Jonathan Jacesko at Vision Expo
Jonathan Jacesko really stood out at the annual International Vision Expo & Conference/New York, which ended its three-day run yesterday at the Javits Center.
Not an eyewear product supplier or buyer, Jacesko is instead a fourth-year optometry student at Pennsylvania College of Optometry ("PCO, we call it") in suburban Philadelphia. Yet there he was, standing at a table next to one of the escalators leading down to the optical equipment exhibition hall, giving away samples of his "optopoems" and selling copies of his new book Optopoetry—Poems & Drawings All About Vision.
The reverse side of his "To the Bubble Monster Living Inside My Gonioscopy Lens" sample page accurately noted that the book is funny, clever, "and educational, too." And clearly, it does in fact make a great gift "for friends or office staff," not to mention offer "fun waiting room reading material" and "laugh-out-loud reading on your own."
But the handout also declares that if you grew up reading Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss, "the world's only book of eye care poetry" is for you.
Sure enough, Jacesko did indeed grow up reading Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss, then commenced his optopoetry career during his first year at PCO "to get a laugh out of my classmates." But after taking first place at a student talent show, he was encouraged to assemble a book out of his optopoems.
"I came to Vision Expo last year as an attendee and got inspired," he said, seeing optopoetry as a means of contributing to "eye care culture."
"There are thousands of different optical shops, and each is its own little world," Jacesko observed. "But they all have shared experiences and consistencies—like patients who take a long time for refractions."
Hence the poem "The Never-Ending Refraction," about "the odyssey" commencing with the eye exam question, "Which looks better, Number 1 or Number 2?"
Like Jacesko writes in the intro to the "Patient Education Endnotes" section, his 50-some poems are "a great way to educate everyone else about their eyes and vision."
"I get a laugh out of people who work in the business," he said, "but I also educate the public about eye care: A lot of poems are annotated, like 'The Puff of Air Test,' which directs you to the end notes, where I suggest having patients silently count backward from 10 to keep their minds off of the dreaded puff."
The test, of course, looks for indications of glaucoma risk.
"It's not intended to be comprehensive but wide-ranging," said Jacesko, who illustrated Optopoetry with the assistance of other optometry students contacted via The Optometry Student Network Facebook group. The book cover brings a somewhat whimsical "added bonus," he said.
"It doubles as a dinosaur-sized pupil gauge: A caveman on the front cover holds up the back cover [which shows the dinosaur pupil gauge] up to measure a dinosaur's pupil. So it's a picture-within-a-picture joke!"
It also illustrates Jacesko's "Dr. Thag, Jurassic Optometrist" poem.
But Jacesko found that his Vision Expo appearance itself doubled as "an interesting social experiment.
"I shout out 'Free laughter! Free laughter!' and some people gravitate to me, while others are just put off."
Presumably not by the bubble monster living inside his "gonio lens," which, of course, provides a view of the iridocorneal angle formed between the cornea and iris--used in diagnosing and monitoring eye conditions relating to glaucoma.