Poetry Packed Out: The Debut of Deciphering My Poetry

At the behest of a fellow artist friend Kelli Bickman, whose art you can see her at http://www.kellibickman.net/, she gave me the idea of doing an explication of the poems I’ve written in the past and present. I figured that if I’m doing this for the first time, I might as well explain why I call this blog The Autistic Super-Blog.

My debut poem for this segment, Autistic Superkid, is one that means a lot to me in more ways than one, it was the first poem I got published in Chronogram as well as being featured in an anthology of Hudson Valley Writers called Riverine (http://www.sunypress.edu/p-5213-riverine.aspx.) To a young autistic poet and be included into such giants of the community such as Da Chen, Barbara Adams, Phillip Levine, Will Nixon, Mikhail Horowitz and Orange County’s current Poet Laureate Robert Milby was (and still is) a very humbling experience and one of my proudest moments as a poet. So without any further ado:

Autistic Superkid

I am and have always been
The autistic superkid
I am one of the first
But not the last
And I am always trying to improve
I am an ambassador of two worlds
Half-citizen of Earth; Half citizen of Wallbrook
This is how I truly am
Even though it’s not how I look.

When I wrote what I now consider my signature poem, I was only discovering what my having autism was as a young adult, what limitations and challenges I’d have to face throughout my life. It was at the suggestion of my late college mentor, the Late Larry Berk, that I went to look up books written by the famous livestock engineer Temple Grandin.  She recounted in her books, Thinking in Pictures and Emergence: Labeled Autistic the very same challenges I was facing now and for that I wish to thank her so much for her inspiration (and for being so gracious for a photo with her.)

Back to my poem, that spark that was lit by reading Temple’s books, stoked by my late mentor’s suggestion opened up so many possibilities for me, if she could achieve that kind of success, then what’s stopping me from doing the same? I wanted to convey that struggle of fitting in and standing out into one poem, noting the challenges (like Wallbrook from the 1988 film Rain Man)  but also giving that same spark of empowerment to others like me.

I really hope to make this a fixture on the Superblog, so I welcome any comments and critiques, but I hope that my poem helps people to step out of the dark and….

Shine on!!!

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A Beacon of Hope, shining against the darkness…

Throughout my life, I’ve come across some great people, ones that enriches my life, believed; supported me, helped me learn things I wouldn’t know otherwise and someone I know that I can talk to and know that they hear and understand me. An elementary school teacher (and wonderful friend) Joe Defino Jr. has done all that and then some, not just to me but to the community that he serves, all with his heart and creativity.

At the time I first met him, I was going through my own perfect storm, my parents were going through a divorce, settling into a new school and puberty, all within one period in my life where I felt alone and unsure. Then, a relatively new teacher came into my life and made me realize that all the things I was feeling at the time were totally nuerotypical for anyone, Spectrumite or not and offered me a light, a beacon of hope and most importantly, his friendship, all while not asking for anything else in return. It’s something that I hold most dear to me and I’ll always thank him (and by extension, his whole family) for that.

Ever since, he’s been a go-to for me if I need a shoulder to cry on, someone to bounce ideas off of or just for support, he’s been there for me more times than I can count. He not only supports me but also does so for the entire community, as is evident in his most recent endeavor, Hope Rocks, a festival of hope and support that we need now more than ever with the epidemic of young people committing suicide and dying from drug overdoses. Throughout his teaching carrer, he’s been to 9 funerals, just in the past 3 years alone, over 27 in all that time! In a time where the world would want us to be callous, indifferent and uncaring, Joe is sharing his light to show to others what is evident to me, that hope is there for the asking, hope is present, hope shines and quite frankly, hope rocks!!

So, not only is this a blog post to highlight Joe as a person, but this is also me adding my voice to his, letting people know that it only takes one person to make a difference in lives so if you ever feel like you’re down and out, depressed, or even suicidal, DO NOT HESISTATE TO LET PEOPLE KNOW!! I can’t stress this enough and if you need any more prodding, come on down to Cantine Field in Saugerties on August 17-19 and I can bet you’ll find support, you’ll find kindness and perhaps you’ll find the answers you’re looking for. I close this blog post with a poem I wrote for Joe and for his mission to spread hope and compassion to those he meets:

Hope

By Brian Liston

For Joe Defino Jr, a true friend and beacon of hope-

Hope
Speaks, feels
In our tears, darkness, fears
That we are not alone to share our
Collective light.

Until next time, don’t forget to…

Shine on!!

The Gift of Autism part 1: Drink it in, Man!!!

Creativity, for me, is less a word, but more of a process, one you can always plan for when it hits you (even when you have to do things on the fly) but creativity is something that really can’t be rushed. It really can’t be rushed along, or as Alton Brown says, “your impatience will be punished.”

Creativity is the flexiblitiy to know that as things change, in life and other things, you can always change to fit the respective situation. But for every gift, people ask me where my creativity comes from, well, let’s just say that for every flame that one sees, there’s always a spark that it can be always traced back into.

I guess that my creative spark can be traced back to my late Grandfather, who was a well known poet in his hometown in Limerick, a bar he used to frequent has his poem, Garryowen, in a place of honor, as it does in my own apartment. Even though he passed away early on in my life, I somehow feel that we’re connected by poetry, done in different ways, but still beautiful all the same, much like the country that he and I call home: Ireland. Guinness aside, Ireland has so much art, culture and history that I’ve only now decided to delve into my family history to see what family traits that I see in my relatives and to take the lessons of the past and transfer them to my present day.

The spark that was handed down to me by my late Grandfather was nurtured throughout my high school years and I was known for my poems, then as now. Though various teachers helped me grow my talent (and for that I’m so grateful), none had such an impact on me than my late friend and mentor, the Late Larry Berk, who was a librarian at the community college I went to after high school. Larry was a true friend, always encouraging me to keep writing. In time, he became someone that I could confide in, especially when you take into consideration that he saw his sons in me, as we all had another connection: autism.

I met so many fellow artists becuase of him: Linocutter Carol Zaloom, performance poet Mik Horowitz and his partner, Gilles Malkine among so many others. I owe no shortage of gratitude to Larry’s influence because the artistic appreciation and the respect that I have currently for librarians is all due to him and his family who believed in me and my ability to always evolve and….

Shine on!!!