On August 12, Minnesota-based independent publisher Milkweed Editions announced a series of books centered on neurodivergence and what it calls “different ways of languaging.” The literary series, titled Multiverse, will hit shelves in April, starting with the debut of non-speaking autistic poet Hannah Emerson’s debut collection The Kissing of Kissing.
Multiverse editor-at-large Chris Martin said that the project came about because of his previous work with writing program Unrestricted Interest, as well as conversations he had with Milkweed Editions’ publisher and CEO Daniel Slager in early 2021.
“Multiverse began as an outgrowth of my work with Unrestricted Interest, an organization devoted to learning alongside neurodivergent writers,” Martin said. “Once it became clear to me that several of the writers I worked with were creating poetry (and other writing) that was brilliant and transformative, a series began to emerge.” He added that those conversations meant that the project found a “perfect home.”
For Milkweed’s part, Slager told PW that it was one of the chapbooks previously published by Martin that piqued Milkweed’s interest, rather than a foundational want to find a project that centered on disabled ways of knowing.
“Had I not seen originality and profundity in the work Chris showed me, the project wouldn't have been right for us,” Slager said. “We did not set out on this path with Chris because of a desire to launch a project centered on neurodivergence. Rather, his work in this field has resulted in a flowering of artistry and community—or, perhaps more precisely, his discovery of a lively community of artists—and we are honored to play a role in bringing this work to light.”
Emerson’s debut is described as a collection of poems that “...keep, dream, bring, please, grownd, sing, kiss, and listen.” The second book in the series, slated for fall 2022, is by poet Adam Wolfond and titled The Wanting Way. A third book will come from a writer outside of Martin’s collaborators at Unrestricted Interest and at an undetermined point in the future. From there, future expansions are planned.
Even though Milkweed didn’t select Multiverse solely because of its focus on neurodivergence, disability art and culture is still a part of the project’s trajectory. Martin says artists and collectives like Sins Invalid, D. Allen, Tito Mukhopadhyay, DJ Savarese, JJJJJerome Ellis, and Sunara Taylor, are among the many artists who influence the project. He also pointed to his own experience as a neurodivergent poet and how that has shaped his editorial decision making.
“One of the things I love most about neurodivergent community is our insistence on interdependence and complementary ways of moving through the world,” Martin said. “I can only offer my own viewpoint as an editor, so I want to make sure I'm including many other viewpoints, each of them connected to the material in a significant but adjacent way.”