“I am a writer. . . .”

wonderboysThere is a marvellous moment in the film, Wonder Boys (2000), where one of the characters, a pompous but renowned novelist, played by Rip Torn, and known by a single initial as “Q”, walks to the podium to address a university audience during Writers Week, and solemnly declares: “I am a writer. . . .”

This is greeted by a very loud belly laugh from James Leer (Toby Maguire), a student in the creative writing class run by Professor Tripp (Michael Douglas). Well, all of us who make that claim about ourselves run the risk of being labelled pompous and yet we are all writers.

Towards the end of this school year I gave some English lessons to a very sensitive and charming autistic boy, aged 16, and I encouraged him to explore the possibilities of creative writing. On each occasion we met, he would tell me the news that Shakespeare was dead and that he didn’t want to be a writer. To the first statement I would reply, “Good, cuts out the competition”. The second statement I would answer by picking up an issue of National Geographic entirely dedicated to dinosaurs (he was intensely interested in the reptiles) and point to the text. “There’s no escape from text. We all have to write. We’re all writers.” In fact, over the weeks I saw him, the boy produced some very fine pieces of writing, albeit under protest.

Over the coming months I intend to reveal a little about the reasons why I write and the processes I use to create my poetry. But for the time being, here is an example of one of the poems produced by my autistic pupil:

The perfect days of summer

Holiday with my family
         waking to the sound of waves
Cereal with fresh milk
         resting on the beach
throwing water
         at friends’ faces
a cold drink
         a seat
               an umbrella
Marvellous views
         of the land and the sea
Use suntan lotion
         and insect repellent
Lunch in a Turkish
         seaside restaurant
Going for long walks
         new places
               new faces
different sounds
         different smells

Looking forward
         to returning
         back to London
         back to my room
         back to my computer
         in the basement
back to friends at school
with my very own photos

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