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Waltzing with Braille

January 7, 2021

1809–A Wonderful Year

                In 1809, at least three remarkable individuals were born–Louis Braille on January 4, Edgar Allan Poe on January 19, and Abraham Lincoln on February 12.  While I was extremely pleased to visit the historical homes and burial site of President Abraham Lincoln and enjoyed teaching Edgar Allan Poe and his writings, I keep in touch with Louis Braille–the inventor of the system of raised dots for tactile reading and writing–every day.  Thus, for this first WORDWALK blog post of the new year of 2021, I have for you a piece focusing on Louis Braille.  After a multitude of accomplishments in his relatively short life of only forty-three years and two days, Louis Braille passed away on Epiphany, January 6, 1852.

                To learn much more about the life of the amazing Louis Braille, I highly recommend that you read the extremely well-researched book LOUIS BRAILLE:  A TOUCH OF GENIUS, by C. Michael Mellor, copyright 2007.  To pay a small tribute to Louis Braille, I share with you the following new poem.

* * *

Waltzing with Braille

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Unlike a ballerina,

I am not tiptoeing over the braille dots:

I use the pads of my fingers, not the tips.

Although I first did hesitant, measured movement over the braille dots,

I am now waltzing over the delightful dots.

Dot six, then dot one, followed by dots one, two, three.

In the middle cell are dots two and four–

but There’s more–dots one and four, then dots one and five.

Yes, within these magical dots,

invented by the fifteen-year-old Louis Braille,

I found myself by finding a new method

of reading and writing:

once again, letter, words, sentences, stories

came to me–not through my too tender eyes,

but through the heart in my hands.

Alas, I was no longer a wallflower at the Word Ball,

I was waltzing with braille

and cheering for the literacy

which braille promises on any dance card.

As I read


by C. Michael Mellor,

I want to hear the wheels of the stagecoach

in which Louis’ father took the young boy

from their home in Coupvray

to Paris, France, for his education.

while I read these words of dots,

I want to hear the music

that Louis played on the piano in the parlor

or played on the pipe organ at Notre Dame de Chartres.

Before I close this braille volume,

I will remember and give thanks

to the hands and mind,

the strong and determined heart

that invented these precious raised dots

so that children and adults who are blind

may read and write,

read and write in the remarkable code

of Louis Braille’s raised dots.

On this anniversary of his birth–

January 4, 1809–

let us raise a glass of great gratitude

to the gift of Louis Braille.


* * *

NOTE:  The series of dots in this poem spell the word “Alice.”  For more information about the braille alphabet, please return to WORDWALK next week as the celebration of Braille Literacy Month continues.

God bless America, and New Year’s blessings to all of my WORDWALK readers!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

January 7, 2021, Thursday


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  1. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–Thank you for this tribute to Louis Braille. I’ve always been interested in the fact that he invented a braille musical notation system as well as the traditional braille. I’ll be sure to read the book mentioned, and I look forward to next week’s blog and more information during Braille Literacy Month.–Sue

    • Hi, Sue–Many thanks for your comment!  In the book, you will read that even when Louis Braille’s raised-dot code was banned at the school in Paris–despite its success–Braille’s music braille code was never banned.  Additionally, Louis Braille developed a math code in what we call “braille.”  Braille was an accomplished cellist, organist, and pianist, as well as a teacher of music and various other subjects.  The print book has numerous pictures which are described very well in both the audio and braille editions of the Mellor book.

      Enjoy our relatively warm January!

      Take care–Alice and Willow

  2. Dear Alice,
    The words of your poem are as graceful and as lovely as a ballerina’s movements! Reading about Louis Braille reminded me of our trip to Paris in 2001. At your request, Ric and I visited the National Institute for Blind Children in Paris, which was founded in 1785 and was the world’s first special school for blind students as well as a model for future schools for the blind. Louis Braille attended the school in 1819 and later taught there. The people at the school were very friendly and gave us brochures and other information to share with you. What a memorable experience for us!
    Love to you and Willow,

    • Mary–Thanks for adding this note.  Yes, I recall your trip to Paris very well.  Louis Braille’s father first took his young son to the school in Paris via stagecoach, in 1819, in February; however, Louis Braille spent most of the remainder of his life there–first as a student and then as one of the first three teachers who were blind.  Although Braille had taken time off from teaching due to his deteriorating health (tuberculosis), technically, at the time of his passing, he was still employed as a teacher at the school for blind children in Paris.

      Take care, and happy January!

      Alice and Willow

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