STUART SANDERSON: POEMS TO SONGS
Over thirty years ago Stuart Sanderson wrote a poem called "If My Hands Could" describing in his imagination what it would be like to be able to sing as he performed on guitar for an audience. In the intervening years, Sanderson has made quiet accomplishments in poetry. In 1997, he was one of the original participants in the Inglis House Poetry Workshop for writers with multiple physical disabilities and was a judge in the annual Inglis House Poetry Contest for writers with disabilities. In 2007 he became one of the founding members and editors of Wordgathering. One of his poems, "A Mixed Blessing" became the subject of a sort film by Philadelphia filmmaker Chris Ambolino. But it was not until fall of this year Sanderson actually got the chance to hear his poems become music.
Teaming up with musician Stephen Cozzolino who works in therapeutic education at Inglis House, a plan was devised to put some of Sanderson's large cache of poems into music. Sanderson chose ten poems. He made the decisions on the music including the style of music, the speed, the mood and the instruments to be used while Cozzolino provided the musical expertise, guidance in what might work well, and, of course, the hands and voice for actualizing the music. When completed, the work was recorded on SoundCloud.
Below is Sanderson's own brief self-description together with three of his songs, both the text and the audio.
My name is Stuart Johnston Sanderson; I am 63 years old and disabled. Due to one physician’s negligence and a prolonged deprivation of oxygen at birth I have lived with severe athetoid quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy my entire life.
It would, of course, be easy for me to blame my misfortune on that doctor – and the hospital – who’d urged my parents to institutionalize me as an infant advising them that I wouldn’t survive my first year. Thankfully, I had remarkable parents who disregarded that advice and instead fought tirelessly to provide me with every developmental advantage they could. I feel strongly that had I only focused on "blame" and "victimhood" and not pursuing personal enrichment, I would have been bitter for life. As it is, however, I have enjoyed my life and the many rewarding experiences I’ve shared with friends and family along the way.
A love of reading came early and opened an entirely new world for me. When I was five years old, my parents hired a retired reading teacher to work with me. Her name was Mrs. Jennings and although she had never taught a disabled child before, within three months I was reading!!! I devoured every book and magazine that was placed in front of me and books literally flew off the table when I attempted to turn the pages.
As I grew older, I spent most summers away at camp, and it was there one year that a fellow camper offered me an opportunity to use his helmet to try typing with. By the end of that camp session, the counselors had made me my own "typing hat" (a Phillies baseball cap with a pencil affixed to the brim) that allowed me to use the keyboard of a Smith-Corona electric typewriter. I was in my early twenties then and the words are still coming out.
It is a pure joy when I write and can put my feelings down on paper to share with others; somebody sets me up on the computer and off I go. I try to keep busy and in the last few years I have been writing songs lyrics by adapting the words from my earlier poems. The recreation staff has helped me to score and record this music with the hope of completing a CD in next few months.
A DISTANT MEMORY
Laughing and exciting voices delighting
A leaf fall to the ground,
Autumn is saying good bye,
Change is a reality in one's life.
The leaf knows its faith,
I have given you clean water to drink, but you are polluting. I have given you clean air to breathe, yet you are polluting too. I have give you hands to build great things and write beautiful poems and plays, but instead you make weapons that kills people and hatred words that harms the soul for the rest of mankind.
My question to you is, why are you doing to me? Do I have to create another ice age to start over? I hope not. As I keep spinning though outer space, I hope my inhabitants would realize what they are doing to me and to them as well. This is the only place where human's life exist, I want to survive for thousand of years to come. Giving life to every body and every thing.
More of Stuart Sanderson's songs can be heard on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/stuart-sanderson-464095944.