Many poets may not know that April is also Autism Awareness month. Most Autistic adults are anxious the whole month through due to the high volumes of triggering internet content, most of which violates the privacy of autistic children and advocates for child abuse thinly masked as therapeutic or “tough love” interventions (also ableist trolls cruising on Facebook and Twitter). You might see memes on Facebook with a blue background, or a blue puzzle piece which reads: “Light It Up Blue for Autism Awareness Month.” That right there is all about a problematic organization called “Autism Speaks.” You might also see “#RedInstead” which is an #ActuallyAutistic effort to loosen the foothold Autism Speaks has on the autistic conversation space.
By the way, I have to share a video with you–THE Autism Speaks video we discuss every year in April (you’ll see why this organization is triggering and terrible).
Where my blog comes in, is that April is conveniently both National Poetry Month AND Autism Awareness Month (which in my opinion, should be co-opted into a celebration to the extent that the witch hunt gets buried beneath our self acceptance and love). I can’t think of any one thing I have clung to more in my pursuit of Autistic Personhood than poetry and art. There is a WEALTH of autistic artists and poets out there, but, you wouldn’t know it from Google. I had to alter my Google search terms eightfold, to finally come up with material penned by actually autistic folk and not ‘Autism Parents’ (non-autistic parents of autistic children, mostly who describe themselves as warriors against Autism–not their children). Much of the poetry written by Autism Parents violates the privacy of autistic children and a good deal of it justifies their abuse, suggests their deaths or hints to their eventual murder. I read these poems and stories and end up feeling very afraid for the children.
When I did finally happen upon the poetry I was fervently seeking (thirstily drinking in all the imagery and not feeling so alone in the world), I saw that some of these works described the other side of the over-televised, tabloid-cast experiences of the voiced-over majority on the experience of autism. The bare bones were emerging and there was the truth. Often, the voice of the adult autistic child emerged, recounting vignettes from youth, sorting through the still frames of a world nearly lost. It was a narrative of survival, meticulous care given to wonder in surroundings, objects, the personification of things–everything is a relic, all is holy. In these words is a kind of beauty that I imagine most non autistics consider fantastical, exotic, or strange. This assumption is based on actual neurotypical reactions to my own work.
My National Poetry Month blog is meant to be an offering to my autistic community. A labor of love is that I wish to help elevate the voices and visions of our artists and poets above the corrosive muck of the Awareness pond. “Nothing about us without us” is something actually autistic activists and advocates have been repeating until the red of our faces has become the color of our identifying flag, it’s turned the blue of awareness into the purple of dignity, respect, and pride. Our poets have a service, a task that no one else can rise to, and the autistic generations to come will know a different world on account of this work. I believe this. I have to. Autistic children, my autistic young family will be able to blossom into their own colors, not wilt and fade to grey complacency or justified, but cancerous, unfulfilled rage. In fact, because of decades of autism advocacy, matters are already changing for the better.
It gives me purpose to write blogs like this, since much of my time now sick at home is spent contributing to causes that mend the wounds of and protect vulnerable people. I too am vulnerable. My blog is an attempt to huddle in close to my community in the only ways I know.
I hope our poets get a hefty readership– there is such great work out there, it moves me to throat lumps. Of course, I hope that anyone who reads this blog post might send along some tips for who to include on next year’s feature.
Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts.
A Do-er and Nomad both by chance and necessity, Hilary Krzywkowski writes essays, prose, poetry, and blogs, and creates and exhibits art. They find deep fulfillment in the company and shared creative endeavors of their children and spouse. They are a 'novice' disability advocate, mostly winging it and learning from successful, established advocates and activists as they go. They write quite a bit on science and nature, chronic and mental illness, poverty, disability and parenting, and physical and mental disabilities.
Hilary has contributed illustrations, paintings, and writing to many underground publications and independent presses, mostly pro-bono, since the age of six- including Stone Soup, Bottle of Smoke Press, Black Rabbit Press, St. Mary's Press, Artemis Magazine, Green Panda Press, Xerx Press, Bottom Dog Press, Cold Canyon Press, Kirpan Press, The Deaf Poets Society, Medusa's Kitchen, Least Bittern Books, Swimming With Elephants, and Poems For All.