Other People's Words

Interview w/ James Wagner and Marc Rosen, editors of Perspectives anthology

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on October 11, 2010

This is a transcript of the Autism Women’s Network’s interview with James Wagner and Marc Rosen, editors of the Perspectives anthology, which features poetry by and about people with autism and other disabilities.

[Music]

Sharon daVanport: Good afternoon, and welcome to AWN radio. We are the Autism Women’s Network on Blogtalk. I am your host, Sharon daVanport, and today is Saturday, September 18. Joining me now is co-host, Tricia Kenney. Hello, Tricia.

Tricia Kenney: Hello, Sharon. How are you?

Sharon daVanport: Hi. I’m well today; thank you. How are you?

Tricia Kenney: I’m doing pretty well; thank you.

Sharon daVanport: Good. Well, I’m excited about the show today. I wanted to kick it off really quick with letting everyone know that today we are going to be announcing our [b-Calm Sound] winner for the four pack of Audio Sedation soundtracks— mp3s. We’re going to be announcing that a little bit later in the show. I wanted to remind everyone of that. Everybody who’s in the chat room today, also, your name gets put in. Actually, my daughter already drew the winner, so we do know who it is. [Laughter] We put everybody’s name that came up on the board right before the show.

Looking forward to today’s show, Tricia. Looks like there’s a really interesting poetry anthology out that actually conveys the different life experiences through poetry from more than 50 contributing writers? Is that correct?

Tricia Kenney: Woah. Yeah. It’s pretty impressive, and I really enjoy when we do shows like this, where we can showcase people speaking up for themselves and expressing themselves through their art and their talent. I haven’t had a chance yet to look through the book, but I’m really looking forward to it.

Sharon daVanport: Right. And it is going to be James Wagner and Marc Rosen. They are the co-editors of Perspectives Anthology, and I think we might have one of the contributors actually calling in to say hello. We’re looking forward to that, as well. Looks like we have a couple of them over in the chat room, too, so hello to everyone over in the chat room. Glad that you guys are joining us today. Well, let’s go ahead and get started and bring on Marc and James. I’m going to try really hard here to see the switchboard without disconnecting anyone. [Laughter] Hello James, Mark.

James Wagner: Hi.

Sharon daVanport: Hi.

James Wagner: Thank you.

Sharon daVanport: I guess we’ll take turns. James, I guess I’ve never really met you, and so I just wanted to say welcome to the show. I’ve met Marc one other time, spoken to him. Just really excited to hear more about the book. So let’s start with you, James. Why don’t you start by telling our listeners exactly what is Perspectives Anthology?

James Wagner: [Unknown] Well, Perspectives Anthology is a poetry collection done through Local Gems Poetry Press here on Long Island, in coordination with the Bard’s Initiative, which is a local Long Island poetry community group. The book itself is a collection of 54 poets, including me and Marc. We got submissions from four different continents, and the poetry, as the mission statement said when it was sent out, is poetry concerning autism and other disabilities, with the mindset for understanding and acceptance of different ways of existing. The main theme of the book is that despite different ways of living, we are all human.

Tricia Kenney: Mm.

Sharon daVanport: Okay, very nice. And, Marc, when it comes to the different contributors, I noticed that it also says that you touched on an array of disabilities, including social, neurological, psychological differences, the autism spectrum, as well as family members and friends. Were you looking specifically to highlight from those who are affected one way or the otehr with a disability and their family and friends? Or was it just going to be a combination? You put the word out and you were going to see what came back to you?

Marc Rosen: Well, what we were looking more for was poetry that emphasized our common humanity. We wanted to emphasize that, above all else, we ara all human; we are all equally human; that there are certain things that we all want, we all feel, we all need.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. I wanted to give you an opportunity if you wanted to—I don’t know if you or James wanted to—but to maybe share one of your poems from the book. Would that be something that you’d like to do? To give our listeners an idea? [Unknown]

Marc Rosen: Sure.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. All right. We could start with you, Marc, if you want to do that.

Marc Rosen: All right. I’ve read this one a few times before. Let me just get the page [unknown] here. There we go. And this one’s called: “Monsters [unknown],” actually based on my own path, [unknown]:

Two days after the first day of school, 
the principal gets another screaming phone call: 
"Why is that monster still in my child's class?" 

Two days after the first day of school,
the principal gets another red-faced visitor: 
"Why isn't that freak in a retard home?"

Two days after the first day of school,
the monster, the freak, goes to the office on an errand.
He hears this screaming in person, and on the phone.
He learns what the community thinks of him.
"I'm a freak? I'm a monster?" The boy can't believe his ears.
After living a paltry 59 moods and spending only three days in school, he is a monster.

The word [unknown] calls it "autism," but that doesn't mean a damn thing to a kid
No, a freak, no, a monster.
He was a monster just by birth. Nothing could [unknown]
That thing went home and asked his mommy: "Am I a monster?" All she said was: "Yes." 

And the boy, with the grief of a man awaiting execution, walks silently to his room.
Autistic monsters aren't allowed to shed their tears.

Tricia Kenney: Oh. [sighs] That’s pretty strong stuff, Marc. I think that really speaks to so many autistic children who are in school and have experienced that reaction from people and that mistreatment from people. Have you been doing poetry for a while now?

Marc Rosen: It’s actually James who got me started with it, I’d say a year ago. He got me started just by dragging me to a poetry group—and I do mean drag.

[Laughter]

He wouldn’t let me say no.

James Wagner: There was no physical dragging involved. There was ever so lightly persuasion of he was in the car, and I was driving.

[Laughter]

Marc Rosen: Which is [unknown]

Sharon daVanport: James, what is your involvement with the disability community?

James Wagner: I was classified when I was younger with ADHD. My involvement with the disability community is mostly…I’ve been around it my whole life. I’ve gotten more into the activism aspect through Marc, actually, so we’ve sort of helped each other in that regard. I pulled him into the poetry; he pulled me into the activism.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

James Wagner: Actually, one of my poems—I don’t know if you want me to read one of mine, too.

Sharon daVanport: Sure. That’d be great.

James Wagner: Yeah. I have one that was inspired by a friend of mine. I was friends with him since eighth grade and he was on the autism spectrum. As time went on, I just saw how the label itself had a giant impact on his life—from everywhere from the school to his own mother. This poem has become my trademark reading at the book tour and everywhere we’ve been going with the book. It’s called: “His Disability,” and this one is, really, for me what started the whole idea of this book.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

James Wagner: Okay.

His disability was your excuse.
His disability was why you did everything for him after his father left.
Made his bed, breakfast, lunch, dinner,
Did his laundry, ironed his clothes.
Cleaned, scrubbed, took a second job so he wouldn't have to work one,
Even though he's 24 and you're 65.

But he can't work, right? He can't clean; he can't do his laundry.
He can't cook. He's autistic. What do you expect?

What do I expect? I don't expect anything, but I remember.
I remember him in the marching band, 
Playing that trombone with more enthusiasm than half of his fellow musicians.
I remember his dramatic readings in English class,
Iambic pentameter flowing out of his mouth as naturally as each breath.

I remember in History, he never forgot a date,
Could name all the presidents backwards.
In science class, they might not have let him handle the chemicals anymore
After that unfortunate incident with the eyebrows, but
He had the entire periodic table memorized.

Gym. When he got hold of the football, everyone—myself included— 
Parted like the Red Sea for Moses.
No one wanted to mess with that. 
We all stood out of the way of that charge.

I remember his room, spotless. 
I remember him cleaning, taking the garbage.
I remember him making his own dinner.
I remember him being social, as best as he could.

I remember early in eighth grade, 
When he did something wrong, you'd punish him.
I remember later on in eighth grade, punishment stopped.

I remember in the middle of eighth grade, 
When he would hum to himself and twiddle his [unknown] nonstop,
And not realize when the other kids were making fun of him for it,
I remember that they, the teacher, couldn't handle
That he couldn't sit down for the entire period.

I remember that they were clueless concerning him,
And when it came time for a convenient classification,
A consistently competent yet callous teacher aide
Uttered the possibility, maybe he's on the spectrum.

His disability, you say, you proclaim.
Was his disability the reason he could calculate faster 
And in higher denominations than RTI A3s?
Was his disability what put him on the honor roll?
Was his disability what got him more scholarships to more colleges
Than our graduating class's valedictorian?
Free tuition, free books,
Dorm room, room and board, 
Meal plan all bought and paid for 
In a package fit for a king,
Before he set foot there, only so you could tell him:
"It's okay. You don't have to do this if you don't want to.
You can drop out."

So he did.

His disability.
So now, he sits in his room all day long,
And you make his bed, 
Breakfast, lunch, dinner,
Wash his clothes, clean the bathroom after him
While he does nothing.
Gaining fat, gaining weight, on the computer.
Video games 24/7.
No friends to speak of; no responsibilities,
Productivity, life to call his own?

What happens to him when you're gone?
Now that' you've taken off his gloves,
Taken him out of the ring, his muscles have atrophied,
No longer able to go ten rounds with life.
Will he relearn all that you made him forget,
Or will it be KO in round one?

I don't know, but don't talk to me about his disability.
Because I remember what I didn't stop him from doing.
His disability, you exclaim, his disability.
Disability defined as what gives one a disadvantage,
His disability, his disability?
His disability is you.

Sharon daVanport: Wow, James. That’s powerful; that really is.

James Wagner: Thank you.

Sharon daVanport: I have to say, too, I’ve witnessed situations like that, too, where I’ve seen that sometimes a person’s disability is not what people think it obviously would be—like, say autism or whatever neurological or psychological challenge they’re dealing with. But it actually could be something that’s holding them back in a completely different way.

James Wagner: Yeah.

Tricia Kenney: I think it really speaks to people that, regardless of what label somebody else has thrown in your life, you’re still able to function. You’re still able to learn; you’re still able to achieve. If you have working arms and legs, there’s no reason why you can’t make your bed; make your dinner. Everyone is teachable, and I think people forget that sometimes, and they overdo the coddling.

James Wagner: [His] situation, the mother, she almost needed him to not be able to take care of himself because that’s what gave her a purpose.

Sharon daVanport: Oh.

Marc Rosen: [Unknown] It was a co-dependency.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Sharon daVanport: I’ve seen parents not even realize, too, that that’s what they’re doing. They’ve been able to change their course when it’s brought out to them. I have seen parents take that direction as well, where they really didn’t know or realize that they were hindering. They truly thought they were helping. And then once they were able to recognize all of this, they were able to change their course as well.

Tricia Kenney: I think people get so caught up in doing every little thing for your child when they’re little, you forget that they’re growing up. They don’t need you to do every single little aspect of their existence for them. They need to start learning how to do those things on their own.

I think, in our hurried lives, that plays a part, too. People are like: “I don’t have time for him to spend 20 minutes tying his shoe. I need to get going right now, so I’ll just do it. It’s easier if I just do it.” It really does disable a person and takes away their opportunities to be independent.

Sharon daVanport: When you guys got together and decided that you would put together a combination and various writings from different contributors, did you at that time have an idea of the different people you wanted to ask? Or did you send out a call for papers, contributions, and then you guys decided from that? How did you guys go about deciding?

James Wagner: It was a combination of both, actually. I’ve been very involved with the Long Island poetry communities, and I knew there’s a lot of Long Island poets who would love to get involved with a cause like this. Some of the people in the book themselves who are within the Long Island poetry community have had family members, friends or even themselves have been affected in some way, shape or form by a disability or a label, at the very least. Marc, having his foot in the activism sense of things, a lot of bloggers and writers who also happen to double as poets and might want to use this as another way of expressing themselves.

Marc Rosen: And beyond that, I extended the call of submissions. I asked as many people as they could to get the word out; put the call for submissions [unknown] awareness groups.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. Can you give us an idea of some of the contributors? Names we might recognize? Or even if we don’t, just name some of the contributors?

Marc Rosen: Well, one of the contributors includes your very own Corina Becker, for example. Sorry, just pulling up the Table of Contents here.

[Laughter]

We also have [unknown].

James Wagner: From the poetry side, we also have, I believe she’s in the chat room there, is Joanna Goodman, who is actually aiming to be a teacher herself. I know that it was very important to be able to help with causes like this, especially since she’s looking to be an educator. We had Frankie Soto, [Hidden Legacy?] who is a very well-known poet in his circles who also likes to reach out and help with causes like this. And a few members of the Long Island poetry community, like J R Turek or Nancy Keating, who are just some people known in their respective circles who also like to help with causes like this.

Tricia Kenney: Wonderful.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Tricia Kenney: Now, did you have your family or friends contribute some of their writing to the book as well? I know that there were family members involved in this.

James Wagner: Nobody from my familiy contributed to this book. My mom also is a poet; she’s contributed to a couple of my other books, but she didn’t write for this particular project.

Tricia Kenney: Could you let us know, maybe read to us something that one of the relatives, any of the relatives wrote in response to this, to contribute to it?

James Wagner: Marc, do you have anyone in mind for that, or—?

Marc Rosen: Let’s see. I can get some of the family [unknown]. Let me just…found it.

Tricia Kenney: I’d be really interested to see that side of it as well, to see that families are involved and supporting the loved ones who were contributing to the book.

Marc Rosen: I [found one?] actually.

Tricia Kenney: Okay.

Marc Rosen: [Unknown] Journey” by J R Turek. She’s a local poet and the aunt to a nephew on the spectrum. I’m not sure how [unknown]. It’s not stated specifically, but, yeah, she has a nephew on the spectrum.

Brian, sweet [smile?] child,
[Unknown] emotion,
Artistic, autistic,
A stream of questions: "What's this and this?
Is it a clue?"
[Unknown] race room to room to keep up.
Will [you let me?] peek inside your heart?

I yearn for hugs,
Open my arms,
You back away,
But that's okay. [Unknown]

[Unknown] again. Brian, sweet [unknown] nephew,
A few months left without a visit
[Unknown]
[Unkown]
[Unknown] [smile and brush me?]
Uncouth movements, [unknown]
Thank you, Brian, [no more?] [unknown]

Tricia Kenney: Wow. That was really sweet. Thank you, Marc.

Sharon daVanport: James, are you still with us?

James Wagner: I’m still here.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, okay. I wanted to ask about the publicity that you guys are doing for the book. Are you guys having readings that you’re doing in your local area? Or are you guys doing it on the Internet? How are you guys promoting your book?

James Wagner: We’re promoting it both ways, actually. We actually just had a kick-off of the book tour at Dowling College this past Thursday—funnily enough, right in the middle of a tornado.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, my.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, my gosh. [Chuckles]

James Wagner: Yeah. Of all the nights for Mother Nature to have a tornado, they happen to pick then. Because it doesn’t really happen in New York too often. [Chuckles] So it’s kind of funny.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

James Wagner: But despite that, we still had a fully-packed room of people—some of them contributors, some of them just fans of the cause. That, to me, proved that this topic is really near and dear to a lot of people. And that particular event, it was in the Dowling Ballroom, in coordination with the Dowling College Poetry Club, and we had readers from the book come and give live performances. There was food; there was talking about the book.

And that’s the first of somewhere between ten and 12 events we’re actually having. If anybody out there’s listening who’s from Long Island, we’re actually having the next event next Saturday the 25th at Wizards in East Northport. It’s a nice little shop that has poetry open mike nights and stuff. We have a combination of events set up in poetry places and colleges, bookstores, etc. There’s a few stores that are actually going to have the book, like one particular Barnes and Nobel, Wizards, hopefully the Walt Whitman birthplace and hopefully Book Review.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, okay.

Tricia Kenney: Wow, that’s awesome!

Sharon daVanport: So where is the book carried, then, James?

James Wagner: Well, right now it’s only available through Lulu, which is a third-party printer that we use for the publication. But in about another four weeks, I’d say at this point, it’ll be available through every major channel. It’s going on the big, international registry. It’ll be available at Amazon.com, through Barnes and Nobel.com.

Actually, if you go to any bookstore, you should be able to order it. Most of them probably aren’t going to house the book, because a lot of the mainstreams aren’t going to have heard of it. But anybody can walk in and request the book, and they can get it for you.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. Right now it is available on Lulu, then, right?

James Wagner: Yeah. Right now it’s only available on Lulu. But in another four weeks it’ll be available widespread.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. You said you have ten to 12 events coming up and the next one is next Saturday. What are some of the other events that you’d like to tell our listeners, in case they’re in the area and they want to attend?

James Wagner: Through the Performance Poets Association, which is another Long Island poetry group, we’re having a reading at the Westbury library on November 4, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. We’re having one and the Glen Cove library, which is still being worked on.

Marc Rosen: Yeah. If that happens, it’ll be December 4.

James Wagner: We’re having a really big event in coordination with, Marc, I think it’s the special needs department or the special needs program at—

Marc Rosen: [Unknown] the special needs department at the Sid Jacobson JCC. That’s November 18, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

James Wagner: There’s going to be a book fair at Dowling December 8. It’s not going to be a performance at that one, but the book’s going to be there on the shelf for sale, with a bunch of other ones. We’re in talks right now with having a reading at The Book Review in Huntington, and in talks with the Walt Whitman birthplace.

Actually, our first event, we just got offered a couple of other venues by a poet who actually hosts the venue. We have a few that are still in the talks, but there’s a good number of them. Hopefully the information for all of these will be up soon on our website.

Sharon daVanport: Very nice. And what is the website? What is your website information, so people can go to that and look up all this information?

James Wagner: www.bardsinitiative.com. And the information for Pespectives would be under the Local Gems section.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. You guys are going to be very busy. That’s pretty awesome.

Tricia Kenney: Great. So, Marc, this is a pretty new experience for you—the poetry aspect. Have you been doing any writing before that, or is this whole genre a new thing for you?

Marc Rosen: I’ve been writing, more or less, since I was seven, I’d say. I got started as an activist with an in Newsday, local, basically regional newspaper. And from there I did occassional writings here and there, moonlighted as an essayist and then started with Examiner.com.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm. Now, since you’ve been doing poetry, have you found that to be very therapeutic for you? Is that a really good outlet for you, do you believe?

Marc Rosen: It is when I actually can get inspiration. But I’m the sort of poet where I can’t plan it. It just has to come out and be [unknown]. Many of these poems only go through and a maximum of two revisions, if that.

Tricia Kenney: Okay.

Marc Rosen: Unlike other forms of writing, you can’t go back over and over again. It just [unknown].

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm. So with the contributing writers that you had in this book, are many of them doing poetry on a regular basis? Or was this a one-time thing for a lot of them?

Marc Rosen: In many cases, I honestly don’t know. Some of them are professional poets, or as professional as poets can get these days. Others may very well have been first-time writers, for all I know.

James Wagner: I do know for a fact that there was one in particular poet, Dan Lisle, who actually, this was his first publication. He waa a big part of Long Island poetry workshops, but he had actually never broken through into being published before until this one, and he was very excited about that.

Some other people for the better part of their lives is poetry and writing poetry, but some of them, like I said earlier, who are mainly rights advocates for disabilities and they use this as another medium. But the way that I always saw poetry is that it’s gone through a lot of ups and downs over the years, and these days it doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation in a lot of circles. People, when they think of a poetry reading, they think some middle-aged person up there reading in a monotone about their last lover. But my opinion was always that poetry is the voice of the people, and one big thing that we were trying to do with this particular medium in coordination with this particular cause was to also show that poetry can still be an important voice in important matters, especially because it’s from the people involved. You don’t necessarily have to be a professional poet or a professional writer to get all these thoughts and feelings out.

Tricia Kenney: Right. Right, exactly. What other sorts of writers contributed? I know that we’ve mentioned some autistic people. What other types of diagnosis were involved with this?

James Wagner: One particular person, I know, my friend Lisa Zimmerman, who was actually a member of the Dowling College Poetry Group before she graduated, she actually was diagnosed with dystonia. Her poem is actually alphabetically the last one in the book, which is entitled “Peace.” I know that she has had a particularly rough time of it, because dystonia’s rather rare. For a long while, they didn’t even know what it was that she was affected by. She was in and out of doctors’ offices and filling out insurance forms and all that—for lack of a better word—crap that comes with having some kind of problem. Yeah, it’s been very tough for her.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Would you be okay to share her poem?

James Wagner: Sure.

Tricia Kenney: First, could you explain to us what dystonia is?

James Wagner: I haven’t ever really gotten the full definition of it, but I know from knowing her that it’s an inhibitor between brain to body function.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, okay.

James Wagner: She has a lot of motor problems. She has a bit of an awkward walk and she’s a little slow of speech, but she’s definitely not slow of mind, I can tell you that much. She’s one of the [smartest individuals?] I’ve ever known. So it’s more of a [unknown] of a physical and a mental…Like I said, I’m not a professional. I don’t know what the actual definition is.

Sharon daVanport: Sure. That’s okay.

Tricia Kenney: Heather in the chat room was saying that her son has hypertonia, which is overdeveloped muscles. She believes that dystonia is the exact opposite of that.

James Wagner: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Someone’s saying it’s a neurological movement disorder in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures. That’s from Wikipedia. Someone in the chat room posted that. So, okay, that’s good to have for a background.

Tricia Kenney: Thank goodness for Wikipedia, right? [Chuckles]

Sharon daVanport: That’s right. It’s good to have a little bit of a background, though, before you read it. But if you could share that, that’d be nice, James, if you could share her poem.

James Wagner: Sure. “Peace” by Lisa Zimmerman.

How do you continue your life after being derailed?
How do you gather the shattered pieces and move on, still smiling?
How do you gain self-acceptance and not become depressed?

I am moving towards brighter sunsets and happier tomorrows
With each step of my unbalanced walk.
And yet, that feeling, that wonderful sense of joy
Slips from my fingers when self-doubt invades my thoughts.
When I'm drowning in my misery,
And my glimmer of hope turns to despair.

Those moments of paralysis wear me thin.
I am my own prisoner, but when I'm free,
Oh! What a feeling!
I become empowered, fearless, and myself again.
If only that can pulsate through my veins,
I would not need to pretend.
Tomorrow I will become the person I intended to be yesterday.

Tricia Kenney: Oh.

Sharon daVanport: Well, that’s very nice. Very, very nice. And I like that this book is representative of so many differences—whether it’s psychological, neurological, wherever it falls. It’s just so nice that you guys were inclusive of all of that. Very nice. I’m sure that that’s really helped you be able to get out there and speak to so many different audiences, to be able to include them as well. They feel included, I’m sure in your presentations.

James Wagner: Yeah. I was absolutely very pleasantly surprised by the people who came to the event we already had on Thursday. You could just tell just by looking at them, they were glowing. They were overly ecstatic to be there, to be a part of this project. The poets who are involved in this, they brought their families—some of them, pretty far extended families. They all seemed overly enthusiastic to be a part of the event and this book and the entire missionp behind it.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Very nice.

Tricia Kenney: How many people get a chance to do that? It’s a great opportunity for them. And without having to write a whole book by yourself, which a lot of people just never get around to doing even if they are a writer. [Chuckles] But it’s a really great opportunity for them to express what’s going on in their world and their lives, and how the rest of the world affects them. I think that was just an awesome idea that you guys came up with to give these people an opportunity to speak.

James Wagner: Well, one thing that was very important to me was giving people that chance. Even in an art form like poetry, in the higher circles today, there is still a sense of exclusion. University presses and all the high-level hoity-toity stuff that is considered poetry—

Marc Rosen: Don’t remind me; don’t remind me.

James Wagner: Yeah. A lot of that even makes it hard to be open and submit to something like that. So we were very careful with this book, to try to give it a very friendly feeling. One of the reasons that I believe that poetry itself has become an archaic art form is because it’s out of the hands of the people, by and large.

It’s still a very important art form. One thing that I always say to people when people tell me poetry is dying is: “We have the Internet these days. We have television. We have all these other forms of entertainment that are so high-tech and so freaky that people 20 years ago couldn’t have thought of. But yet people still get together to see live poets perform. People still take time out of their lives to go see that,” which to me shows how important the connection between the performer and the audience really is. And that’s something that in the world of poetry today is very overlooked. One of the goals of this book…the dual [unknown] I’m trying to help both causes, was to help poetry have a purpose in these people’s lives still.

There’s a lot of closet poets out there. There’s a lot of people who write poetry but don’t admit that they write it. There’s a lot of people who write poetry specifically about the things that affect them as a person. Which is why, when we were thinking about this particular topic, we knew that we were going to be flooded with submissions from all over the place. We knew: Somebody who’s affected like that, how could you not need an outlet for that?

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Sharon daVanport: Right. That’s very true.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah, and it’s such an important thing for people to have an outlet, whether it’s art, music, writing, whatever the case may be. But to actually get that out there to let people know: “Okay, this is how we’re feeling. This is what we’re thinking. This is how we’re reacting to the world around us.” I think that’s important for the general public to be educated.

Sharon daVanport: Are you taking the poetry and talking to students and the younger generation at all? Are you [finding ways?] to engage them?

James Wagner: Marc is actually doing that right now.

Marc Rosen: I’m teaching a class called “Autism and the Autistic Rights Movement” in a high school pretty much every Tuesday and Friday.

Tricia Kenney: Wonderful.

Sharon daVanport: Very nice.

James Wagner: And actually, a professor at our college, where we just were there for the poetry group at at Dowling, an education professor approached us and talked about possibly using this book to teach in her class.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, okay. Very nice. Well, I wanted to give you guys an opportunity before we wrap things up in a few minutes to share anything that you want about the book, or about your experience with it to close the hour out. Marc, we can begin with you. Anything that you want to share that we didn’t ask, or that you at least wanted to touch on, yourself?

Marc Rosen: Well, I would like to say, first off, that when I got started with this, I’m looking at all the various issues going on that seem to just be completely ignored in the so-called mainstream discussion. That seem to be glossed over or considered acceptable because the only people who care are those who had disabilities themselves, or because the only people who were trying to do something about it were people who didn’t have enough money to make it happen.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Marc Rosen: That and the fact that, for the most part, activists like myself, people trying to advocate for a better quality of life, are often drowned out by much wealthier—for lack of a better word—fear-mongers who use their wealth and influence to flood their opinion [unknown] into the media.

Tricia Kenney: Right. I believe that very much, as well. That the people living those lives should be the ones out there talking and educating and advocating for themselves whenever possible.

Marc Rosen: And that’s how this came about. This was our [unknown].

Sharon daVanport: That’s very nice, Marc. And how about you, James? What would you like to add? Anything at all that you’d like?

James Wagner: Well, like Marc said, the big thing for me was, like I said earlier, getting people the chance to voice their opinion on the matter. There were actually a lot of people in the mainstream poetry community who didn’t have a lot of experiences with autism who actually didn’t submit to this, because when they heard of the topic they were a little bit taken aback and they didn’t feel qualified to write about it.

That’s just poetry. If you don’t feel qualified to write poetry about it, how do most people feel qualified to write anything about it? That, to me, was a sign of the times we live in, where you need a degree in basket-weaving to make a basket these days.

Sharon daVanport: Right. [Chuckles] That’s true.

James Wagner: Yeah. [Chuckles] It makes it very hard for people to actually talk. I’m a grad student right now, but I’ve seen it in college. We have a lot of young people coming up—very, very intelligent young people who feel completely useless in this world, because they don’t have the proper qualifications. And that’s just a byproduct of having too much competition or whatever you want to call it, or the BA becoming a standard.

But everybody needs this degree, that degree, that degree to say anything. And then, once you say it, you still have to get heard. Nobody will even listen to you until you have all those things. Even then, it’s just a shot in the dark, because there are still a million people with that specific thing, anyway. So the truth of the matter is, there’s a sense that, “Oh, well, nothing I say will matter in the big scheme of things.” And I think most people feel that.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

James Wagner: People don’t give up in the world today and take a sigh and go: “Mm. Everything’s perfect. I’m going to get Chinese food.” A lot of people, they go through with a sense of: “Well, that’s not right,” or “this isn’t right,” or “something here isn’t working.” I think a lot of people have that for a lot of things in this generation, and nobody feels the freedom to just go out there and say what they think. Everybody thinks that everyone’ll say: “Well, you have no right to say it.” Or: “Who are you? You’re not qualified. You can’t say it.”

Tricia Kenney: Right.

James Wagner: With this particular topic, it’s very important to have the people voice their opinion. If you don’t get the side coming from the people who are most affected, all you have are experts talking about it. While they may be very qualified, sometimes it doesn’t touch them the same way it touches the regular people. And [unknown] the whole argument becomes more rhetoric, and it [is] really about the human side of the issue. It becomes more science than real emotion, and it’s important to have both in the equation. Otherwise you become [unknown].

Sharon daVanport: Right. I’m just so appreciative that you guys were able to come on and share this with us, too. I want you guys to go ahead and stay on the line while we bring Corina on. I wanted to bring Corina Becker on. She’s actually our networking director over at AWN, our very new organization. We’re still in the process of [chuckles] really growing and [putting?] together. But Corina was a contributor to your book, and I wanted to bring Corina on real quick. Hello, Corina.

Corina Becker: Hello.

Sharon daVanport: Hi. How are you today?

Corina Becker: Okay. Excited to be here. I’ve never called in before.

[Laughter]

This is exciting.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah. Well, we knew that you were a contributor to the Perspectives Anthology and we wanted to get your input. Did you contribute one writing or several?

Corina Becker: Three poems. I submitted three poems, and all three of them are in the anthology.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, awesome.

Corina Becker: And I’m first on the list. I’m first in the book, because I think it’s alphabetical order.

James Wagner: Yes.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

[Crosstalk] [Laughter]

That’s right. Okay.

Tricia Kenney: So would you be willing to share one of your poems?

Corina Becker: Sure. Let me just bring it up. How about “The Island”?

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Corina Becker:

No man is an island, but no woman, either.
We're all connected by the land beneath the waves' water
Flowing through the underground, connecting, joining, blending,
We are all one, and yet, we are all islands.

Some connected into mainland, and then there's us, others
Scattered amongst the offshore.
Anchored by the dirt [unknown]
And the bridges that we build, slowly, painfully, 
To each other to see things from a different view,
Distant weather off the shores, so things are misunderstood.
And we speak to the only place that understands.
Retreat to be an island, but never alone.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, that’s very nice, Corina. Very nice.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: And for our listeners who may not know, Corina, you’re on the autism spectrum, correct?

Corina Becker: Yeah. Yes, I was diagnosed in 2002, when I was 17.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. All right.

Tricia Kenney: Thank you, Corina. That was very nice.

Sharon daVanport: Thank you very much.

Tricia Kenney: We do have a question in the chat room. They’re wondering if there is going to be another book—if there’s going to be a part 2, or if you’ve considered doing one containing children’s writings?

Marc Rosen: Well, I would definitely want to do another Perspectives and [unknown] series, but we are doing other anthologies before that, if we do it. It would be at least a year before we’d start taking submissions.

James Wagner: In an ideal world, we would love to have Perspectives be one of those annual anthologies that almost becomes associated with the topic, and people can count on it every year. Maybe eventually it’ll get to that point. We’re definitely going to have a second one, though, without a doubt. It’s just we don’t know if it’ll be exactly a year afterwards, but close to it. Without a doubt.

But as far as taking children’s, there’s no age limit to anybody who wants to submit to Perspectives. We haven’t actually really thought yet about having one specifically for children. Though that might be something to think about.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: What was the age of your youngest contributor this time?

James Wagner: That’s actually a good question. They didn’t all send in their ages.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. I was just curious.

James Wagner: Some people who are still in college, at the very least. I think we had a high school student in here somewhere.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. That’s very nice. Well, listen. We just so much appreciate you guys being with us this hour and sharing this time with us, so we wanted to make sure that we let you know definitely that we’re very appreciative.

James Wagner: Well, we’re very appreciative for being here.

Tricia Kenney: We have one more caller on the line. I think it’s Joanna from the book. I think she [wants?] to join in and let us know how her experience with this was. Hi, Joanna. Is that you?

Joanna Goodman: Hi. Yes, it’s me. I’m sorry if I sound like I’ve got clothespins on my nose. My kids got me sick. [Chuckles]

Tricia Kenney: Aw, yeah. They do that. [Chuckles]

Joanna Goodman: Especially a classroom full of them.

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter]

Tricia Kenney: So what was your contribution to the book?

Joanna Goodman: I wrote a poem about a student I had a few years ago. I’m actually trying to find it now. I haven’t been able to actually buy a copy of the book yet.

Tricia Kenney: And you’re the person who is going to be a teacher? Is that correct?

Joanna Goodman: I am; I’m actually doing my full-time student teaching right now in an inclusion first grade classroom, so lots of poetry. [Laughter]

Tricia Kenney: Okay; okay. And are you autistic or—?

Joanna Goodman: I myself am not, but I have worked with several students who are on the spectrum. I worked with a developmental disabilities institute for a short time, and I actually still write to the student that my poem is about. [Chuckles]

Tricia Kenney: Oh, wonderful. Were you able to find that?

Joanna Goodman: I was, actually.

Tricia Kenney: Well, go ahead and share it when you’re ready.

Joanna Goodman: Oh, thank you. It’s called: “RD”

They sit you outside because they say you cannot learn.
But you are teaching yourself fine: 
Physics through juggling erasers,
Geometry by sketching skate parks.
You are learning that you are the odd one out.

They sit you outside because they say you are disruptive,
And I ask you: "Why aren't you paying attention?"
And you tell me it isn't that you don't want to,
You're just thinking all the time. 
When I ask what you're thinking about, you say:
"I think that if someone would give me a hammer, 
I'd build me a house."

They sit you outside because they say you cannot learn,
But I know you are learning that smaller erasers fly better
And higher ramps make faster moves, and that there are no hammers for you.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Sharon daVanport: That’s very nice, Joanna. Very nice.

Joanna Goodman: Thank you.

Sharon daVanport: This is really nice, seeing the different points of view from the different experiences people have.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. And I see so far, really just different perspectives coming out, and I think that’s so fitting then for the title. But it’s really interesting, because you get this whole range of experiences. I really appreciate that you guys put that together. Thank you so much, Joanna, for contributing that.

Joanna Goodman: Thank you for having me.

Sharon daVanport: Thank you for calling in.

Joanna Goodman: Of course.

Sharon daVanport: Well, I wanted to go ahead and let everyone know that we are very appreciative for everyone over in the chat room and their questions. We’ve got a couple more things we’ve got to get to, so I did want to, again, thank you, Marc and thank you, James for being our guests this hour and coming on and telling our listeners and everyone about the book. We wish you much success with it, and look forward to hearing more about it.

James Wagner: Thank you very much for having us.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Tricia Kenney: It was very nice having you guys on. Thank you very much. Great, great project you did and a wonderful product that you put out here for us.

Sharon daVanport: Yes. And thank you for calling in, Corina.

Corina Becker: You’re welcome.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. All right. Well, we wanted to go ahead. Tricia, do you have the name of the…I wanted to make for sure that everybody got to hear who our winner is for the b-Calm system.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. Yes. The winner for the prize package today is Adam Boyson. He was, I think, in the room. I don’t know that he’s still there. [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: You don’t have to be in the room to win. To be fair, we put everybody’s name in who are listeners throughout the month. So, yeah. So it’s going to be Adam; we’ll contact him and let him know. Also wanted to thank everyone for listening in this week, and let everyone know that next week, we are going to have the Murray family on. You might have heard of the autism documentary that’s been featured on Showtime called Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon. The Murray family’s going to be on: Helen and Tom and their mother. They’re guests next week, so stay tuned for postings on that, and the times.

And I just want to thank everyone for just their continued support of the Autism Women’s Network. We want to remind everyone that the AWN, we are a group of autistic women who are trying to make a difference. We’ve put up a forum online and we’re trying to share our experiences.

We’re brand new. We’re still in the process of structuring and forming our organization, so we ask if you have any questions or anybody was wondering about our organization, please feel free to contact us. We have a contact form on our website. And we welcome any suggestions and comments, too, as we’re growing and structuring our organization, trying to be able to be a voice in the autism community from the perspective of autistic females. And thank you very much, Tricia.

Tricia Kenney: All right. Well, thank you so much, Sharon. It was a good show today, and thank you to everyone who called in. Thank you to everyone who was in the chat room contributing.

Sharon daVanport: Yes. And we will be back here next week, the same time. Until then, everyone, have a wonderful week. Goodbye.

Tricia Kenney: Bye-bye.

[End]

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