Mel Finefrock’s fortitude bears many faces. There is strength she has shown with reluctant, would-be employers. Energy to help others. And determination to overcome a traumatic fall from a train platform, resulting in a leg break and emotional scarring.
Those are accolades of an accomplished individual. But not just anyone. Mel Finefrock walks in a world that many might consider darkness. A place where, paradoxically, she brings light. For Mel is blind, the result of a congenital defect that eventually led to a near-total loss of sight. She is also an advocate. She writes for national outlets like Huffington Post. She is a volunteer and a survivor.
Yet that serves only as a preface.
I find Mel in downtown Plano coffeehouse Fourteen Eighteen. I am a tad flustered, marginally late. She is unflinching, genial as we first greet each other. We settle into conversation and I learn she is friends with the coffeehouse owner. We discuss Mel’s reliance on the area’s paratransit service and her struggle to secure work.
It quickly grows clear Mel doesn’t court sympathy; she is here to discuss her first love. She has another face, it is her artistry into which she pours her soul. She is an evocative poet; with the recent publication of Patchwork Poetry, some of her most recent work, she is bearing that soul for the first time.
A lifelong love of literature brought her here. At the University of North Texas in Denton while studying for an English degree, she honed that literary voice.
Now living in Plano, she describes how she feels—in the process, permitting us to walk in her shoes. In “While at the Park” in Patchwork Poetry, we hear about Plano’s Hoblitzelle Park. In “Bramblitt,” we learn about her friend, blind painter and fellow North Texan John Bramblitt, who also produced the book’s cover art.
“Mostly I write lyrically, in the sense that it’s how I feel,” is how she describes her inspiration. “But I’m also telling a story so I’ll be setting a scene. A lot of imagery because I’m a very visual person in spite of being blind.” Mel retains some color and light perception.
She has attracted significant endorsement. The New York Times best-selling author Melissa Foster, whose work Mel has edited, described her thus: “Mel Finefrock sees more than most sighted people, and her impressive world is conveyed in her inspiring, thoughtful and entrancing poetry.”
How insightful this praise would prove to be during our meeting. As I escort her earlier to collect our drinks, I place her on my left side and guide her headlong into a supporting, solid wooden beam. Thump. My own peripheral vision has failed. But Mel, fresh from an unguarded head bump, brushes off the collision, shooing away my crimson apologies. Evoking memories of her train platform fall, she says she should have remembered the post from her previous visit. “I was still in a wheelchair from the fall and had to maneuver my way around it.”
Life might be described as a maneuver and in Mel’s case even more deliberate than for most. It took her a while to decide to have her poetry published and she has a simple focus: “If a few people read it then that’s who’s meant to read it.”Mel Finefrock Poetry on Facebook > Patchwork Poetry on Amazon