Poets Share Journeys with Neurodivesity


Patrick Taylor, Staff Writer

Prominent poets, Oliver De La Paz, and Jennifer Franklin joined Brookdale students and staff in a March 9 Visiting Writers Series event via Zoom. De La Paz and Franklin began by opening up about their lives and dealing with having children on the spectrum. De La Paz has three sons (all on the spectrum,) while Franklin has a 20-year-old daughter.

“Unfortunately, my daughter will never be able to read my work, which is a separate grief in itself,” Franklin said.

Franklin’s writing holds a very powerful connection to the array of life challenges thrown at her over the last 15 to 20 years. The poet discussed her daughter’s diagnosis in 2002, her divorce in 2010, and her diagnosis with cancer just two years following her divorce. Franklin then read several of her poems that connect with her life.

She opened by reading “Not A Love Story,” which ties in the three impactful events from 2002 to 2012. Following this, she read her poem called “Hubris,” which tells the story of how her daughter was conceived in Venice, Italy. In “Another School,” she shares the difficulty of finding a new school for her daughter.

Next up was De La Paz, who discussed finding a reason and purpose for his work. “Masks are intentionally used in a subject metaphorically to represent my constantly changing positionality.” De La Paz has written at least 100 poems about “The Boy in the Labyrinth,” which reflects his struggle with his children on the spectrum.

De La Paz describes how he compares himself to the father, the Minotaur, in the Labyrinth, and how his children represent Theseus, always wandering through this maze.

Both writers have a big hand in organizations that support aspiring writers such as themselves. Franklin works with the Hudson Valley Writers Center, while De La Paz is the co-chair on the advisory board of Kundiman, which supports aspiring Asian-American writers.

“The one nice thing about this pandemic is the way poetry writers from all over the country have come together on Zoom to share and support each other’s work,” Franklin said.