Poetic insight to the world of autism

January 20, 2016
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Cloudboy, by Siobhan Harvey (Otago University Press, RRP $25):

Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page, selected by Siobhan Harvey, Harry Ricketts and James Norcliffe (Godwit, RRP $45):

Siobhan Harvey is an internationally recognised poet who has been critically acclaimed through receiving or being shortlisted for many awards. She won the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award 2013 for her Cloudboy collection.

These poems share what life is like with an autistic son. The point of view is Cloudmother’s, and she first compares her son to all kinds of clouds. The second section covers him going to school, often heartbreaking in the difficulties that are met.

The last two parts are entitled Meditations of a Cloudboy (Without Drugs), and Cloud Manifesto. Finally, there is one poem in the Epilogue, Upon Medicating My Son. These poems could really speak to parents of autistic children, making them feel less alone, that someone else understands the range of difficulties and emotions they are going through. They are also a good starting point for anyone who wants to learn about autism.

What a gorgeous, eye-catching book Essential New Zealand Poems is. It is cloth bound with a built- in bookmark and includes some evocative photographs among its pages.

The three editors, all NZ literary giants themselves, have chosen 150 poems from 150 Kiwi poets since the 1950s, to make it a contemporary collection. The reader can agree or not with the choices made.

A wonderful book to read from cover to cover or just to dip into when the whim takes you.

Naida Mulligan

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