The Digital Hyperlexic

Poetry, neurodivergence, book reviews, activism.

Tag: poetry

Updates: Graduation, Poetry, and Living Authentically

by digitalhyperlexic

Well…it finally happened. After two years of study, I graduated in July with my MFA in Creative Writing from Ashland University.

I'm a newly minted MFA :)

I’m a newly minted MFA 🙂

I can’t say enough good things about Ashland’s low residency MFA program. I worked full time during the two years I studied, and the program was perfectly tooled for people with full time employment, families, and other responsibilities to be able to study and improve their craft. At the same time, the program was rigorous, and exposed me to a wide variety of writers and many different poetry craft styles. I feel a little bit more capable when it comes to revision, and now I have a book of poems that I’ll be shaping (hopefully) towards final publication in 2017: Time Travel in a Closet.

Speaking of poems, I had six poems out of my MFA thesis published recently in Issue 23 of Assaracus from Sibling Rivalry Press: “Timeships,” “An Eldritch Abomination Spends Three Weeks in an Asylum, 1989,” “The Time Traveler, to His Mother,” “Shaving,” “Double Exposure,”and “Genesis.”

Assaracus, Issue 23

Assaracus, Issue 23

A New Chapter

In the last few months, I’ve also undergone some major life changes. At the end of May, I left my former job at a major Catholic seminary, at which I had been working for over eight years. About a year and a half prior to actually separating, I began to sense that I should plan for the next stage in my life. Although I only had a small inkling of all of this in late 2014, I was actually planning for a new chapter.

Although the mental, emotional, and spiritual signals of needed impending change began to sound off inside me shortly after I began MFA studies, it was another personal revelation that edged me closer to it. In late 2014, I came out as transgender to my life partner Solomon. After that, I slowly discerned through my circle of friends and family and began coming out to those I trusted most.

By the time early 2016 arrived, I was “out” in all of my social spaces except for my place of employment. However, I found a couple of coworkers whom I considered to be close friends and whom I trusted, then came out to them as well. I did this because I could not continue to exist there in silence as a transgender man, pretending to be a woman, and frightened out of my wits that I would be outed to administration and then fired.

My friends at my former employer were trustworthy and supportive, but as my need to undergo medical transition via hormone therapy and other procedures became more apparent, so did the unmistakable truth that I needed to leave my job. I did what I could to support my family during the year and a half I worked there as a closeted trans person, but I am glad I no longer have to contend with my fears. I am also glad I am no longer part of a wider religious organization that fails to recognize human diversity in all of its forms, and whose spiritual leader refers to transgender people as an “annihilation of mankind.” I still love and value my friends and former co-workers, and am grateful that those who knew stood by me as I finished my tenure there.

And as I sensed my time there was coming to a close, I knew I needed to find some other form of income. After some deliberation, I chose to become an independent contractor writing web content earlier this year. I’m slowly learning new things, and I feel much better that I’m in a little better control of my destiny, and that I can provide for me and my partner.

To explore my transition journey, I’ve started a brand new YouTube channel. It’s mostly a combination of vlogs, poetry, and me rambling about various neurodivergence, transgender, race, poetry, and other topics. You’ll also get to see and hear me as I change physically over time.

Over the summer, I also participated in a long-distance interview over email with Cassie Mira Nicholson. We talked about trans identity, neurodivergence, intentional family, and poetry in the latest issue of The Conversant.

Left to right: N.I. Nicholson and Cassie Mira Nicholson

Left to right: N.I. Nicholson and Cassie Mira Nicholson

The irony is within the last three months of leaving my job, graduating with my MFA, and starting a new career, I also turned 40. The second half of my life is beginning. It’s a little scary, but I’m excited about what it will bring.

-N.I. Nicholson

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The Only Way Out Is Through: Or a Bit of the Story Behind Time Travel in a Closet

by digitalhyperlexic

The following is a slightly edited and expanded version of the introduction written for my thesis while studying in Ashland University’s MFA program. I will be defending my thesis this July, and in our introductions we were each asked to discuss a group of around ten texts that form the “literary genealogies” that influenced the poems in our theses . This is also intended as an update since my original #MyWritingProcess post, which I wrote prior to both beginning my MFA studies and my transition.

CONTENT WARNING: Mentions of suicide, physical and sexual abuse, homophobia, anti-blackness, and ABA.


“Everybody communicates. Words are beautiful. Our words have value.”

These words by author and autistic activist Amy Sequenzia are simple, clear, and remarkably profound. Infinitely beautiful, and bigger on the inside.

With my words, I come to you as a survivor, a man with scars both inside and out. I spent my childhood and adolescent years occupying a series of closets, all nestled within each other like Russian dolls. I knew that my family expected me to be a “good Christian girl,” not the oversized, socially awkward, frizzy-haired, hormone-driven, hopelessly unfeminine dork I saw in the mirror. In their eyes, that “me” was absolutely unacceptable, and they reminded me of this nearly every single day until I was eighteen years old. Meanwhile, I hid the physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse that I endured at their hands. They demanded that I keep all of this, too, inside a closet. Read the rest of this entry »

A 1991 STUDY OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS, OR, AN OPEN LETTER TO DR. LOVAAS

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

Thou shalt beat him [a child] with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
— Proverbs 23:14

Dear Dr. Lovaas: I must tell you
about the hot brand embossed
into my sacroiliac skin,
a letter D like my algebra grade
from high school freshman year — or,
D for “dumb”, D for “different”,

the toothless sideways grin
of my Thalia mask.

Maybe it was a comedy,
trying to pour my skinless self
into a “normal” mold:

but the licks of angry tongues
and leather belts
made me try to liquify, solidify,

until I was all Good Christian Girl,
a Goody-Two-Shoes with a warped face
and curved heart — a thing
I vaguely recognized in the mirror.

Truth is, I had the mask
upside down: it was Melpomene’s.
I should have been singing
its goat-song, to match the stinking fur
slapped onto my back

while I, 14 years old, autistic,
ignorant of my stripped fiber optics
and brain wiring like barking sycamores,
was made to dance to Normal in B# Minor
in glass-shard ballet shoes.

Lovaas, you demon, you quack,
maybe you never instructed
my family in your methods
but the outcome is the same:
at 38, my feet still fucking bleed

Written 8/11/14
Revised 10/8/14
 © 2014 N.I. Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
—————————————————–

(Below are the original notes with published with the poem on my old blog in October 2014.)
This was a poem originally written in August (2014) but just revised today (10/8/14) as I feel it is timely. Sparrow Rose Jones’ blog post about ABA (applied behavioral analysis) inspired me to revise and post this poem. Jones breaks down with clarity and detail about ABA and why it is not only useless to help teach autistic children but why it is damaging and hurtful.

I grew up not knowing I am autistic. I was abused physically, emotionally, and sexually by my family of origin, who insisted that there was “something wrong with me” and I needed to be forced to “act normal”. I see so many parallels between some of the abuse I endured and modern (and even past ABA methods, as evidenced by this 1965 Time Magazine Article describing therapies that are the precursor to ABA — DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE EASILY TRIGGERED!). Dr. Lovaas may not have been instructing my family on how to abuse me, but he helped influence the dominant cultural paradigm which insists on a false sense of “normality” — a state of being that the majority is but minorities are not. Normal is a lie, and no matter whether your difference from the dominant culture is in terms of race, gender, gender identity, neurological state of being, sexual orientation, disability, what have you, if you are different, you are often made to feel as if you must conform.

So this poem, you could say, is my comment on the issue. I was angered and hurt at some comments parents have made on The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism which started this whole debate in the first place — and Jones’ response is brilliant and well thought out. Mine is certainly angrier, but I’m throwing it into the dialogue, for what it’s worth.

This poem, it should be noted, was also generated in my writing towards my final MFA thesis and book of poems. It may be revised and republished, but I hope its essence remains the same. It should get pretty interesting, folks.

-N.I.

IMMORTALITY (for Leelah Alcorn)

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

Leelah Alcorn. Photo originally from lazerprincess.tumblr.com

Leelah Alcorn. Photo originally from lazerprincess.tumblr.com

[Image:a young, pale skinned woman with short, black, spiked hair wears a sleeveless white dress with black straps in a fitting room. She holds a smartphone and takes a photo of herself in the fitting room’s mirror.]

A digital woman
called lazerprincess
walks through Tumblr;

if you reblog her
she stops to pose
and take a selfie —

in the first
and last dress
she ever wore.

Her blood:
stamped into sun-baked
macadam and bitumen;

invisible ink letters
onto the face of I-71
read #fixsociety.

Her parents
will call her Joshua,
insist she was a boy;

her — her — digital voxbox
whispers shouts screams —
reblog their echoes

and Tumblr explodes,
raging grenade hearts
in hashtag shrapnel:

#translivesmatter
#endtransphobia
#restinpower

#hernamewasleelah

Three Poems in GTK Issue #2

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

Howdy folks! I am fortunate to have three poems published in the GTK (Guide to Kulchure) Journal Issue #2: “Repudiation”, “Roof on Fire”, and “Leviticus Letters”.

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[Image: front the cover of a literary journal: on the cover is a painting of a red-haired, pale-skinned woman wearing a white dress against a dark, multicolored background. She faces left, with her right arm raised up and her hand on top of her head.]

1505287_10205404191007282_3033005616486079854_n

[Image: the back cover of a literary journal: against a reddish-brown background is a large number “2” in thin black print; in front of the number is a list of the authors appearing in GTK #2 in white letters.]

To order the issue, or for more informaiton about the journal and book store, please visit http://guidetokulchurcleveland.com/.

-N.I. Nicholson

“Dorothy, Under the Bodhi Tree” Featured in Alphanumeric (NonBinary Review)

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

Howdy folks!

My poem, “Dorothy, Under the Bodhi Tree”, is published in Alphanumeric, an online feature from NonBinary Review. This was one of the poems I wrote after my MFA studies at Ashland University began, and was shape through a little blood, sweat, and tears along the way.

It will be featured on the website for a limited amount of time. So go read it already! 🙂

-N.I.

I Need Poetry. Do You?

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

A few days ago, someone posted a June 14, 2014 New York Times opinion piece by William Logan in the Ohio Poetry Association group on Facebook. Poet and critic Logan asks a question  —  “Poetry: Who Needs It?“.

I’m a poet. Of course I’m going to be biased. I will tell you that everyone needs it: from the United Nations, our heads of state, and our religious and philosophical thinkers and leaders, to the person who’s cleaning toilets for long hours and obscenely bad pay. (Carl Sandburg might especially think the person cleaning toilets needs poetry.)

Most of the public does not agree with me, or other poets for that matter. Responses to “I’m a poet” can range from a glow in the eye and an unlocking of the tongue as the person waxes fannishly over their favorite poets and poems to…well, crickets. Sadly, most responses are of the less enthusiastic kind: the aforementioned crickets, or “oh, I don’t get poetry”, or even “I hate poetry”.

In response, we have done many things to promote our own work as well as the art form as a whole. We’ve tweeted, slammed, organized readings, started and maintained literary journals and presses, self-published chapbooks (and even given them away), blogged, created YouTube/Instagram poetry, even financed its appearance in public spaces (subway ads, billboards, and the like).  There is certainly no shortage of media and methods for the transmission of poetry. But what is the end result? As Logan put it:

“We have all these ways of throwing poetry at the crowd, but the crowd is not composed of people who particularly want to read poetry — or who, having read a little poetry, are likely to buy the latest edition of ‘Paradise Lost.'”

Read the rest of this entry »