ANTHONY CAPOTE & MEGHAN SACKMAN
Watching John Evans work may be the most cathartic and equally enthralling experience of one’s life. He sits with his laptop balanced on out-stretched legs. With headphones in his ears, Evans feels his way along the Braille-etched letters of his keyboard.
John’s head swirls about, facing various objects in the room. Evans, of course, cannot see the words he is typing or even the objects he faces. And yet somehow, one gets the sense that even before speaking a word to him or making him aware of one’s presence, he knows you are there.
The sophomore at Manhattan College is known by many on campus as the kind, sweet-hearted blind student that seems to always have enough good spirits to spread around. However, John Evans is much more than that. He is a musician, short story writer and poet.
As a poet, Evans is set to release his new collection, “The Late Emperor of the Sky,” within the next few weeks. This is the third literary work he has released and the second book of poems.
“My writing is very visual, because I still think and dream in sight,” Evans said about how his blindness has affected his poetry.
While it may seem easy to compare Evans to other famous blind poets of history, he feels he has a different style. “Homer and, of course, Milton are characterized by their blindness as using a lot of sounds in their poetry, where I feel I overcompensate with the images in my poetry,” Evans said
Evans is certainly not wrong. The imagery in his poems, namely “Afghanistan” where Evans
offers intense images of war and carnage, creates a vivid portrait of his subjects.
“I would consider myself more of a painter of images than a poet,” Evans said.
The wide spectrum of topics that his poetry covers ranges from lost love and death to the question of divine existence. When asked to describe his own poetry, Evans recalled his verses as, “flashes of utter excitement and beauty,” which is a perfect description of his writing.
“The Late Emperor of the Sky” captivates readers and forces them to feel as Evans feels the writing process. Evans sight loss at the age of six is far from a defining characteristic of his personality or his status as an artist.
“I conjure images not with my eyes but with my heart, with my soul,” Evans said regarding the intense images in his poems.
Evans’ ambition and perseverance are enough to inspire anyone. One of Evans’ editors, Samantha Moe shared how Evans speaks at schools to motivate people who are also discovering the challenges of blindness.
“He has a perseverance that I could only achieve through drinking large amounts of coffee; conversation fuels him,” Moe said.
The now musician, prose writer, poet and painter, John Evans has succeeded in impressing us even further.
Evans has a system for how he edits his works. First he writes a few pieces and decides to send them to his first editor, Moe.
“[Moe] will help trim down the text, get rid of unnecessary lines, fix some grammatical errors and give me literature that would feed my creative inspiration,” Evans said of his primary editor.
“It is at this point that I know I am writing a book and that I cannot stop mid-sentence in a poem, that I have to keep going.”
Evans then sends his work to a second editor in Boston who illustrates and publishes the collection.
Originally, the Writing Center located in Miguel Hall was going to sell “The Late Emperor of the Sky” for $10 per copy in their office. Unfortunately, however, the office of the provost has denied the Writing Center the ability to sell copies as a result of their “not-for-profit status” on campus.
“I loved the idea, we’re the Writing Center and we want to promote student work,” said Sujey Batista, the coordinator of the Writing Center.
Fortunately for Evans, this is not the first obstacle he has ever encountered and he is determined to find a solution. Evans and the school are currently in negotiations on this matter.
Evans’ ambitious plans include an effort to get his work traditionally published in the near future.