Poets throughout history have felt a sense of being ‘different’, of feeling separate from the time and place they find themselves in. And their poetry often draws from this experience.
Benjamin Giroux from Plattsburgh, New York, is a young poet with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. He has used his creative talents to celebrate difference and to express his innermost thoughts.
Brave Benjamin’s poignant words – written in April 2016 when he was just 10 years old – have resonated with children and adults all across the world, conveying the challenges of being an autistic boy growing up in a neurotypical world.
In the poem, Benjamin compares himself to a ‘boy in outer space’ and ‘a castaway’, expressing his heartbreaking desire to ‘fit in’.
During National Poetry Month 2016, Benjamin’s teacher gave the class a very special assignment. They were instructed to write a poem about themselves.
Benjamin took to the task with great enthusiasm, and his parents were understandably overcome with emotion when they read what he had written.
Benjamin’s dad, Sonny Giroux, told Today:
When we ask him how his day went when he gets home from school, we don’t get much more than a one-word answer.
At first, we felt sad and hurt that he feels isolated, alone, misunderstood and odd at school.
As the poem went on, we realized that he understands that he’s odd and that so is everyone else in their own way, which is what Ben wants everyone to embrace.
I defy you to keep a dry eye as you read the following poem:
I am odd, I am new
I wonder if you are too
I hear voices in the air
I see you don’t, and that’s not fair
I want to not feel blue
I am odd, I am new
I pretend that you are too
I feel like a boy in outer space
I touch the stars and feel out of place
I worry what others might think
I cry when people laugh, it makes me shrink
I am odd, I am new
I understand now that so are you
I say I, ‘feel like a castaway’
I dream of a day that that’s okay
I try to fit in
I hope that someday I do
I am odd, I am new.
Benjamin’s accomplished poem quickly went viral, and was even shared by the National Autism Association on their Facebook page.
In the three years since it first sprang from Benjamin’s wonderful mind, the poem has continued to move and influence other creatives.
As well as inspiring several songs, the poem is due to be transformed into a children’s book. People have even had Benjamin’s words of wisdom tattooed onto their skin.
— Harald A. Wiltsche (@haraldwiltsche) February 18, 2019
I love your poem. Please don't fit in, and don't be scared of the voices in the air, what makes you odd is what makes you beautiful, don't assimilate – it will kill your soul. Being odd is so beautiful, I am odd too! #oddtoo
— TheArtofApril-Anna (@ArtofAprilAnna) February 15, 2019
Speaking with UNILAD, Benjamin’s dad Sonny reflected on the impact his talented son’s poetry has already had on the world:
Benjamin’s impact, globally, has been amazing. Hearing from parents thanking him for his poem, saying that it’s helped them understand their own child better, is incredible.
Benjamin thought he was alone in feeling the way he does, but his poem going viral has shown him that he isn’t.
It's just beautiful. Anything special in this world is called odd. But I think you are blessed with a vision, we seek. Stay Blessed. #oddtoo
You have a view.
It's not odd. It's new.
Beautiful as you, are very few.
— Nidhi Rai (@NidhiDollz) February 19, 2019
Hopefully Benjamin’s poetic nature will inspire others to embrace their differences. After all, life is way too interesting and varied to waste by fitting in.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.