Meet a man whose positive attitude turned him into a poet.
- Posted on Apr 14, 2011
Stephen Guy never set out to be a fundraiser. Or an inspiration. Definitely not a poet.
It all began when Stephen’s friend, Mary Ellen, gave him a journal after he bought Eastlight Farm, a 33-acre property on tranquil Orcas Island, one of Washington State’s San Juan Islands.
“When your heart speaks, take good notes,” read the inscription. Inspired by those words, his friend’s kindness and the beauty of his farm, Stephen wrote in the notebook from 1997 until 2009. During that time, Stephen contracted multiple sclerosis, which ravaged his body so much so that he was confined to a wheelchair and lost his ability to write with a pen.
One day, he and a friend were flipping through his journal, reading the entries. She so enjoyed his writing that she begged him to type out certain passages and email them to her. But typing was a laborious letter-by-letter, hunt-and-peck exercise so Stephen started shortening his entries into stanzas. And by transforming his journal entries in this way, he discovered that he loved writing poetry.
Soon he had an entire book of poems, which he called Heartspeak. To launch the book, a reading was set up at the island’s bookstore, Darvill’s, with proceeds from sale of the books donated to the local school.
When the reading date arrived, however, MS had reared its head and Stephen was unable to leave home.
“I have good days and MS days,” he explains. “On MS days, my spirit is fine, but my body is not.”
In preparation for just such an eventuality, Stephen had asked a handful of islanders—a student, a teacher, a realtor, a lawyer, a healer, and a handyman—to read for him.
“I think it actually came off better because I wasn’t there,” says Stephen.
Heartspeak sales raised thousands of dollars, and Stephen had found a new calling.
“A poet mines everyday experience for the gems, then cuts the gems to reflect new light,” he says. “Everybody can do the first part, even if you never put pen to paper. Having MS, being in this chair, being homebound, it’s very important for me to mine my everyday experience, to ask, ‘What is the beauty of this day? Of this experience?’ And we all can do that: live the poetry of your own life every day.”
Read a selection of Stephen Guy's poems!
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