Kate Fox, The Oscillations

Cover of Kate Fox's The Oscillations, depicting a moon above blue and gold painted oscillating waves.

Kate Fox, The Oscillations (Nine Arches Press, 2021)

The Oscillations, a distinctive new collection of poems by Kate Fox, explores the fracture of the social world through the lens of neurodiversity and the pandemic. The reader is taken on a journey of social distance and divide described by social movements of race and human right, in a world halted by the pandemic; beautifully mirroring feelings of social distance and difference felt by many neurodiverse people, pre-pandemic.


The Oscillations, subtly illustrates experiences, almost in poetic code familiar only to those that understand the neurodiverse experience. In 'Skimming', we are shown familiar descriptions of neurodiverse information processing,


“My mother was not patient about how clear I needed instructions to be, how much longer than for other people it takes me to learn by seeing”.


and masking, “Now I am quick to disguise the ways in which I am slow”.


In 'The Distance', we see themes of navigating the changes to social norms, due to pandemic:


“I was always clumsy and elliptical, unsure of the correct orbits, how close was too close, how far was too far?”


And in 'what could be called communication', we see a polite description of the stereotypical neurodivergent:


“You might find them staying near the walls or clutching their earphones” “Their eyes dart or fix so they might be called evasive or invasive” … “They’re stroking a finger, twiddling with their hair, tearing up paper, something in a mesmerising rhythm”


However, throughout the collection, we are also shown experiences driven by the pandemic that non-neurodiverse readers may also recognise. In 'Breathe', readers are described reflections on respiratory health and wellbeing as highlighted by the pandemic;  


“One, two, three, be mindful they say…”


And a reference to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement which also occurred during the pandemic.


“We are all equal, we are all free, they say, even with a knee on your neck, just breathe”


What is striking about The Oscillations is that it is formatted into two parts (an after and before) symbolic of life 'before the pandemic’ and after in ‘the new normal’. The opening of the collection writes, “Dedicated to all my fellow neurodivergent thinkers. Here’s to a more accepting world…


This hits home for the neurodiverse reader as the feelings of fight and distance with the collapse of norms and society described are felt too often, exclusively, to neurodivergent thinkers. Perhaps, as Fox writes, now the social world has been deconstructed, we can all together build the ‘new normal’ social world without the social distance and divide.


Photograph of Ashlea Cromby smiling in a kitchen with lots of houseplants behind her


Ashlea CROMBY is an early-career researcher from East London/Essex. Her research interests lie in digital culture, identity & neurodivergence and more, recently, apply identity theory to the recruitment sector for neurodiverse people. Ashlea works at both Oxford and Cambridge as a specialist autism mentor. In her spare time, Ashlea enjoys caring for her vast houseplant collection and spending time with her two Persian cats. 

Twitter: @ashlearcromby