The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Picture of Stephen Kuusisto

Stephen Kuusisto

Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty, 2018

Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”) and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light, and Letters to Borges.

His newest memoir, Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey with an Exceptional Labrador will be published in March, 2018 by Simon & Schuster. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, and The Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a professorship in the Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is:

Selected Media

"Summer at North Farm." Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry Foundation (2000).

Finnish rural life, ca. 1910

Fires, always fires after midnight,
the sun depending in the purple birches

and gleaming like a copper kettle.
By the solstice they’d burned everything,

the bad-luck sleigh, a twisted rocker,
things “possessed” and not-quite-right.

"Praxis: Deliberate Beauty." Stephen Kuusisto, Tupelo Quarterly (Oct 10, 2013).

I’ve a friend who’s autistic and can smell people’s words.

He knows a man whose lingo smells like feces. It’s a sad thing as my friend likes this man, but what’s a fellow to do? They can’t be in the same room.

I say I know but of course I don’t. My scat world is limited to analogy–Joe’s a shit head; my uncle is full of it, etc.

But shit packed in nouns and adverbs, of this I know nothing.

I think I should.

Why? Because its a hard life and art won’t help you live.

And words are occasionally lethal.

Language is a trick. God knows.

"Letters to Borges by Stephen Kuusisto." Barbara Berman, The Rumpus (Feb 21, 2014).

"Stephen Kuusisto writes beautiful, intelligent poems that engage and expand the senses. Like Stephen Dunn and other fine craftsmen, he is energetic without being explosive, and his language-swirls feel as if they spring from a passionate, well-tuned inner ear, from an earned confidence in where sound meets shape, and not from vanity."

"Random House: An Interview with Stephen Kuusisto.Random House.

"My vision is severely limited. When I walk down a street in New York City I don’t “see” so much as I “experience” the visual world. In a way, “seeing” is a proactive sensation — with good eyes one can scan what’s ahead or what’s coming and make a host of instantaneous decisions and classifications. Vision gives you the power to arrange experience and feel secure, even in a crowd. My version of vision is reactive: odd shapes large and small come flying at me and I can’t identify or classify them. At one point in the book I say something like “The world’s red insects fly at my face.” My place on the street is wildly receptive and imprecise. It can be beautiful or frightening. It’s analogous to an LSD trip, save that it’s permanent"

"How One Man Kept His Blindness a Secret for 30 Years." The Oprah Winfrey Show (Apr 2, 1998)

"When Stephen Kuusisto was a young boy, he was like other children his age: He played with toys, went to class and took trips to the beach. But all the while, no one knew he was almost completely blind. He lost his vision at birth, but his parents treated him as if he could see, and for decades—through high school, college and even travels in Europe—he maintained the illusion. Watch as Stephen, a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1998, shares how a sightless boy secretly made his way in a sighted world."