Finding Beauty in the Spoken Word My love for words came about in part because I could not say them well. I developed a severe stutter at age 6, about the time I began to write poems. I found that I could be fluent when reciting poetry. Over the years I experienced unconventional “cures” for stuttering. ... First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   May 01, 2009
Finding Beauty in the Spoken Word
Author Notes
  • Bruce Noll, is a professor at the University of New Mexico, where he teaches courses in leadership and organizational learning. He has also taught courses in poetry, speech, mass media and entomology. Contact him at banoll@unm.edu.
    Bruce Noll, is a professor at the University of New Mexico, where he teaches courses in leadership and organizational learning. He has also taught courses in poetry, speech, mass media and entomology. Contact him at banoll@unm.edu.×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Fluency Disorders / Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   May 01, 2009
Finding Beauty in the Spoken Word
The ASHA Leader, May 2009, Vol. 14, 35. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.14062009.35
The ASHA Leader, May 2009, Vol. 14, 35. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.14062009.35
My love for words came about in part because I could not say them well. I developed a severe stutter at age 6, about the time I began to write poems. I found that I could be fluent when reciting poetry.
Over the years I experienced unconventional “cures” for stuttering. My sense of humor remained intact and at one point I wrote my epitaph, which read: Bruce Noll, Stutterer: I realized everything I said was worthy of repetition.
Although I was functional professionally, in my early 30s I sought expert help. The University of Pittsburgh program changed my thinking and self-perception. I began to see myself as a fluent person who did not need to stutter. A breakthrough came when I realized I had a definite “choice” to have control over my speech mechanisms. Later that year, in 1975, I took a position at the University of South Dakota and resumed treatment, which continued the path established in Pittsburgh.
In my mid-20s I became intoxicated with Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and decided to share this love by memorizing about 90 minutes of the work and creating a program, “Pure Grass,” which continues today in its 39th year. The program has taken me to 26 states, China, Korea and Iceland.
My own poems have appeared in a variety of journals and magazines. The poem at right describes those old days when expectation of embarrassment and certain consonants haunted me.
I was a master of avoidance. I laugh at the last word of the poem…what a challenge a sound like that once was!
When Words Won’t Come
Don’t come to me with complaint
of words that are hard to say.
I’ve had more than my share of
humiliation, of eating crow
when I wanted shrimp linguini.
I know about not being able
to spit out thoughts,
to make myself clear
or be quick witted enough.
You think you get choked
on phrases or find yourself
at a loss for words?
I know the true meaning of
dumb in dumbfounded.
There have been times
I could not bring myself to
utter a little, “I’m sorry,”
let alone to ask how to get
to Poughkeepsie.
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May 2009
Volume 14, Issue 6