Profile of Emily Michael: Writing instructor and poet

Kaitlyn Bowers

Kaitlyn Bowers, Video Director

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To some people, lacking the ability to see seems like the end of the world, but for this UNF writing instructor, being blind is just a part of everyday life. 

Emily Michael has spent her entire life in Jacksonville. In fact, she’s even lived in the same house since she was a child. She is also a UNF alum, having done both undergraduate and graduate school at the university.

Michael has been interested in reading and writing since she was a child. Having been born blind, she wasn’t exactly inclined to play sports, so instead, she kept her nose in the books. 

“I was a nerd! I read, and I sang, so those were really blind-friendly activities,” Michael said about her interests growing up.

This interest in the arts is what led her to become the poet that she is today. She particularly likes to draw inspiration from nature. Her disability is present in some of her writings, but Michael likes to keep her poetry as relatable to everyone as possible. 

“If [the reader] looks at art and they see that everyone poem is a disability poem, then they might feel like they can’t relate to it,” Michael said. “They can, but they might feel like they can’t.”

Another frequent subject of her poems is her service dog, York, who has been with Michael for the past 5 years. The bond between Michael and York is almost palpable. When they first met, York was not a big fan of Michael but he quickly warmed up to her. 

“Even if he didn’t like me, I was going to put up with him because he’s such a smart dog,” Michael said about York. 

While Michael enjoys advocating for the disabled, she does feel some pressure when it comes to shaping the way society perceives blind people.  

“It can be a very overwhelming pressure. At times, I feel like an icon. And it’s not because I think I’m so great, but for most people, I’m the first blind person they’ve met,” Michael said. “It’s definitely a challenge to feel like you have to represent an entire group.”

However, Michael does not allow this pressure to stop her. So far, Michael has been published in several different poetry collections, such as Barriers and Belongings: Personal Narratives of Disability. In November, Michael will come out with her own book of poetry, which will be called Neotony.

Poetry may be a passion of Michael’s, but it is not her only love. Teaching others is where she finds her true happiness. 

“I want to be a teaching poet. I don’t want to just give readings and give book tours. I’d much rather do workshops,” Michael said.

The students seem to love Michael as much as she loves teaching them, although she has a suspicion that the students just love playing with York. When he’s not doing his job, of course. 

While Michael may not feel like an inspiration, she is still able to motivate and inspire many students on campus. Feel free to stop by her office one day to get some writing advice, and don’t forget to pick up a copy of Neotony in November!

Neotony can be found here.

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