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…
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.