Evans 4696

John Evans

Dobbs Ferry resident John Evans describes his vision as “life in shadow.” The 27-year-old lost his sight in 2001, when he was 5 years old. His blindness, however, has not stopped him from self-publishing eight books and hosting a podcast. 

His latest book is his sixth collection of poetry, titled “Still, I Taste the Dawn,” which was released last month. It his in poetry, Evans synthesizes themes from myth and Christianity and makes them relevant to everyday struggles.

In 2015, Evans learned that a brain tumor pressing on his optic nerve was responsible for his blindness. He underwent two surgeries to remove the tumor, and then went on to become Manhattan College’s 2017 valedictorian, racking up numerous academic honors along the way. In 2019, he earned a master’s degree in medieval studies from Fordham University. 

Through it all, Evan has written poetry. 

Stories of mythic quests, including King Arthur’s roundtable, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” and Dante’s “Divine Comedy” influence Evans’ work. He is also inspired by the story of St. John of the Cross, a 16th-century priest and poet who wrote “Dark Night of the Soul.”

“How does one wrestle with the interior life and find peace?” Evans said in an interview. “Poems can depict how one processes suffering — if we change our outlook on our journey, if it’s redemptive or nihilistic.”

Evans noted that during the pandemic lockdowns in 2020, “We had to learn new worlds — new means of escape. That may mean discovering the Hudson Valley and reading and channeling and discovering and appreciating the gifts we already possess.” 

Describing the current era as one of political and cultural upheaval, Evans laments that we’ve “devolved into didactic forms of speaking.” He hopes that his poems can disrupt this. 

“There’s a richness to dialogue and encounter that poetry and art can encompass,” he said. “The poem has a universal voice. Atheists can encounter my love of Christ in a poem and still be able to countenance it.” 

“Still, I Taste the Dawn” took about four and a half years to write. The original draft was about 400 pages. Working with his editor, Matthew Lewis of Brooklyn, Evans revised the manuscript. His uses a screen reader in Microsoft Word as well as the software JAWS that reads computer text aloud.

Two of the best-received poems in his latest collection, one about George Washington and one about King Arthur, resulted from editing poems he had written years earlier.

As social life has changed with pandemic precautions, Evans has not been able to present his poems publicly as he did in the past. Outgoing and talkative, with a sonorous, expressive voice, Evans said he is “very eager for potential book events and signings.”

Evans also has a podcast, where he hosts discussions on theology and mysticism. The podcast and his books are available on his website, bookandspade.com.

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