, with the natural world. It’s a way out of the humdrum of the everyday as well, which can be so stressful. And it can be aggressive as well.’ – Jason Allen-PaisantRead the full interviewUpcoming Book Launches
Register Now!

Thank you for supporting our recent launches – we really enjoyed celebrating Gregory Woods’ Records of an Incitement to Silence on Wednesday.

Do join us for our next launch on August 11th, when we’ll be launching Parwana Fayyaz’s Forty Names with Professor Adrian Poole

And this week we’re delighted to announce another launch, planned for September 1stLorna Goodison’s Mother Muse with Lee M. Jenkins.Go to our events pageCaribbean Poetry Sampler
Exact Editions Reading Room

For the next few weeks you can read three of our Caribbean poetry editions for free on Exact Editions! The books are:

Oracabessa by Lorna Goodison
Skin Can Hold by Vahni Capildeo
New Caribbean Poetry: An Anthology edited by Kei Miller

You can access our full Caribbean backlist here.Go to the Reading Roomand finally… listen to Mimi Khalvati on A Mouthful of Air podcastListen to Mimi Khalvati read the poem ‘Eggs’, from her collection Afterwardness, and discuss the poem with Mark McGuinness, on the podcast A Mouthful of Air.Listen to the podcast
ShareTweetForwardShare mailing address is:
Carcanet Press, 4th Floor, Alliance House, Manchester, M2 7AQ

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can upate your preferences or unsubscribe from this list