2 Years Ago: A soul illuminated by a class

Dear Friends,

Two years ago, I wrote my first real class assignment! It was for Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo), a course on Coursera taught by U Penn. It so lit up my life, and opened up my world to the power and art of poetry. The professor, Al Filreis, was so welcoming of me, and so were the other students. And I so fell in love with the poems of Emily Dickinson, who was the first poet we studied. Something about her understated strength in her words captivated me. Imagine the thrill of discovering a new passion after decades of stagnation! Wow. It so absolutely illuminated my soul!

Here is a copy of that poem and my brief discussion post on close reading it. I was so happy to post it. But then the professor read it aloud during that week’s live meeting, and I felt stars beaming out of my heart! Then several classmates responded how my interpretation changed their view of the poem. This felt like a dream to me, after never being acknowledged for my ideas! This was the most recognized I had been in my 35 years of life.

I went on to complete the course and earn the first meaningful certificate of my life! And I took another course at a local community college, which I enjoyed and aced, but from which I realized that formal education is not something I need to achieve my goals. But I still love learning from experts in diverse fields, and I enjoy sitting in as a Community Teaching Assistant for the ModPo course each year. It changed my view of myself and what I could contribute to the world! I am so thankful to the professor and the ModPo community for being so open to me.

Your Friend,


Response to Emily Dickinson’s “I Dwell in Possibility” (poem 466)

Title: Resonates with my autistic experience (written Sep 2020)

This really spoke to my perspective as an autistic, apraxic, minimally-speaking man. The imagery of her dwelling in the world of Possibility is akin to the constrained yet limitless world of my autistic mind.

The words “A fairer House than Prose” reflect the wonderful universe in my mind clashing with the structure of the neurotypical world. The latter seems so limited in its capacity for other ways of thinking.

The line “And for an everlasting Roof/ The Gambrels of the Sky” is evocative of the infinite wonder in my mind. Yet the notion of the impregnable chambers speaks to the challenges of being understood by the outside world.

The windows, to me, suggest an ability to look outside. This is a heightened ability in autistics. We are able to observe so much of what is around us. Yet the world outside rarely looks in.

The visitors are those thoughts that fly into our minds. They need no doors to open. They freely enter and keep me company.

The gathering of paradise is exactly what I do in my autistic house. The routine, rule-filled, prosaic world outside is so restricting. Yet my limitless world must exist within it.

Copy of the poem

Screenshot from The Poetry Foundation (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52197/i-dwell-in-possibility-466)

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