NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

‘Blind Poet’ Steele Visits NIH

Steele speaks in an auditorium as Bharti looks on from behind
NEI Scientific Director Dr. Kapil Bharti listens as Steele reads to NEI retreat attendees.

Dave Steele, also known as “The Blind Poet,” brought his metered message of hope and inspiration to the NIH campus, Apr. 9-10. He visited NIH at the request of NEI Scientific Director Dr. Kapil Bharti, who co-organized a retreat for NEI intramural research staff. 

Steele gave introductory remarks at the retreat, sharing his personal journey with vision loss and a poem he’d written for NEI, including the following lines: 

…The impact of your research stretches far beyond the eye, touching hearts, changing lives, let this poet be your why. 

In the laboratories and in the clinics where your magic paves the way, lies a future bright with promise, and it’s why I’m here today…  

Steele sits in a chair and reads a book
Dave Steele reads to families at the Children’s Inn at NIH.

Steele hails from Manchester, United Kingdom. A former singer and car salesman, he has an inherited eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which progressively degenerates the eye’s light-sensing retina. His diagnosis 10 years ago, he said, marked the beginning of a major transition in his life, career and identify. 

“I lost my job,” he recounted. “I was working in car sales at the time. I was also working as a singer. Everything I did involved driving, getting around independently. And that started what was a very tough time for me and my family.” 

To cope with the emotional toll of losing his sight, Steele began writing and performing poetry. He has so far published four books of poetry: Stand By Me RP volumes 1, 2 and 3, and Austin’s Amazing Adventures

Through these collections, he relays the experience of growing blind, learning to embrace his disability, navigating his world in a new way and discovering new talents. 

Steele claims that he is happier now than before he went blind. He is happily married with children and now makes a living by selling his poetry and making appearances around the world as a motivational speaker. He also advocates for the blind and rare disease research. 

Steele presents at the front of a room
Steele performs a reading outside the CC chapel.

“I hope Dave’s message reminds you—as it does me—of how meaningful our work is,” said Bharti in closing remarks. 

Steele hosted a lunchtime poetry workshop for retreat participants. He also gave readings at the Clinical Center and the Children’s Inn at NIH. 

Learn more about Steele’s poetry on his website:

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