Sundress Reads: Review of Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion

Kelly Sargent’s Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion (Kelsay Books, 2022) is not what I expected, and I’m glad.

“Her Voice” The ten tiny fingers she must have clenched / that would one day be / her voice.

Skipping over the synopsis (I like surprises!) and relying on only the title to hint at the inside pages, I’d assumed this was likely abstract visual poetry; however, little did I know Sargent was about to take me on a beautiful 12-piece poetry journey with her and her dear departed, deaf twin sister. While I did not grow up with a deaf sibling or am deaf myself, now I’ve caught a glimpse of that silent, yet rich world through these two little girls’ bedroom windows.

The front cover of Sargent’s work, which depicts two red-haired women holding hands in a lavender field, is the perfect representation of the past, present, and future poems in Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion. The sisterly love, the playfulness, the dreamlike environment—all of these elements rolled into one photo is bursting with happiness, reminiscence, and a desire for those never-forgotten times that can be found in Sargent’s poems.

“My Voice” I am Deaf. / My fingers speak. / A coiffed paintbrush in my grasp, / my voice streaks turquoise and magenta.

It’s clear that Sargent was devoted to her sister despite the fact that some asked their parents to trade her in as if her sister was some cracked porcelain doll they’d dropped on their way out of the thrift store. It’s truly a shame that the small-minded treat those with differences like Sargent (who is hard of hearing) and her sister, as something to be mocked or ignored. As a hearing person, I must confess I’ve wondered whether I’ve been saying or doing the right things by those that are different from me, but I love that Sargent’s poetry has opened up another door to invite me to keep trying to understand that which is unfamiliar to me.

“The Quaking Aspen” I seek her still. / My mirror. / I seek it, still. / “Your turn to count,” I signed. “No peeking.” / Her ears closed. / I heard a crack that she did not.

What’s more is how tangible the author’s loneliness is without her mirror, and it only took reading her first poem, “Seeing Voices,” to grasp that: Sometimes / I slip away to my mirror in the bedroom / to see her nut-brown eyes gazing back at me. / I press my palm against the cool glass, / just to touch her hand again. These were the lines that hooked their tiny, little fingers into my soul and had me reading without pause. I wanted to see this quiet, bright light that had been taken from Sargent too soon. I wanted to share in those moments of their happiness and pain, and this reminded me that we’re all struggling in this life together. It’s poems like Sargent’s that remind us why reading is worth every minute, every hour, every lifetime.

“Fruits of Labor” We cover our mouths momentarily to stifle girlish giggles—/ We are, after all, hard at work. / blue-ber-ry / ba-nan-a / straw-ber-ry

Out of everything in Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion, it was the love and care that bled through the pages and into my heart more than anything that Sargent presented. Once or twice, I found myself tearing up as I was reminded of the special bond that my younger sister and I share. I can’t completely relate to Sargent’s situation, of course, but being silly? Playing hide-and-go-seek? Protecting one another? That I understand. These are the moments I cherish with my own sibling that Sargent encapsulates in her work.

“Rumors of Spring” You were named / as nature had promised. / And soon, / with rumors of spring made real, / You / bloomed.

As a poetry editor, I’ve read through hundreds and hundreds of poems, but I know that Kelly Sargent’s Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion will forever remain at the top of my list of favorite poetry collections. Thank you for sharing you and your sister with us, Ms. Sargent.

Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion is available at Kelsay Books

Eden Stiger is a Kentucky-bred, Ohio-living college undergraduate who recently received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the University of Findlay. She is the current poetry editor and layout editor for the literary magazine Slippery Elm. When the day job and fantasy novel aren’t fighting for her attention, she can be found snuggled on the couch with a book in her hand, playing The Sims at her computer desk, or spending time with her hubby and sweet kitty.

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