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Grant number like: FT-59702-12

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Ralph Savarese
Grinnell College (Grinnell, IA 50112-2227)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2012 – 8/31/2012

Poetry and Autism

I am writing a book about poetry and autism, a much maligned form of neurological difference. Cognitive scientists have determined that the non-dominant, right cerebral hemisphere manages novel figures of speech. If reversed laterality for language is the natural condition of both "low functioning" autistics and neurotypical poets when they are writing poems, then we might capitalize on the right-hemispheric strengths of these autistics by using poetry as a kind of shared language. Moreover, if hearing a metrical poem read aloud activates a person's motor cortex, as was recently discovered, then we might use the musical properties of poetry to circumvent this group's well-documented movement difficulties. Insights from cognitive science support a broader conception of poetry--as a form of embodied knowledge, as a kind of therapy, and as a neuro-cosmopolitan bridge between different sensory organisms. In this book the poetic impulse itself receives a new and holistic hearing.