Two Poets

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The poetry of Australian Les Murray opens up a new world for Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant for whom words are filled with colour and numbers have become friends.

"Belonging is something that other people decide for you," says the internationally acclaimed author Daniel Tammet, who is on the highly functional end of the autism spectrum. "I wanted desperately to belong when I was growing up."

This feature is about the power of poetry. And about seeing the world differently from everyone around you. In Daniel's world, four is shy, six a little sad. Numbers and words come easy to him. And he never forgets - once, he recited 22154 digits of Pi from memory. On another occasion, he learned Icelandic in a week.

We meet Daniel in Paris where he lives as an author, poet and translator. We hear about his early life in suburban London, about getting lost in his own mind while walking to school, trying to learn social skills as he would later learn a language. Then, one day, he stumbles across a book by the Australian poet Les Murray.

It transforms his life.

Les Murray's poetry gives him a language he understands. He recognises himself completely in Murray's words and sets about translating his poems into French. As a consequence, there's suddenly the possibility of the two poets meeting up, in person in Paris, when Les Murray asks Daniel to translate a poem about autism.

Presented and produced by Martin Johnson
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

26 days left to listen

36 minutes

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