THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
I met Grey Brown through her invitation to judge the poems submitted for the annual "They Wrote Us a Poem" contest, sponsored by Duke Hospital and directed by Grey. Reading these poems by people who'd suffered illness or endured family members' illnesses was an emotional experience for me. Since that time, Grey and I have remained in contact. In her latest book, she wrestles with the angel of her daughter's autism. She says, "It is my hope that this book will help families supporting children with learning differences. Thanks again to Laura Williams for her cover design and to Elizabeth Marin for sharing her art work." Grey will give a reading at Regulator on April 29th at 7:00 and will be on The State of Things with Frank Staccio on April 29th at noon.
Grey co-founded the literary arts program for HAND in 1986. She began offering the literary arts in a medical setting as a graduate student at New York University when she assisted poet Sharon Olds teaching creative writing at Goldwater Memorial Hospital.
Grey gives presentations locally and nationally on the role of the literary arts and on creating literary arts programming in health care settings. A visiting lecturer teaching creative writing in the Duke English department, she has also served as a writer-in-the-schools.
She is the author of Staying In, winner of the North Carolina Writers’ Network Harper Prints Poetry Contest. Her first full length collection, What It Takes, Turning Point Press, will be released in 2010.
When They Tell Me is Grey Brown's personal story of her daughter with autism, but it is my story too and the story of any parent who has a child with a disability. Through her wonderful descriptions of motherhood, worries, and diagnosis, she draws the reader into her world. You understand and share her feelings of fear and confusion. You celebrate her hopes and love for her child. These thoughtful and powerful words confirmed my own experiences and comforted me. For those who have not shared this particular journey, it will offer an incredible insight into a parent¢s overpowering love for their child and the challenging journey to acceptance.
--Ann Palmer, author of Realizing the College Dream with Autism or Asperger Syndrome; A Parent's Guide to Student Success and co-author of Parenting Across the Autism Spectrum; Unexpected Lessons We Have Learned
From six to twelve months our daughter does not gain an ounce. In the lab I trap her tiny wrists as the phlebotomist hunts the vein, piercing my baby again and again. Here, this photo, the crook of her right arm bound in gauze, startling bulge in proportion to the rest of her.
At night I sit and wonder what is this thing thick and black beneath the crib, sucking her life into darkness. In home movies I come to see how little she smiles, sags in the highchair, listing to one side.
Babies from our birthing class pass their milestones as she slowly falls behind. I hate the playgroup where I watch the rest sitting, crawling, then standing to toddle. I want to pull them back down to the ground, pin their limbs, keep them here beside her.
Early Intervention Play Group
Ironic this name as she does so little play, tends to stray when children come too close, as though something literally intervenes between my daughter and play and group.
At twenty months, she is the only one who cannot walk except for the boy with cerebral palsy who still creeps across the floor, calls her name, too slow to catch her. She crawls a steady orbit, watching and avoiding the others and their games.
She pauses, plinks piano keys before escaping the attempted duet. She sits alone, waving her hands before her face, the music of her small fingers still ringing.
When They Tell Me
the psychologist, the therapist, the nurse practitioner, and the intern, we are crowded in one office. They inhale what air is left, the breath I imagine they collectively take each time the diagnosis is given. Why do we say given when so much is taken away? I take my time to respond, my eyes wandering to the art of children framed along the wall, and I can not stop myself from rising, from deliberately reading the labels telling me these drawings were done by autistic children in Russia. I am the only one standing, the rest still waiting. Suddenly I laugh, and I am not sure if I have laughed to myself or aloud in front of them. If I could just at this moment lead them home to my room, show my bedside table piled with books overdue: the woman who talks with gorillas, the one who thinks in pictures, the son who loves windows, those who see smells, the girl who paints prismatic paintings If I could open my journal point to the pages where I have dared to write the word. I have known for so long, I wonder if I have brought this on.
At first it is circles she loves, singing her one word praise for hours in the back seat. She graduates miraculously and mysteriously to fire hydrants. We count them, sort them, I coax her fine motor skills as we cut, glue and glitter fire hydrants. She learns colors by the surprising variety of fire hydrant shades, red, orange, black and grey even blue ones sporting team colors in this college town. We have grown used to her passion, to her voice shrill as she spots number fifty, understand how she longs to live in the house with its own hydrant right there in the yard. We think we will never be surprised till the house lights dim and midway through the first act, Clara’s godfather holds up not a nutcracker, but a fire hydrant, and she bellows her praise in an auditorium so silent, so still, we hear the rustle of hair-bows as six hundred tiny heads turn our way.
Kick-ball is a gamble, so much to set you off: glare of sun, noise, the way you might take being out too personally, not to mention that you have yet to kick a ball. I imagine you lost between bases, or somehow catching a pass just to run the wrong way. So I watch in amazement as you ask to pitch, step to the mound, squat, the kick ball an egg between skinny legs. You send the ball straight for the plate, without a bounce, nary a wobble, lean back, hands on your waist as though you expected as much.
No one else here has any idea how far you have come but from here in the field I spy the occupational therapist molding your hands to the ball, catch our physical therapist adjusting your stance, hear the speech pathologist cheering from the stands. I nod to our pediatrician, a calm, but attentive referee, the whole afternoon rolling out perfectly conceived, the sun and sky brilliant visual cues lighting you there in the center setting us all into play.
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.