Today we begin posting our interviews with Stone Telling 10: Body poets. We asked our poets a few questions, and will be publishing the responses we received over the next few weeks. Our first featured poet is Ada Hoffmann, who contributed to the Body issue with “Turning to Stone.” This is Ada’s first appearance in the magazine.
Ada Hoffmann is an autistic graduate student from Canada. Her poetry has appeared in venues such as Strange Horizonsand Goblin Fruit. You can find her online at ada-hoffmann.livejournal.com or on Twitter at @xasymptote.
I’m slowing down, or else the city’s
speeding up around me. Paint-bright people
whirl along the many-cornered streets.
Your walk, my friends, becomes a fire-dance.
Ada Hoffmann, “Turning to Stone.”
This poem was inspired by a specific real-life event. I had an ugly overload/meltdown on a family trip in 2012, and something in the depths of my meltdown brain decided to make a poem out of it. Once I was feeling a little better, I started free-associating about imagery, metrical concerns, characters my meltdown brain identified with, and other such things, and the poem took shape. It went through a larger series of drafts than most of my poems – partly because the first draft made no sense, but also because there were a number of aspects of the poem that I tried to distance myself from at first. I had to be hit over the head by certain beta readers in order to tell the full truth. In particular, the last verse in parentheses did not appear in anything like its current form until the final revision (though the last three words of the poem were there from the beginning).
I am autistic, and situations like the one described in the poem, with many sensory things going on at once, are a challenge for me. I would like to caution readers that the challenge doesn’t always take the shape that it does in this poem. Overload can look like a lot of different things.
To be honest, I’m usually so deep in my own head that I forget about the body until it gets dirty or achy or hungry. I wouldn’t have even thought of submitting to a “Body”-themed issue of a magazine if ST’s guidelines hadn’t explicitly included neuroatypicality as one of the “Body”-related themes it was looking for. I’m very interested in writing about the experience of neuroatypicality, and there are physical and sensory aspects to this experience as well as more cerebral ones. “Turning to Stone” uses metaphor to turn the sensory aspect of a meltdown into a physical one, so it technically counts.
If you’re looking for more from me on this theme, my story “You Have to Follow the Rules” in Strange Horizons, and my poem “The Changeling’s Escape” in Ideomancer, are works from 2013 which are both written from the point of view of a neuroatypical child. Autistic characters show up more subtly or peripherally in a few of my earlier stories, including “Moon Laws, Dream Laws” and “The Chartreuse Monster“. I hope to be able to do more with this theme in the future, especially more stories/poems from the point of view of autistic adults. (I have an upcoming novelette in that vein which I’m very excited about. It also has dinosaurs!)
ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?
AH: As 2014 gets underway, I’m finding myself embroiled in three different collaborative projects with three different people! I’ve always thought of myself as a loner, but I am actually very dependent on others for feedback and validation, and I want to share the things I am excited about. Being able to share the full creative workspace with someone I trust (through trust is crucial) is a wonderful gift. It may be a while until any of these projects result in anything publically available, and I don’t want to talk about them in detail until then, but this is what I’m most excited about right now.