Voice: On Writing with Deafness

11 March 2019

Voice: On Writing with Deafness
by Adam Pottle
Review by Michelle Shaw
Published by University of Regina Press
ISBN 9780889775930 $18.95

Adam Pottle enjoys dynamiting stereotypes. He’s an award-winning, Saskatoon-based author whose work explores the dynamic and philosophical aspects of Deafness and disability.

Born with sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, Adam’s hearing was further compromised in his late twenties when the hearing in his right ear (up to then his ‘good’ ear) began to diminish.

His latest work Voice: On Writing with Deafness explores the relationship between his writing and his deafness.

I found the book intriguing. I’d never considered writing specifically from the perspective of deafness and, I admit that if had occurred to me I’d probably have fallen into stereotypical thinking. But Pottle has a unique way of perceiving the world. His approach to silence, for instance. “Although deafness and silence are related,” he says, “deafness is not necessarily synonymous with silence. It is not simply a condition of non-hearing; it can be a condition of hearing things differently.” He says his deafness has made him into a writer, and “writing has become my way of fully inhabiting the world.”

Pottle’s work has consistently challenged boundaries and one of his chief motivations as a writer, he says, is “to blast these subjects [of deafness and disability] open using new, refreshing language that allows us to talk candidly about them.”

His play Ultrasound opened on the main stage at Theatre Passe Muraille on May 2, 2016. It was unique in many ways. It featured two Deaf actors performing in a play written by a deaf playwright on a major stage and it was fully accessible. It included American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation at the box office, a projection artist and a surtitle operator (who projected captions onto a screen above the stage) and a “bevy of interpreters” to ensure smooth communication among the director and the actors. Pottle says staging the play “showed audiences the artistic and logistical possibilities. It showed…the potential of telling stories from a Deaf perspective. It showed …what a fully accessible play looked like and challenged theatres across the country to make their plays more accessible.”

Adam Pottle has an MA from the University of Northern BC and a PhD in English literature from the University of Saskatchewan. His works include the play Ultrasound, a volume of poetry (Beautiful Mutants), a novel (Mantis Dreams: The Journal of Dr. Dexter Ripley) and a novella, The Bus. His horror screenplay People of Merrit was selected for the Nightmares Film Festival (Columbus, OH) and the Indie Suspense Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival (Apopka, FL).


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