As far as I remember, I started stammering when I was six or so. It’s thought that it’s an inherited predisposition which can be ‘brought out’ by stress. My mother stammered in her teens, and her father had the problem also. And then I had several frightening stays in hospital in my early years – probably easily enough to bring out my stammering.
Through secondary school it grew gradually worse and reached its all time low when I was at university, where I wrote:
Looking through the grey-green bars
that are eyes
Gazing up to the free blue sky
to be free
Looking through the bars
and the cracks in the door
But freedom only lies
through the door
and the key lost amongst the long grass of years
Sometimes through the bars is seen
beauty and kindness
with hair blowing in the wind
calling through the silent bar
spasms shaking the thick door
But smiling passes
with hair blowing in the wind.
The fluency of anyone’s speech would break down if they were under sufficient stress. With the person who stammers it seems that the stress threshold is much lower than for other people. Stress comes and they put the punctuation in all the wrong places:
When I stammered much more than I do now,
it was because I put the punctuation
in all the wrong places …
after every couple of words
I made a dash,
and then shuddered to a full stop
as I ceased breathing,
shut my eyes, pulled a face,
became practically comma-tose,
and did everything most unlikely
to produce any speech –
no breathe, no talk!
Punctuate my life
that I may pause to breathe,
oxygenate me to colon depths;
make fluent sentences of my days,
let love be my continual parenthesis,
semi-colon me tender and sensitive,
power me to fly with joy along the line
to each exclamation mark!
And make what may seem my final full-stop
to be but a comma
in the paragraph of your purposes!
Over the years I tried about 25 therapies, eventually finding one a few years ago which really helped, and another since then which has helped me to take the improvement further. This has enabled me to do things I once could only have dreamed of – reading my poetry in all sorts of situations, including to several hundred people at a carol concert, to airwave audiences on the local Christian radio station; and managing to say ‘I will’ to my wife on our wedding day!
P-plagued from my early years
w-with not being able to get out my words
as easily as I w-w-would like to have done,
particularly if, like my surname,
they began with a short vowel,
and especially if I was talking to a g-g-girl,
like the one who, when I opened my eyes
after struggling to speak with grimaced face,
was no longer there!
But I’ve received great help in recent years,
duly continuing, and one day,
when the eyes of the blind are opened,
when the ears of the deaf are unstopped.
when the lame leap like a deer,
then the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear,
and you’ll need to
w-watch out for the chatterbox in the corner!
But it’s good that God doesn’t stammer, isn’t it?
I used to find it so difficult to get my words out -
they were clear in my mind,
but imprisoned inside me,
as my face contorted and my eyes shut,
and those who listened patiently
could only guess at what I was trying to say.
I’m so glad that God doesn’t stammer
but has spoken clearly to us –
to our forefathers through the prophets
at many times and in various ways;
and that in these last days
he has spoken to us by his Son:
his Word made flesh,
in whom his glory shines
and who represents him
I’m so glad that God doesn’t stammer
or I’d have never known
that for those with faith in Jesus
there’ll be a new earth
where the eyes of the blind will be opened,
the ears of the deaf unstopped,
where the lame will leap like a deer,
the mute tongue shout for joy,
and where the stammering tongue
will be fluent and clear!
The film The King’s Speech has brought stammering into the public eye.
The King’s Speech –
I really enjoyed the film –
especially the moment the therapist’s wife
came home and found the Queen
in her front room
and then the King in her back room!
How difficult for him to have to speak
to such huge numbers of people!
Probably I won’t end up living at Buckingham Palace,
but I have been adopted into the Royal Family,
and now my aim is to give,
as expressively and as fluently as I can,
wherever I have opportunity,
the King’s Speech.
Do contact me if you would like to – about stammering, and for details of the two therapies I have found particularly helpful. I’d be happy to talk , please contact the Church Office 0151 677 1186 and leave your telephone number or email and they will pass it on to me. I’m not ‘cured’, but I’m so much better than I was.
And so we end my stammering story told so far
in words of metaphor and rhyme,
and here, with you, I stand within the potter’s hands,
and pray that he may make from this rough clay
someone from whom his beauty more may shine,
til come the day when we shall see him face to face
and in that place completely be as he.
For those interested in finding out more, I can recommend