Autism: poetry, language and writing
Examining autism, and the experience of being autistic through comedy, poetry, fiction and footnotes with guests Henry Normal, James McGrath, Kate Fox, and Alicia Kopf.
Producer: Faith Lawrence
Presenter: Ian McMillan.
The stand-up poet Kate Fox has only recently been open about her autism in public. Especially for The Verb she performs brand new ‘work-in-progress’ stand-up comedy about her diagnosis, touching on her relationship to her own emotions, assumptions about northerners, the hypothetical difficulty of understanding a talking lion and the intense interest shown by scientists into the behaviour of autistic mice. Kate is a Cultural Ambassador for the National Autistic Society and her latest collection ‘Fox Populi’ is published by Smokestack
Henry Normal began his career as a performance poet, before founding the TV production company Baby Cow, responsible for some of our best-loved television comedies including ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and ‘The Royle Family’. In Henry’s book ‘A Normal Family’ (Two Roads) both he, and his wife Angela Pell chronicle life with their teenage son Johnny (diagnosed as autistic when he was a toddler), and their mutual family history. Henry examines his relationship to the language surrounding his son’s diagnosis, particularly the strangeness of the term ‘mildly severe’ and the concept of the autistic spectrum.
The academic and poet James McGrath is the author of ‘Naming Adult Autism’(Rowman & Littlefield). Although it is an academic book, James explains that he included some of his own biography in the form of footnotes. James recollects the satisfaction of repetitive behaviour and play in childhood, the way in which people used to use the word ‘peculiar’ in the 1980s, and celebrates his own experience of poetry as a ‘dance in the mouth’.
Alicia Kopf is a Catalan artist and writer and the author of ‘Brother in Ice’ (& Other Stories), her debut novel. This hybrid novel, part research notes, part fictionalised diary, and part travelogue uses the metaphor of ice and stories of polar exploration to make sense of family relationships, including that of a neurotypical sister to an autistic brother. Alicia explains her interest in the word ‘person’ and its etymological relationship to the word ‘mask’. What does it mean when we don’t understand another person’s mask?