Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Poetry of Autism

Autism is not the subject of much poetry, but in the 2005 issue of Mindprints , Barbara Crooker, the book’s featured poet, has given us five poems that explore this important issue. In “The Autistic Boy and His Mother,” Crooker lays bare the feelings of a parent try to make the shift from the envisioned ideal child to the reality that is her son:

A lusty, lively son
was what she wanted, not
this dear Mr. Dopey, still

blissfully filling his diapers
at four

The poet knows firsthand whereof she speaks. Her own son, now twenty years old, is autistic. Like many parents whose children have disabilities she has found herself fighting the education system to get what is best for her son. Crooker’s poems not only explore family dynamics and parental feelings but try also to come to an understanding of the autistic mind itself, as in “Autism Poem: The Grid”:

He loves things that are perforated:
toilet paper, graham crackers, coupons
in magazines, loves the order of tiny holes,
the way boundaries are defined.

Mindprints’ editor Paul Fahey deserves credit for giving enough space in his publication to allow these poems to speak. Barbara Crooker has been widely published. Her work can be seen on line at