AUTHOR: Raymond Luczak
PUBLISHER: A Midsummer Night’s Press
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RATING: 4½ out of 5 stars
Silence is always a powerful statement, but even more so in the hands of Raymond Luczak, who demonstrates in his third collection what it’s like to navigate between the warring languages of confusion and clarity.
As a deaf gay man in the hearing world, he lends an unforgettable voice to his reality of ache and loss beyond the inadequate translation of sound.
“Mute” is a collection of 29 poems which convey the poet’s own experience of being a deaf gay man. Many of the poems deal with specific lovers the poet has known and lost, but the poems I enjoyed the most were those that gave me insight into living a life of perpetual silence. As a hearing individual, I was fascinated to catch a glimpse of what it is like to speak only through hand signals and body language, and to catch none of the inflection or innuendos conveyed in traditional speech.
My favorite poem in the collection was the first one, “How to Fall for a Deaf Man.” As the title suggests, the poem instructs the reader how to approach a deaf man for the first time, what to do (or not do) to attract his attention, and how to enter into a relationship with him when his deafness may seem daunting. The poem is very realistic, and leaves the reader a little more comfortable with the idea of speaking to someone who is deaf because it calls out prejudices and practices a hearing person may not realize are inherent in his thoughts:
“Do not ask him the sign for F**K.
He is tired of showing how. He wants
sincere attempts to talk.
Do not ask him to tutor you for free.
He is not a teacher. He’s tired of teaching.
Try not to be bothered by his wary eyes.
You are just another one who says
he wants to learn, but never gets around to it.
Do not be startled by how
much eye contact he requires.
Do not be afraid of his face.”
While this is obviously a very personal poem, stemming from years of frustration over what the poet has come to expect from first meetings, most of the other poems in the collection are even more intimate. They deal with relationships the poet has been in, loves lost over time, or regrets and mournings for lovers no longer around. The poem, “Night Stroll in Washington, DC” showcases this intimacy, giving us a momentary glimpse into the lives of former lovers who meet after their relationship has cooled:
“I moved away with not a good-bye.
But this city keeps calling me back.
I no longer see your beaten face,
or the man whose body I stared at.
You’ve become a dull ache in my bones.
Years now pass like nights.”
Some of the poems are simply love poems, written as if for a current lover. Mr. Luzcak’s way with words is magical, weaving together images that bring the poetry alive to the reader. One example is in “The Loom,” which describes a tender scene of lovemaking:
“Your thick legs, warm,
braid in and out of mine
as our hands treadle words. Our bed
is a loom, our bodies the warp and woof”
I greatly enjoyed reading Mute. The poems were evocative and thought-provoking, and left me with a greater empathy for those who are deaf. I loved the way Mr. Luzcak took everyday moments of his life that would be extraordinary to the hearing reader ~ for example sign language, which has become such an integral part of who he is ~ and made those elements commonplace and natural through the flow of his words. After reading this, I am not only interested in uncovering the poet’s other collections, but also want to explore his other writing as well. These poems took me for a walk in his shoes, and I believe I’m a better person after the journey.