Walter Kadiki: Two Poems
For the second of our two-part series exploring the world of Deaf writers – the first being Phoebe Tay’s article on the subject – we’re inviting you to experience Auslan writing first hand.
These two previously unpublished pieces by poet Walter Kadiki tap into the frustrations of living in a mostly hearing culture, and reflect the challenges and prejudices that Deaf people often face.
Following the poems is a short introduction to Walter, his approach to writing and the things that move him to create the work he does.
Produced by the Wheeler Centre with the assistance of Fiona Tuomy – Mentor In Residence for Write-ability, a partnership between Arts Access Victoria and Writers Victoria. Thanks to Auslan interpreter Maxine Buxton, and to Jodee Mundy.
The first poem I'm going to share with you today is called 'Plod Along is What I Must'.
Though in the midst of this unfriendly throng high, my shoulders may below and cramped down. Painful sighs and groans may shriek silently. And though I may cower against those piteous gazes, plod along is what I must.
Though this ill wind may howl, may gnaw, snarl, taunt – though it may toss me around and around and around, with its fangs of malice sending incessant cold slithering shivers of pain through my spine, plod along is what I must.
Though my human rights may be bound, imprisoned, trampled down, confined in a dark, silent hollow, and a curse and a frown may be shackled upon my soul, and a warm shoulder non-existent; though in this black hole I may lament, plod along is what I must.
The second poem I'd like to share with you is called 'A Deaf Plague'.
Look over there at that Deaf man
Where? Over there!
That man staring blankly at the wall
Look how he stands
Mute and unresponsive.
Oh, how rude and brazen
throwing his hands in tantrums
yet pretending he heard my call
and yet stands mute
with shameless grin and …
Ha! He gestures for a paper and pen
Scribbles a meaningless word or two
See how unlettered, unintelligible and
shameless they come
Oh no – now look at that Deaf man
Look there! Over there! Look over there!
That Deaf woman
a pram in hand
Oh no, a poor baby
A poor little soul
Unfortunate, imprisoned in the clutches of a Deaf woman
A tender mother's love lacking
someone to sing that poor baby a lullaby
a melodious, motherly ode to sleep
filled with tales of princely quests
Someone to soothe those cries with a
Oh, poor child
Oh no – look at that Deaf woman
Over there, look over there at that Deaf couple
Oh no, a plague to society
incapable of human intelligence
a burden to those who bore them
see how they squeak incessantly
a thousand ugly faces in one
yet unresponsive to my voice still
Oh no, look at that Deaf couple
Look there, over there – look over there at
that Deaf horde
Oh no, an outbreak! Oh no: a cursed Deaf plague
What shall we do about this plague?
What shall we do, brothers in arms?
Oh no, look – look over there at that Deaf horde.
10 of thousand feet high, wide and strong
a quarantine let's build
Oh no, look at
that Deaf horde
A Deaf plague. Oh no.
(Interview, with Auslan interpreter Maxine Buxton)
Okay, so my name is Walter Kadiki, and I'm a poet writer. I've done that for a long time. Growing up, I guess one of the things that made me start is I really felt like I had a lot of things that I needed to express, and they sort of really boiled over onto the page, and that's what began my journey as a poet. And I think most of my poetry really actually isn't written as a Deaf person, so I probably don't really have a distinctive style in terms of writing –but definitely in terms of my hands, you know, that is the the medium I use to get my poetry out, and it's obviously very visual.
I signed two poems today – one of them is 'Plod Along is What I Must' and the other one is 'A Deaf Plague'. And I guess a lot of that is from the experiences I've had growing up every day. Some of the things that I've encountered and some of those have been quite hurtful, and that lead me to really putting those pieces together. And with 'Plod Along is What I Must', I think that the real theme is that regardless of what happens and how people might look at you or put you down, you know, you just have to … you just have to keep going and move on. So the second poem, 'A Deaf Plague,' is again come from my real life experiences growing up.
And I think for the first time when I meet somebody, they don't know what to do with me as a Deaf person. They often have a very negative view of deafness, and I guess what they fail to understand is that you know Deaf people are the same as hearing people. We have the same hopes and dreams, and the same emotions, and it's just something that has happened to me throughout my life and experiencing that sort of oppression and those sorts of negative attitudes, you know, I guess really inspired me to put this piece together. And I guess I do tend to write a little bit about grief and despair but I do have romantic works as well, and I do have, you know, happier works and I really hope that you enjoy the poems that I've shared for you today.