A few weeks ago we announced the launch of our new poetry competition for 2022, 'Getting around - invisible disabilities and me', to continue to raise awareness of non-visible disabilities.
Joining our panel of judges; Samuel Tongue, from the Scottish Poetry Library, and Lyndsey Rowe-Gidley, one of our Sunflower wearers campaigning to raise awareness of invisible disabilities, will be the award-winning poet, author, public speaker, singer, and advocate for the blind; Dave Steele, also known as the Blind Poet.
About the Blind Poet, Dave Steele
Dave was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in 2014, this genetic eye condition left Dave “severely sight impaired.” Together with his wife, Amy, the family grappled with the difficult diagnosis as RP quickly left Steele an unemployed father of four. Feeling the stressors of financial debt and the loss of his independence, Dave turned to social media for support.
Dave was struck by the numerous misconceptions and stories of injustice being experienced by so many blind and visually impaired people all over the world. When a member of a social media support group learned of Dave’s singing background, they invited him to perform at a meeting for those living with RP and Usher Syndrome.
The experience inspired Steele’s idea for his “Stand By Me RP” song. Using the classic song, by Ben E. King, Dave altered the lyrics to relate to how he felt losing his own sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa. In December 2014, Dave sought permission from the band Elbow, to alter the lyrics of their song “One Day Like This.” With the band’s blessing.
As his eyesight continued to decline, the words did not stop flowing. Dave began writing two to three poems per day about his struggles and experiences. Part creative genius, part therapy, Dave’s writing became a catalyst for helping others and himself through RP.
Steele’s first book, Stand By Me RP Volume I, was released in February 2016. That same day, he received the call that he had been matched with a guide dog. During its first week, Stand By Me RP Volume I, went on to become the number one poetic release in both America and Australia.
In March of 2016, Dave left his family for 10 days to be trained with his guide dog, Christopher, a yellow Labrador retriever. He released his second book, Stand By Me RP Volume II, in February 2017. It became the number one poetry release in Europe within its first day. In February 2018, Steele’s third book, Stand By Me RP Volume III was released, completing his trilogy.
Dave’s legion of followers greatly identifies with his poetic realism. With over 700 poems and songs dealing with the fears and struggles associated with sight loss, Steele’s work is helping to diminish many of the misconceptions associated with blindness. His mission through his poetic verse is “to help those who are being isolated by a condition that strips us of our independence, let them know that they aren’t alone, and help educate loved ones on how we feel.”
You can find out more about the life and work of the Blind Poet, Dave Steele here
A poem about invisible disabilities – Dave Steele
When asked why it was important to be involved in the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower poetry competition, Dave said: “I’m thrilled to be one of the judges for 'Getting around – Invisible Disabilities and me' and I’m looking forward to reading the entries. We need more awareness and education on invisible disabilities, the effects of these misconceptions can be so isolating as I’ve experienced first hand. My advice to all those creating poetry for this wonderful competition is to write from the heart and don’t be afraid to share your hopes and fears.”
More about the competition, including how to enter
This year, we'd like the poetry to focus on getting around - whether that is by foot, road, rail, sea or in the air!
Around the world coaches, trams, buses, rail networks, ferry operators and over 130 airports have joined the Sunflower so that those choosing to wear it can get around independently. Safe in the knowledge that they will be supported when they need to be. But getting around can also be challenging for someone with an invisible disability - barriers may include not being able to access journey information, crowded, noisy environments and insensitive questioning and judgmental looks when using accessible resources.
Our three judges, including Dave, will be looking for originality, authenticity and creativity in your work. The competition is free and open to all entries of original, previously unpublished work. There is also an under 16's category.
The winning poems will be published in a book which will also include a selection of some of the other entries.
There will also be three prizes in each category:
1st prize: £100 and five 'Getting around - Invisible disabilities and me' books
2nd prize: £50 and two 'Getting around - Invisible disabilities and me' books
3rd price: £25 and one 'Getting around - Invisible disabilities and me' book
The winners will be announced online on World Poetry Day - 21 March 2022. The winning entries will be published on our website and across our social media channels.
To find out more and submit your entry to the poetry competition please visit our webapge.
Best of luck!