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  • Writer's pictureKate West

'For Maria'

An old (2019) reflection on Sarah Shapiro's 'the bullshit cosmos'.

I haven't posted for a while, years probably. A lot has changed like I'm not into pastels; just neons and so here's a cute 'safety yellow', above. Anyway (1) I'm drafting a(nother) funding application and while clicking through old digi-paper work associated with my many failed funding applications I found my 2019 reflection on Sarah Shapiro's the bullshit cosmos. I'm guessing Maria was the name of the contact at the funding organization I was applying to and I just quite liked that I called the file 'For Maria' rather than anything ostensibly more sensible--a definite neurodivergent choice. Anyway (2), rather than progressing my current funding application I thought it much more useful (this is a joke) to publish this 'failure' (this wasn't a joke but is now bc it's funny how what felt like a failure in one moment, reads successfully in this other) and, so, here it is:

I went to the launch of Sarah Shapiro’s debut poetry pamphlet, the bullshit cosmos (ignitionpess) with a neurotypical* friend. As Shapiro stumbled mid-word, mid-sentence; as she paused, stuttered and mis-read; as she tried to ‘outchess [her] falterlurch, [her] vocalcareen’, I sensed my friend’s frustration. She eventually whispered to me, her dyslexic friend, perhaps not noticing the tear trickling over my cheek, about her dislike of Shapiro’s apparently-contrived public reading style. Did she expect ‘voices sliding over words like snakes slither grass’? If silent reading is not torturous enough for a dyslexic, then reading aloud is. The shame of this seemingly simple task is not tempered by the isolation of privacy. As Shapiro laments, ‘great at self-flagellation no one can hurt me like me…each day my failure reteaches me the depths of my inabilities my (dys)abilities’. To expose one’s dyslexic self to an audience as Shapiro did subverts dyslexic shame, transforms it into a strength which threatens neurotypical literary convention. The Bullshit Cosmos is a welcome onslaught on neurotypicality in exactly this regard. Shapiro’s fonetic [sic] spellings throw weighty shade on neurotypical pedantry. They reveal the bifurcation or ‘split’ of the neurodivergent brain—its attempts to recognise the shape of letters and words while simultaneously processing the meaning behind their non-sensical arrangement. They breathe bracing relief into the mind of neurodivergents everywhere and finally they prompt much bigger, profound questions about why we write and read, teach and learn, the way we do. ‘Reading out loud, with ease and grace, has nothing to do with understanding’.

*The postscript is that my 'neurotypical friend', above, has since been late-diagnosed with ADHD...



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