Media Releases

December 1996

WINGED WORDS

My hands are canaries,
pairs of wings fluttering
from one branch of language
to another, together
in portable cages of space. . .

Deaf Life Press has just published its third book, St. Michael’s Fall, a collection of autobiographical story-poems by Raymond Luczak. They’re about growing up oral-deaf, mainstreamed, and Catholic in small-town Michigan during the ’70s.

Intensely personal yet universal in appeal, Luczak’s poems depict a variety of experiences. There’s the sweaty, heart-racing guilt he feels going into a five-and-dime store to buy candy after dutifully pledging to give up sweets during Lent ("wondering if the Hulstrom’s salesclerk/was Catholic, and whether she’d tattle/on me?"). The agony of trying to catch the correct word in the parochial-school spelling bee. The way his classmates taunt him about his bulky body-pack hearing aids in a white harness—they call it a "bra." The comical frustration that erupts when he tries to practice "listening skills" on the telephone with his father. How he meets "Ironwood’s only deaf man, Gramps," a dishwasher at the local Holiday Inn who teaches him the beginning of sign language. His feelings about his grandmother’s stroke, growing up and away from Ironwood, and the demolition of St. Michael’s, the pink-bricked church where his parents attended Mass and were married, where he and his eight siblings were baptized, and where he had spent the Sundays of his childhood. Some poems are elegiac; some humorous. All are evocative. "The Crucifixion" is a powerful political allegory that connects the Deaf community and the often excruciating communicative schism between oralism and signing: "Clerc fell at last, his face now ruptured by the sharp/edges of hearing aids. I broke out of/the crowd and slid the cross off his back./Clerc’s eyes spoke with tender thanks/as King Bell stared at my hearing aid harness."

A graduate of Gallaudet University, Luczak is a playwright, essayist, and author. His script Snooty won first place in the New York Deaf Theatre’s Sam Edwards Deaf Playwrights Competition. He edited the anthology Eyes of Desire: A Deaf Gay & Lesbian Reader (Alyson, 1993), which won two Lambda Literary Award nominations from the American Booksellers Association. His stories and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Men on Men 4 (NAL/Dutton). He lives in Manhattan.

Single copies are available for $12.95 plus $2.00 postage and handling. New York State orders: Please add 8% sales tax. For more information: Deaf Life Press, c/o MSM Productions, Ltd., 1095 Meigs Street, Rochester NY 14620-2405. Fax: 716-442-6371; TTY: 716-442-6370.

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