April is National Poetry Month. You know what that means…. Well, i suppose it should mean that i am writing a poem, but i’m not in the mood for that. Instead, i looked up my old poetry notebooks. I have them for as far back as my sophmore year in high school and on for about 10 years. By the time my oldest weedling started school, i had pretty much stopped. No writing to be found of the score of years between then and now. Just the files of my personal prologue.
Anyway, there are a lot of them. These time capsules of my brain and heart. Most of them have loose papers, napkins, junk envelopes with bits and phrases written on them stuffed between the pages. Some have cards and letters from my oldest weedling and a few special friends. Today i reread them. Each dog-eared, yellowed-with-age, annotated and dated one.
Holy shit, was it embarrassing. (I started to say “garbage”, but i can’t really say that. I mean, those feelings, however immature and ignorant, were heartfelt at the time. And writing was the only way i knew to vent them.)
In my school system, your sophomore year in high school was about poetry, public speaking, and other language endeavors that would have been torture in lesser hands. I’ve always enjoyed poetry, but that year, i had an English teacher who was truly outstanding. She enthusiastically encouraged us to write. And to write in our own style. She helped me fall in love with writing by giving us variety of assignments and opportunities. And if she sensed effort, even if it wasn’t gifted work, she coaxed us to do more. I started buying notebooks at Woolworth’s and filling them up with my juvenile angst.
“Nobody likes me! I’ll never fit in!!”
“He doesn’t know i exist! I’m gonna die an old maid!!”
And too many handwritten lyrics to Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” for me to count.
All that usual time-consuming schoolgirl crap of which pink-framed young adult series books and teen magazines are filled. Ironic, since i thought i was alone in all this misery. Turned out, there were billion-dollar industries founded on it. Gaggles of teenage girls lamenting their lack of standing in the social hierarchy, wailing in high-pitched nasal unison. Perhaps because it was harder to express, my legitimate depression remained well hidden beneath these shallow concerns of youth. The little i wrote about the real demons in my head is clunky and unfinished. Darkness overshadowed by soul-words with no English translation. So much for my Sylvia Plath phase.
But i will say this, i wrote a lot.
Like anything else in life, practice helps. So tho my anguish and inexperience are palpable in those journals, you can follow the growth of my writing if you read them in order. I wish i had continued to write thru my thirties so that i could follow my personal growth as well. To maybe find that moment when hope gained enough ground that the game went into overtime. Wouldn’t that be a cool thing to read? To find that threshold, my own Moonstruck “SNAP OUT OF IT!!” epiphany when i started taking all the dismal moments of my childhood and turning them into rebar for the person i wanted to be? We could call it my Louisa May Alcott phase, since it was about finally becoming an adult, albeit well into my fourth decade on this Earth.
But those writings don’t exist. I feel like i’m missing The Two Towers.
Anyway, I’ve a long way to go before i hit my Maya Angelou phase. Decades, i’m sure. After all, you have to live the experiences before you can glean wisdom from them. I am pleased to say that i’m starting to have Leo Buscaglia moments, tho, so that gives me hope. (Of course, i still have plenty of Edward Lear moments, too, so it’s not like it’s a constant gaining of ground. But, hey, at least it’s progress.) Maybe, if i live long enough, i’ll get there. A book full of wisdom and humor that will change the world for someone. Wait for me, Thoreau! I may be crawling, but i’m making my way! Don’t give up on me!
In the mean time, i’ll keep writing. I’m sure someday i’ll look back at what i have written lately and shrink at it. The horror of what i currently find amusing or important. And subjecting others to it! Mean and presumptuous! Ok, well, maybe not those things, but i do hope i see things clearer in the years ahead than i do now. And i hope i write about it more effectively than i do now. Which means more of this rambling. The only way to become a better writer is to write. Right? Right.
And if i’m lucky, someone will read it and like it.