Poetry In Detail

Jessica Sequeira talks with Adam Feinstein, author of the biography Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life, about the poetic disposition:

JS: Perhaps there is some relationship between poetic intelligence and attention to detail, which doesn’t always seek a grander narrative.

AF: There are poets with autism; Donna Williams is a good one. And some of them do use metaphors, which are a move from specific to abstract. People with autism aren’t supposed to be good at metaphors, but some are. But yes, you’re right that attention to detail is very common with them. They can’t see the wood for the trees, but they’re very good at seeing the trees.

I have two memories involving my son. I was doing some work on the computer and he came in and pointed at the screen. I couldn’t see what he was looking at; he was just pointing. I asked, “What’s there, Johnny? What is it?” I blew the little picture up and there was an ice cream, a tiny dot. He made out what it was, which I couldn’t until I blew it up. He loves ice cream. He hadn’t seen the overall picture, just the tiny bit. There was another example of that. The front page of the Guardian had a story about a bus bomb in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, looking at the aftermath of the explosion. Again, he pointed. I thought, “You’ve gone all political on me or something. What’s happening here?” And there was a tiny piece of string. A tiny, tiny piece of string lying on the floor of the bus. Their minds work in different ways.