Unrestricted Interest, a partnering publisher of A.R.T. Library Program, is a creative writing organization that supports neurodivergent learners while offering poets meaningful teaching opportunities. We asked co-founder Chris Martin to share a window into the process of their workshops – which he elaborates in dialog with poet Imane Boukaila. Imane's debut chapbook, TRUTH OMG is available for free download below.
Imane Boukaila, a 14-year-old nonspeaking autistic poet (and essayist and songwriter) from Toronto, is one of my most treasured interlocutors. On any given Friday, during our one-hour session through Unrestricted Interest, we might talk about anything from poetics to neologisms (“hacking language norms”) to tramp life to the kindredness of fish to neurodivergent revolution. I support her with her writing and she supports me with my thinking. In fact, Imane gave me a new way to think about my thinking. In a recent poem she proposed the idea of “tilted thinking.” In her words: “I’m treasuring tilted mind views to preview unstressed possibilities.” Since Imane and I are both neurodivergent, tilted thinking is intrinsic to who we are and how we move through the world, seeking unstressed ease to balance our sensory intensity. We tilt away from what Imane terms “troubled abled” thinking, which expects normative pathways that would never suit us.
Imane is interested in spreading the neurodivergent revolution to everyone—even the so-called neurotypicals out there—as a way of “excavating truths” that lay hidden under heavy layers of coercive, punitive, patriarchal thought so often normalized in ableist worldviews. In another poem, Imane summed up this kind of oppressive thinking as “histerical” in nature: a delicious blending of hysteria and history, positing a uniquely masculine version of hysteria that takes history as its compulsion. Imane keenly observes the way those in power, who occupy what Audre Lorde calls the “default body,” forever seek to place themselves in the center of history’s narrow story. From that vantage point, they believe they can name and tame whatever otherness threatens their perspective and power.
When I shared these opening paragraphs with Imane she wrote: “Think the plot shows dreams reaching forbidden places mostly camping nomadic thoughts will master domestication of Neurotypical sarcastic views.” To which I asked a question: “How does the tramp, the camping nomadic thought, make possible a kind of liberatory truth?”
Her reply: “Treasuring possibilities tracks thoughts that dare to live in the mind’s periphery clear and free from mastered modes. Truth is amplified in shadowed motions. Troubled abled motion recycled thoughts presenting the same ideas packaged differently. Subtle shadowed innovative ideas mingle mostly in asymmetrical shoved thinking homeless searching tilted thinkers sampling truth in drastic perplexing ways totally trampling ditching established treasured streams. Treasures motioned in tilted thinkers plot streams of homeless ideas homing their purpose. Truth shames motions trapped by hesitation.”
I’d love to know all the things that you hear in these lines, but for now here is a little of what I hear. The peripheral is a zone where fugitive truths tramp, elaborating themselves in shadows. These shadows help cultivate innovation, the shade providing time to sample and perplex past the false truths of established streams. The purpose of truth is to find a place to dwell, a dwelling where we can cohabitate in ease, a space where we can mingle and tilt forever toward each other, honing and homing in on greater and stranger truths together.
Imane and I are always looking for ways to cohabitate our truths, with each other, but also with as many others as we can call into collaboration. This past fall we read alongside three of our neurodivergent friends–Adam Wolfond, Hannah Emerson, and Sid Ghosh–each of them harboring a poetics of incredible specificity that reflects how nonspeaking autistic individuals, though kindred in certain respects, can move through the world in vastly different ways. Imane is also part of a collaborative writing group called The Master Musketeers, who write rolicking songs and poems together, and dis assembly, a collective of artists exploring neurodiversity, access, and relation. However you define the frontline, Imane believes we are already taking part in a neurodivergent revolution.
In her most recent poem, “Tramps Reinvent Trashed Treasures,” she ends by inviting the reader to consider what it might mean “to trouble the motions” we've been conditioned to accept. And in doing so, to try “preventing voids” where the non-normative among us can be rendered silent and invisible. In lieu of voids, we might “fill up immaculating pride” where we can find “trashed troubling ideas daring to thrive.” One’s trash is another’s treasure. Tramp alongside us, friends. It’s a daring, interdependent future.
Imane Boukaila is the author of Truth OMG, a chapbook of poems from Unrestricted Editions. Her work has been published in Explicit Literary Journal and Inflexions. She is a founding member of both The Master Musketeers and dis assembly, art and writing collectives that treasure neurodiversity and creative expression. And she is the co-founder of Hear our Minds, an art movement whose mission is to work toward change and inclusion.
Chris Martin is a tilted thinking animal who sways, hags, loves, trees, lights, listens, and arrives. A poet who teaches and learns in mutual measure, he is the connective hub of Unrestricted Interest and the curator of Multiverse, a series of neurodivergent writing from Milkweed Editions. His book of essays, May Tomorrow Be Awake: On Poetry, Autism, and Our Neurodiverse Future, will be published by HarperOne in August of 2022.