ART OF AUTISM book review by board member
(Baxter Daniels Ink Press/International Word Bank; April 2020)
It is not surprising to learn that the word “vulnerability” derives from the Latin word for ‘wound.’ This poetry collection, entitled “Becoming Vulnerable,” with its real-world themes of autism, addiction, sobriety and spirituality, is aptly named. To be vulnerable is to be open. A bird with closed wings cannot fly, after all.
Joshua Corwin’s Connection to Hummingbirds
In this book, meaning and symbolism are as open as a hummingbirds’ wings, imagery glimpsed and known, beating with kinetic fragility. His words; chosen as if by a wordsmith who has mastered this poetry thing, do fly off the page. Imagine fifty beats of meaning per second. I read and reread this book slowly, to appreciate Joshua’s hum, his elevated thoughts. I felt his sometimes-skewed sense of self; his journey toward knowing better his own personhood.
Joshua Corwin’s poetry; with its otherworldly rhythm, is like riding a night train. The poetry sits beside us awhile as our bodies are illuminated and then cast into shadow, our whole selves jostled, and our minds flooding with passing images; as we consider our own personal journey and how we relate to the journey of the poet. ALBERT WACHTEL (Pitzer College Professor of Creative Studies) says in his Foreword to Becoming Vulnerable: “These lyrics cry out from the heart.”
Joshua Corwin went to Pitzer College in Claremont, CA. and received a B.A. in mathematics and a minor in philosophy. After an out-of-body experience, he wrote a thesis on “Executive Qualia and their Relation to Mystical Experience.” Josh says: “Now, with this book, I utilize my experience as an individual with autism and as an addict who is sober and in recovery, to give back to the world with this collection of poetry, to become vulnerable. I thought vulnerability was a weakness. But in truth it is a strength. The truth is I might be different and unique in my own special way, as is everyone, but there are others like me.” Yes Josh, you’re right, and it’s through books like this, that we can find belonging. Like Josh, I too am autistic, and I was once stuck in a groove of addiction for a few wasted teen years before I found my own raison d’être. Unlike Josh, I have never been brave enough to discuss this openly. I am inspired perhaps to do so.
In his studies, Joshua Corwin has taken classes like ‘Psychology of Mindfulness’ and ‘Science of Life-Changing Events.’ He asks himself: “Can I apply the knowledge from these classes to my life? And also, be mindful of my own psychology and grateful for the events that have changed life? Can I be mindful of the science that God is with me here right now?” He succeeds in doing this.
The book starts off with a picture of Grandpa Mert, who is holding a dog in his lap. The page reflects the love and importance of this figure in Josh’s life. As we read on, we watch Joshua’s journey unfold and feel him discover his reason for being, his “raison d’être.” Truly, it is words and phrases like this one that entice me to love this book.
For me personally, luscious and carefully selected words are a meaningful mind-aphrodisiac that feeds soul and brain; and as I said, this book has them. Here are some beautiful words and phrases from Becoming Vulnerable: Tzim-Tzumic vessels, inner Shofar, neshamah, eutrophication, satori-Cally, kalpas, sangha, apophatic, Ananda, temporal qualia, styme…
Aaahhh, lovely words! But there are images in the book too. It turns out Joshua is also a prolific photographer and artist. On page 19, Joshua shares his haunting Artwork called “Faces.” I am not surprised that the man who wrote the short 17-line poem entitled “THE GATE IS NOT A GATE,” (which appears toward the end of this book and was first published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Issue 24), is also a talented artist. Really, I want to print that ‘little’ (profoundly enormous) poem out and put it where I can see it every day, as a mantra to my self.
Another favorite line of mine from this book is from the poem titled “I CAN SEE THE WRITING ON THE WALL.” As both an artist and a writer I can appreciate its simple complexity. Here is the line: “You are a painting in my mind’s eye.” Another favorite line that I know I will turn to again just for the pleasure of hearing it in my own mind’s eye, is as follows. From the poem “WHISTLING INTO WIT / STILLNESS SPEAKS TO THE WAITING” comes this line:
“the sun sprains itself past courage.”
I am not sure how the sun sprains itself but I am awed with the pondering of it. In the poem “12:01 AM,” (first published in Al-Khemia Poetica in September 2019), I am transported to the memory of a unique friendship I had long ago. Like the conversation in the poem, I am nostalgically carried back to that time, the in-depth revelatory things my friend C. and I discussed, the late-night-early-morning exchanges of information we shared and found unique value in… Like the poem, neither my long-ago friend, nor myself, had to “tattoo meaning in the air” to know what the other meant. This line (in quotations) transcended the passages of time for me, and this is exactly what I want a poem to do!
As I said in the first paragraph, vulnerability derives from the Latin for wound. In this poetry collection, and truly in his personal life, Joshua Corwin succeeds in salving his wound(s), and although (I sense) some scars remain, if only mentally (-how could they not?) I believe that Josh has healed his wounds in his candidness, in sharing his experience. He is right, vulnerability is not a weakness. It is his quietly loud strength.
——Los Angeles native Joshua Corwin is a neurodiverse, Pushcart-nominated poet with a B.A. in mathematics from Pitzer College (’19). His debut poetry collection, Becoming Vulnerable, details his experience with autism, addiction, sobriety and spirituality (Baxter Daniels Ink Press/International Word Bank; April 2020). Corwin hosts the poetry podcast “Assiduous Dust,” and he teaches neurodiverse addicts in recovery self-exploration through poetry at The Miracle Project, an autism nonprofit, held at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California. Please see www.joshuacorwin.com for more information.
——Joshua Corwin’s social media:
Twitter handle: Joshua Corwin1
——Treat yourself to this book here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996392777/ref=x_gr_w_bb_sout?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_sout-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0996392777&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2