I – the slow child who could not spell: autism and poetry.

August 27, 2016 § 2 Comments

Photo on 24-07-2016 at 12.59 #2

I’m about to plunge into an intense work phase to bring my project to a conclusion. Which is a bit of a jolt, having taken the scenic route for a brief and heady period, to explore the exciting practice of writing poetry as a discipline rather than a purely creative splurge. I’m learning the importance of returning to the words and sharing first drafts with others.

Poetry it seems happens in one’s own mind, on paper and in conversation. How fun is that!

This is a poem which has been hanging out to dry for about ten days. A bit like my first clothes wash at college which shrank in the tumble dryer! The dryer in this case being  exposure to critical eyes and new thought. It is now a tighter fit and beginning to take shape.

It is about my relationship to reading (as an autistic, dyslexic) and the fascination I have with a certain kind of vintage children’s literature.

I

That book is rubbish.
Don’t buy it, she says.

I frown inwardly
while smiling

a tightrope
smile.

But you are calling
me.

to

a

place

I

once

knew

I, plunged into
papery fragments
all sensation

on a landing
or crumpled pillow

pages crisp
between my fingers.

I, held in the author’s
hand

the slow child

who could not
spell.

© Sonia Boué 2016

The logic of not having any: on late autism diagnosis

August 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

Photo on 23-07-2016 at 12.32

I’ve had some lovely responses to a fledgling poem called Dead Squirrel posted last week. Since then I’ve been extremely inspired and of course, poetry is fast becoming my new ‘special interest.’ A huge thank you to all of you, and a special wave to Sophie Herxheimer – for a dream crit from a National Poetry Day Ambassador no less! Please catch up with all Sophie’s brilliant projects and achievements here.

I find that although my topics are at present quite varied I’m extremely interested in articulating my experience of being autistic. I can see this becoming a thing. So here is a new poem I’m working on. Again crit is welcome.

 

The logic of not having any
(on late autism diagnosis)

“The unusually logical approach to life can be both a positive and a negative attribute.”

And in the middle of life, I find
that I am the odd one.

And yet, unusually logical
I spill at the ballet recital,
a concert or a play,
and dumb advertisements,
which cause my eyes to leak.

But I’ll take a scythe
where others linger in the maze,
wasting time and getting lost.

And drum inwardly,
as meetings meander into jolly rambles,
worth horning on our hiking boots for!
Because crisps and sour booze
could all be had at home.

Was that the point after all?

Unusual logic confers
the cross purpose.

And I, rarely finding myself
even on the same pages,
sit and fiddle, playing catch
with my short attention span
until it’s time to leave.

© Sonia Boué 2016

Dead Squirrel: a poetic adventure

August 18, 2016 § 19 Comments

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Photographs of the ‘dead squirrel.’

I’m trying something new. It’s linked to professional development funding from Arts Council England and my work as an artist.

I’m learning about writing poetry and exploring how to share this process and the eventual fruits of my studies in a professional context. My main interest is discovering how to combine visual imagery and poetry for exhibition or publishing. I’m interested in feedback from readers too. So far I’ve had my first professional crit on a poem, which is not quite ready yet. This one has been picked over by the most savage critics of all – my teenage kids.

See what you think and please comment (I don’t mind honesty but I would appreciate kindness).

For this poem (inspired by finding such a redolent object outside my house) I’m grateful to artist David Dipré for his comment on Instagram that my photograph of it looked like a dead squirrel. Something about this ignited my interest in writing about it.

Please share if you can I would love to get lots of feedback (gulp) signed the new risk-taking, boundary pushing  moi. xx

Dead Squirrel.
(On waking at 4 am).

A blared duet.
No radio broadcast.
Just the lives of…

I don’t know who.

Rage is an alarm call.
And then…
Fucking run!
punctuates the night.

The urban domestic
as sharp as shrapnel.

I crouch and pad down the stairs,
to slip a key in the lock.

But they do fucking run.
And now silence!

Sleep all done,
I limp to bed,
and ignite my screen.

Later on, a pavement find,
dished up for afters.

Their tryst trophy:
a dead squirrel.

Well…a Parka hood,
lying face down.

©Sonia Boué 2016

Art and Autism (a creative edge).

August 12, 2016 § 7 Comments

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Photography Stu Allsop: At RE:collections at the North Wall Gallery, Oxford. 

An interesting article appeared in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, featuring my good friend and fellow autistic artist Jon Adams.

I like this particular quotation from the piece,

“Adams says it’s impossible for his autism not to affect his work. “It’s not separate so it must inform every bit of the work I do, even at an unconscious level. I make work touching sound, finding patterns and observations from my life all woven together as one.” He feels it may even give him an advantage: “It’s both my downfall and my creative edge,” he says.”

I’m chuckling though.

“…may even give him an advantage…”

Are you kidding?

While not wishing to indulge in trumpet blowing, I have to say that autism is of course advantageous in the making of art. No question.

Jon and I have talked about this on several occasions and conclude that  art making has emerged in our lives as an inner compulsion – we live and breathe it – this is what drives us to create to our best abilities.  Hyper-focus, perfectionism, task completion and originality (by default we see things differently), are my four (not so) secret weapons.

This doesn’t make me Rain Woman!

AND there is a downside. In the making autism is an advantage, but it is in the professional development and dissemination of our work that we often suffer.

Professional structures are socially driven and thus biased against autistics.

It’s a criminal mismatch when you think about it.

All that creative talent and very little scope for opportunity.

What a waste.

 

 

 

You are my champagne: the social life of an autistic woman.

August 7, 2016 § 21 Comments

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Photo by Stu Allsop

Yes.

You matter. You matter an awful lot to me. I love my fellow humans and often wonder if they love me back the same way.

Being autistic for me is largely a total blast (“co-morbid” conditions excepted). Diagnosis has opened out my horizons and I find, after a lifetime of teetering between extreme caution and bold experimentation, that there is a middle way. A me way. An existence self-determined (within the usual constraints) and mainly me shaped. I love it. Love knowing who I am, and playing to my strengths.

Without diagnosis I was often – in my own perception – the sum of my weaknesses. Holding on to the corners of my life in snatches. This was, I now think, because I didn’t know how to look after myself. So knowing makes ALL the difference to how I can live more comfortably in a sometimes hostile world.

So newsflash everyone! Autism is very different from neurotypicality. No matter how much you (neurotypical friend) empathise with me (and vice versa), your struggle will never be mine nor mine yours. We are parallel beings, always and forever. And for me parallel is where it is at. Gorgeous and fleeting or pause-full and reflective. Parallel is tops for me. Head on and glancing (in that touch laden sense) – not so much.

And so on to social contact, and one small observation among the myriad reflections that bounce across the pond of self-knowledge that comes with diagnosis.

Neurotypical people seem to cram a lot in. I’ll give you a recent example.

After one full day – admittedly a working day – of pleasant professional interaction (during which so much personal information had also been exchanged) the question of what everyone would be doing after work arose.

Hmm. I stayed quiet, while others in the group told of plans which sounded like the chapter of a novel; entire segments of buddy movies flashed before me, the jaunty theme tune of the TV series “Friends” played in my head. I struggled to focus.

As an aside – it is interesting that neurotypicals like to ask about such plans (of which they won’t be part) and I have a light bulb moment. Aha! This is so the threads of future conversations can be taken up with ease – how did it go the other night – and so on. Smooth social baton-carrying from one lap to the next of busy social lives.

I stood politely listening, nodding. My turn to speak didn’t come. It was all quite natural. No-one noticed. Except me; and I smiled to myself. Not only was the conversation about to close but I didn’t have to explain that I had no further “social plans” for the day. I could have said (in a somewhat formal in tone),

“You have filled my cup and I will now go back gratefully to my family and chill.”

It would seem to be quiet a radical statement in the context. Huh? You don’t have a plan? Er…that is my plan…AWKWARD.

Now that I’ve thought it through I see that it isn’t awkward at all. I’ll grow more confident in saying quite simply that my plan is to decompress, and thank you for asking.

But back to my theme – this “cramming” of life with people isn’t confined to the after work scene either, I notice. Social time can be followed by further social time – the cramming (for example) of a coffee/lunch/day out with me (I have puzzled) is often followed by another plan my neurotypical friends must dive off to. Needing to get back to more “urgent” socialising is a definite thing.

It can feel odd.

As in, OH?

People appear so vividly in my life that I savour and absorb them. I also need time to get back to myself, back to the quiet core of me. Too much of the other and I literally don’t know who I am.

The strangeness is that it isn’t so for everyone. That human interaction can be so casual as to facilitate a rapid pole vault from one encounter to another is quite a concept for me.

What does this tell us about the quality of social interaction in either case? I’m really not sure, but an analogy comes to mind.

Dear friends and colleagues  – when we meet I’m fully with you and you are my champagne. You DO fill my cup, and it’s delicious but will go to my head if I drink too many glasses, AND I can’t go from one glass to another in a social whirl. It simply doesn’t work that way for me.

The neurotypcials I know seem to have better heads for champagne metaphorically speaking; socialising as their lemonade to my bubbly would explain why they can drink so much more.

Intensity of experience is the difference, making serial socialising as hazardous for this autistic woman as drinking too much champagne. Think of the hangover!

Autism and the busy spell: managing overload and working with neurotypcial colleagues.

July 29, 2016 § 3 Comments

Sonia in Bois de Bologne  2

(Me aged 6. A favourite image taken in Paris. (Small, long haired girl  sticking her tongue out at the camera, in a tie dye t-shirt))

Overload, overload, overload – rhythms drum in my brain distorting voices. I stare blankly at nothing in particular, my eyes are wide. Limbs numb, I turn to my blog to release the pressure valves. Truth is I’m tired, so tired.

I have been working flat out on my project since December, with successive deadlines for each branch or phase coming at me in rapid succession. Currently I’m bringing together all the material for a small publication and working on our short film too. It’s incredible how many different skills are required of the professional artist these days, and how many people, settings and organisations must be navigated to bring a complex piece of work to a successful conclusion. All present extra challenge for the autistic person.

Luckily I’m extremely motivated AND I have my secret weapon. HYPER FOCUS.

I know too that if I rest I will recover.

What is proving fascinating is working with neurotypcial colleagues as an openly autistic professional for the first time. I’m very aware that I do many things differently and have been careful to outline how this works in practice. Cognitive load is my main challenge – my big ask in seeking accommodations has been to limit communication to the minimum where possible. Neurotypical brains seem to thrive on keeping each other in the loop constantly (the practice of copying-in to endless emails comes to mind), where in in my case I work better gathering thoughts and information quietly and sharing the fruits of this process when there’s an obvious point in doing so.

As I learn more about myself (I was only diagnosed in March) I can begin to see how to manage my time and interactions more effectively. I find that neurotypicals like to blend work talk with social chat often – it can be exhausting when your brain would prefer to focus on the task in hand and you can feel the sands of time running away (there’s a distinct sense of derailment). I love social chit chat, but for me it’s important to conserve the battery power for work if that’s supposed to be the main event.

There are calibrations in relationships to be made and strategies to be formed in protecting and conserving power in the autistic working life.

Mainly, I’m having a blast. This has been one of the most rewarding and productive periods of my professional life and I’m learning so many new skills. I’m also learning that when pushed out of my comfort zone I have some serious advantages to draw on. Being autistic is one thing. Knowing I’m autistic means I begin to fathom how to use this particular wiring to my advantage (as all autistics are different I am talking about my own blend of autistic and personality traits).

I’m looking forward to more knowledge and a greater facility with which to navigate the neurotypical workplace – including seeking the right kind of accommodations. To become a fully self-directing individual with any chance of finding parity in the workplace, the question of diagnosis seems to me to be key.

Female autistics especially, don’t let any professional tell you differently.

NB. I include self-diagnosis as a valid form of identification. Formal diagnosis can be inaccessible to many autistic people for reasons of cost and underdeveloped knowledge and healthcare infrastructure.

 

Autism and the Brexit Crisis.

July 5, 2016 § 11 Comments

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Image by Philip King.

 

It’s been a few days since the majority vote against staying in the EU rocked the UK, and I’ve been observing what one autistic person does when her country goes into meltdown.

Amidst the shock and subsequent grief reaction, the thought that our entire political system and the fabric of our society has been held together with sticky tape. One vote and snap. It’s gone. Wizard of Oz, curtain. Pff!

The autistic person is me. I have spent the time between then and now, or so it seems to me, floating above myself.

Unusually busy, the first shocks hit and washed by turns. Work worked as a distraction and then it didn’t. Watching the internet became a second job – a rubber necker’s grizzly feast. The grim spectacle of the nation’s engine imploding. Where to look? How to keep up?

Tears at the ugly beast unleashed. Our species at it’s worst and best.

I have read every opinion piece worth reading, and many not worth reading at all. We’ve seen our politicians naked, their public defecations smeared in print. Elected hooligans running amok, barbs for real in a back stabber’s paradise of lightening thrusts.

What japes boys!

They sought to blind us from their epic folly with a political killing frenzy? No, most probably it was their greed fuelled ambition which proved incendiary once the Brexit touch paper caught.

And then I watched as one by one the rats left the keeling ship. Undone by their own backward foot steps. Yellow as custard.

So how am I doing? I’m too strung out. How are all the other autistic’s doing I wonder.

 

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