The Best Words in the Best Order: Why Poetry?

April is National Poetry Month. According to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poetry is the best words in their best order.

But in the days of Top 40 music and young adult novels about post-apocalyptic worlds, what place does poetry have in the world?

It’s kind of like asking what purpose beauty has in the world, to be honest. Poetry, to me, is one of the most beautiful forms of storytelling. It doesn’t always come in the form of a romantic sonnet or a funny limerick, but poetry always tells a beautiful story. Sometimes, it tells the author’s story or it tells a story of someone completely fictional or a situation or some kind of idea.

In spite of what some people believe, people with autism are capable of being creative. It’s just a matter of figuring out the right creative outlet. For me, it came in the form of writing. And although the neatness of my handwriting is somewhat subjective, I always had a love of words.

Like any angsty teen, I wrote my fair share of poems. I even won a high school poetry contest. But until I graduated college, I always thought that I had to be at a high emotional state in order to write what I thought was good poetry.

It turns out that poetry, no matter how lame it can be, is still a wonderful form of expression. Yes, even bad poetry can be beautiful, as evidence by this one from a certain bloody awful poet:

My soul is wrapped in harsh repose,
Midnight descends in raven-colored clothes,
But soft… behold!
A sunlight beam
Butting a swath of glimmering gleam.
My heart expands,
’tis grown a bulge in it,
Inspired by your beauty… 
Effulgent

Oh it’s bad. But I’ve seen worse, trust me on that. In spite of the bad rhyme at the end, the poem started off well. And I’m not just saying that because I have a crush on the character who wrote it.

Take a look at one of my first poems, written back when I was 12 years old. This was written the year that I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, but at the time I had no idea.

 

Blind and Naive

 

Sometimes I leave the world

When I duel with my cards

Or when I’m reading comics and magazines

When I omit the world, I quickly return

To hear the sounds of unfriendly critiques

Why are they so naive of the beautiful world beyond their own?

Blind are the kids for they aren’t full-grown

I yearn for the world that I love.

They’ll never learn, they’ll never know.

The “perfect” ones are trapped within their world

Not knowing of an outside place

They talk of war and say

“Those frightened are wimps.”

I am undecided.

I remember what

A famous fallen angel sings

“I am beautiful, no matter what they say.”

Those words are etched in my heart,

And then I know who I am.

I wish that they’d see through my eyes

And see the beauty of a cloudy day,

But they are what they are…

Blind and naïve.

 

There is a lot of irony in this poem, given that I was actually blind to the fact that I had a neurological disorder and had the naivete of your average sheltered 12-year-old Catholic school girl. And yet my 8th grade teacher shared it with parents of autistic children and teens and she told me it resonated with them.

Compare that to a poem I wrote this year that’s also about having autism. This time, I have the perspective of a young adult and have been aware of my autism/Apserger’s for about ten years.

 

The Autistic Machine

 

Many people have this misconception

That autism is a mental illness

The media diagnoses,

playing doctor and psychiatrist

Even while carrying on the belief

That people only use 10% of their brains

In reality, our brains are always active

Even when we sleep

Such is the case with autism

 

For autism is not a disease

Created from a brain’s faulty software

Instead autistic brains are merely different hardware

Wired differently, with different programming

It’s like the average human brain is a PC

and those with autism are Macs and Linuxes

 

Some people with autism

are more user friendly than others

Some of us are great with many languages

While others lose translation in similes and metaphors

Some function well in schools and offices

While others struggle to even speak

Some can handle rooms of thousands

While others hide at the sounds of strangers

What we have in common is how we are seen

For none of us could be perceived as normal

 

I am one of these “machines,”

Programmed with Asperger’s

I am somewhat user friendly

But I only work for certain types of people

I open up more with common interests

Instead of wasting time with small talk

I’m more comfortable with friends

And strangers who share a love for things

Than with my family, who speaks in their own language

Or with acquaintances who talk of people instead of ideas

I’d rather hide in the anonymity of the internet

Than look a person I don’t know in the eyes.

 

There are those who are surprised

And others who’d rather judge

But the ones I love the most

Are the ones who listen when I ramble

Those who I can be with

Without saying a word

Those who share my love

For ordinary things like books and tea

And extraordinary stories, people, and words

 

When I can be myself

I am no longer a machine

I come into life

I dance and sing

Not like a robot

But as a human being

Because autistics aren’t machines

We are as human as everyone else

 

I’ll leave your interpretation of my current poetry up to you, but I hope to share more poetry on this blog throughout this month.

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