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Most of you know that April is National Poetry month, but it is also Autism Awareness month. What better time than now to highlight one we have come to know and love here at dVerse Poets, Gretchen Leary.

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Paper Wings
by Gretchen Leary

“When I grow up”
(She pauses)
With a puff to
Blow back sticky
Dark chocolate
Bangs to see
More clearly
“I want to be a hero”
She whispers
As she fiddles
With her
Powder Pink
Chubby crayon-
Wax sticking to
The side of
Her tiny hand
Smudging rainbows
On the page
Frazzled, she
Starts over
Lost in a “Narnia“
Of thoughts
She wonders
Just how old a
Hero should be
And what they
Might look like
Not like her
That’s for sure
She furrows her
Brow in a
No nonsense
Determined way
Biting her little
Lower lip
With worry
While a tear
Drops, splashing
Down onto
Her drawing
As she prays
For wings again.

Gretchen is the author of Welcome to My Yesterday and Monochrome under her maiden name, Gretchen Gundel. She just had a birthday yesterday. Happy Birthday, Gretchen! Do you feel grown up now?

Haha, yes… I suppose I do.

We’ll have to talk about that another time, because I’m way older than you and still feel like I’m twenty-eight!

You speak openly about some of your challenges. Please share with us your thoughts.

I have a condition called Aspergers Syndrome (also called High Functioning Autism by some). I’m not sure which part of my journey with Aspergers to share as I was born with it. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was twenty three… females are less easy to spot with it at times. The sensory overload that I experience is a double-edged sword. It has given me a knack with imagery in my writing, but has come at great cost in the “real world”.

Care to elaborate?

Aside from everyday sensory issues, making friends has always been a struggle. I do well one on one at times but I have issues with dominating conversations and becoming too intense and when I am in group settings I tend to be incredibly anxious and try to avoid them altogether. There are some exceptions but they are usually revolving around my “special interests” that people with ASD are known to have.

Listen
by Gretchen Leary

Embraced by a redefining memory
and a reviving sense of healing,
I am slowly rebuilding my inner voice
So that you may hear me-
Let me be.
Let me breathe.
Let me speak.
Just stand beside me and hold my hand
Let us lead instead of follow-
Let us teach the world to understand
What may seem different
Or may seem broken
Is simply a misperception of who I am.

Do you have any long-term goals?

Right now, I’m trying to get a children’s book published to promote understanding for others on the Autism Spectrum and other disabilities that might not be obvious to the naked eye.

That sounds wonderful. Please keep us posted.

gretchen[1]

Free Hugs
by Gretchen Leary

A handmade sign
Reading “Free Hugs”
In the corner of
my eye in a
sea of “I’m fine”
City poker faces
in Times Square
of all places
Where no one
“has the time” to
stop & wonder
Why he feels the
need to offer
Friendship to a
Complete stranger

Where are you from, Gretchen?

I was born in the Philippines on a Naval Base in 1986, but quickly moved to Massachusetts. I’ve lived in the Boston area most of my life, but I have also lived in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Houston.

How long have you been writing poetry? I’ve been writing poetry since I was in high school.

I hope you don’t mind my sharing your very first poem that you wrote in 9th grade. I found it on your blog.

Masterpiece By the Sea
By Gretchen Anne Gundel

While building a sandcastle,
I build slowly carefully making perfect grooves,
Molding walls and bridges making sure they’re smooth.
Creating each bold new tower,
Making each one strong and tall.
The middle,
The biggest,
Tallest of them all.
Now that I am finished,
I lay back and admire,
My pride glows like the flame of a fire.
As stars begin to shimmer like silver along the vast charcoal sky,
Across the beach I roam,
Leaving behind a small trail of footprints which lead to my home.
I still remember that masterpiece of mine.
But it is only one of them,
All great and fine.

Is there a particular poetry form you favor over another?

My favorite type of poetry is loaded with imagery and beat. I was taught that good poetry is like painting with words, and so I am always amazed when a writer can bring the reader into the moment with words. I tend to lean towards very emotional/intense poetry. Emily Dickinson was a huge inspiration for me years ago but since then music has truly become one of my biggest sources of inspiration.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Now it’s time for questions from dVerse Poets in the comments section. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.

Info on social media/ how to reach Gretchen.
@GretchenLeary (Twitter), (Facebook) , Gretchen Leary (main website)

You can click on these links to find out more about Gretchen’s involvement in Autism/ Aspergers awareness.

CNN Story 2012,
CNN Geek Out Blog 2012