Thursday, October 18, 2007

looking over my shoulder

A few weeks ago, Sage came up with the absolutely brilliant concept of the high school poetry meme. The idea is that you dig up some of the poems you wrote way back then, grit your teeth, and post them. Painted Maypole has already posted hers and I thought I'd take up the challenge too.

After sorting through a bunch of old journals (between the ages of 10 and 21, I wrote a lot of stuff, most of it far too embarrassing to post or even to read carefully) I discovered the following three poems. My high school had many flaws, but we did spend an awful lot of time learning about poetry. So it's not surprising that the poems that I wrote were slightly, uh, derivative. But here they are.

While I don't remember writing it, this first poem looks suspiciously like a would-be haiku that I just couldn't manage to pare down to the required number of syllables.

The birds take wing
They have no wish to witness
The hanging of the icicles

The next one shows me ripping off channelling e.e. cummings, flaunting my ability to use enjambment and lowercase letters, while flouting the rules of punctuation.
postmarked november 17

this is not to ask how you
are or why you
havent written lately

if you
look closely you
will find nothing but space
between the lines

but i admit
i have
been thinking of you

there will not be a ps

The third poem was written during a particularly dull English class. We were studying Wallace Stevens' Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, which, to my seventeen-year-old mind, was hopelessly sentimental. At the time, I was doing my best to cultivate an attitude of world-weary cynicism, so I wrote the following parody. If you're not at least a tiny bit familiar with the original poem, you might want to take a quick look at it, because otherwise, my spoof probably won't make a whole lot of sense.
Thirteen Seven (Because I Can't Think of Thirteen) Ways of Not Looking at a Blackbird

The sky is there
Even when the blackbird is not

A man and a woman
Usually find that a blackbird
Is superfluous

If you close your eyes
Against the night
Blackbird wings will not visit you
Even in your dreams

The rain did not stop in the afternoon
There were three blackbird feathers
On the ground

When the children walked
Their voices were like tambourines
Not blackbirds

It is difficult to decide
Which is preferable
A tree without a blackbird
Or without two

If all else fails
A shotgun
Is usually

Reading through my old journals, what seems most remarkable is how little I've changed. The view in the rear-view mirror isn't a whole lot different from what I see in front of me. Though the scenery's not exactly the same, I'm still troubled by the same dilemmas, the same questions, the same doubts. I'd even be hard-pressed to tell the difference between something I wrote when I was 20 and something I wrote yesterday. All these years, it seems, I've been running in circles. And whatever I've learned, it hasn't been nearly enough.

What about you? Have you changed over the years? How are you different now than you were when you were 13, 17, 20?


Eva said...

How fun; I'll have to do some digging. I'd love to read some of my old writing from middle and high school. Or maybe not. I know it's insipid and I'll probably cringe. Your stuff is not bad at all!

As for how I am different...I am happy now. That's the main thing.

painted maypole said...

i find that although I am different in some ways, I have kept a lot of the same patterns of thinking, for good or for bad (while I am still cheerful and friendly (good pattern), I tend to still think of myself as unlucky in love, even though I have been married for 11 years!!!(bad pattern))

Magpie said...

Clever. The second one also reminds me of Williams.

My journals from junior high & high school are unbearable banal.

In general, I am far more outgoing than I was then.

slouching mom said...

The Wallace Stevens parody cracked me up, even though I quite like Stevens.

Amelie said...

I like the second one, although I normally prefer the usual punctuation.
Overall, I don't think I have changed much. I always thought I was so old and grown-up and serious already, only to find out a couple of years later that I missed some crucial bits. I bet I'll think the same a few years from now.

LAS said...

I love this idea! I am going to do this tonight when I get home!!

Emily said...

If all else fails
A shotgun
Is usually

I love it!

I think I am a lot the same...just a better vocabulary and a better grasp on what is truly worth being distressed about.

bubandpie said...

I don't really think this post is within the spirit of the meme - you actually wrote COOL poetry in high school.

ms. G said...

Oh man, do I have to? I am sure if I did some digging, I could find some poetry, but really now, must I expose myself this way?

I do know I don't have it all, because in a fit of teenage drama around age 15, I destroyed all my poetry written up until then.

And to answer your question, I guess that would my biggest change. Things seemed like such a big deal then, and I was much more dramatic. It seems obnoxious to me now.

The Oneliner (Christina) said...

well, i can now say with confidence that you've always been who you've been. integrity, evidenced by continuity, is a good thing.

at 32 after two years of infertility, one year of counseling, 3 years of the socratic
method, and 1 1/2 years of blogging, i am:


at peace with the bad things that happened to me as a child (couseling where basically she said, "that sucked and should not have happened to you" and "i can't believe you never cut or developed an eating disorder")

A lot less willing to think of myself as less of a person because of failure (infertility, counseling, blogging)

Confident (socratic method, couseling)

I was the same at seventeen as i was when i entered lschool. But law school was one of the best things that happened to me even had i never practiced.

I was also the same after law school until inferrtility and the couseling it led me to.

All in all, lschool and infertility have very much changed the fabric of who i am.

So, yeah, i'm doing a lot better now than at 17 and 20.

this has to be the.longest.comment.ever.

Cate said...

I wouldn't relive ages 13-20 for a million dollars. Perhaps if I knew then what I know now I might, but going into it blind again? I would rather shove white-hot pokers into my corneas.

Elizabeth said...

Oooh, I like this one!!! Last night I couldn't sleep and composed the Niobe-parody in my mind, which you'll find on your previous post :-). It was really fun :-)

I'll have to find some old journals somewhere for this one.

By the way, please send me your e-mail address to eep6[at]cornell[dot]edu so I can add you to the A-list. Actually that goes for anybody reading this comment!!

Elizabeth said...

p.s. your blackbird parody had me giggling out loud! :-) Love it!

Aurelia said...

I am very very different.

Calmer, less distracted, less angry, less ranty, better able to express myself. Frankly, if I could sleep through or simply forget all my teenage years, I would. They were hell, total absolute hell.

Jill said...

I think now that I was smarter at 17 than I thought. I think I had a lot of stuff really sorted out. You know, the big questions and such.

I am only just realising this as the lightbulb that has been going off lately has a definite sense of deja vu. I got stupider all my 20s long lol... at least I'm back to where I started now.

Your blackbird parody was tres amusing and your other poetry just shows that it is true, as you age you just become more like yourself.

furrow said...

Ha! The blackbird thing is priceless. I could've used a bit more of your cynicism at 17. Instead, I thought Stevens' poem was way deep, along with the movie "The Crow," the Beatles' "Blackbird," and "The Raven." I was all about some blackness at 17. I was a khaki-clad goth.

Julia said...

Damn, no fair-- this stuff is good, even if it is possible to trace some of its origins rather definitively.

I am saved from the horror that would be airing that part of my past by the fact that all of it was in the Old Country language, and I am not even sure whether it made the trip over.

missing_one said...

I've definitely changed. I used to be a wildly optimistic, somewhat charismatic girl who thought the world was hers for the taking. Up until my daughter's death, I was this way. Now I am not.

Manda said...

Sarah Brown of Que Sera Sera was looking for submissions for a book she was doing on bad teenage poetry. More info here:

Road Blocks and Roller Coasters said...

That's a great idea. I used to love to write poetry and I have a ton of stuff somewhere in this house. If I get adventurous this weekend I'll pull some out and post it.

As for your question, I think I am basically the same person I was back then, but I have become a bit more tame as of late. I don't let certain things (little things) bug me the way they used to and I'm a lot happier with myself then I once was. But generally, I too have the same dilemmas, questions, and doubts, but their packing is a bit different now.

I like to think I've managed to keep the best parts of me from my youth and I've been continuing to refine the less polished parts of myself as of late. Though if you talk to my friends from my teenage years they'll say I'm completely different--but in a good way. All things considered, I've always been a bit of a handful, I suppose.

meg said...

I'm the same, but a little less cocky now.

Tash said...

I am with Cate and the pokers and you can add flaming gas. Actually, I worked on the poetry magazine in HS (!) and a friend and I got so sick of the pretentious melodrama that we wrote a completely nonsensical overly dramatic piece of drivel and submitted it anonymously to see if would get in . . . and it did. I'll try and dig it up for just the first few sentences. Crazy kids.

cinnamon gurl said...

Wow, those are such good poems. I hope I remember to play along when I have some time... I've changed a lot since 13, 17 and 20. That could be a whole post I suppose.

Caro said...

Another one who hated the teenage years. If I'd been creative enough to write poetry then it certainly wouldn't have been very cheerful. I'm much more comfortable with who I am and what I look like these days.

Becky said...

I cannot write poetry. I tried when I was 15, found it when I was 18 and threw it quickly in the trash. There is only one live that I can remember: "a big shiny train to nowhere." The poem was about growing up.

I was terrible at being angsty, even as a teenager. I'm hoping to get angsty maybe in my 40's. No one seems to do that.

Becky said...

I cannot write poetry. I tried when I was 15, found it when I was 18 and threw it quickly in the trash. There is only one live that I can remember: "a big shiny train to nowhere." The poem was about growing up.

I was terrible at being angsty, even as a teenager. I'm hoping to get angsty maybe in my 40's. No one seems to do that.

Sunny said...

I had a fake confidence. Now I wear the real thing. But back then I thought everything always worked out perfectly.

Monica said...

Do you know Steven's Emperor of Ice Cream? I just love the line, "Let be be finale of Seem". Whatever the hell in means, it just sounds cool. I am very different. I'm not as depressed. I'm not on medication now, but I just see things differently. I think I just had the sturm and drang of adolescence 'cause I was always thinking how sad the world was. Now I actually have a reason to be sad but all I can muster is anger. It's as if my feelings have atrophied as I've aged.

Debby said...

Oh you don't want to see any of my poetry. Actually...I saved none of it cause it was so bad. In order to rhyme things I'd have to write the alphabet on top of the page and go down the line to see what would rhyme with "boat". Yours are quite share more.

niobe said...

Debby: I don't think I have any more poems from high school. I do have a bunch from elementary school, but I'm not going to inflict those on you guys.
When I was in high school, I was more into my short story writing phase.

Rebecca said...

I'm a lot happier now, despite everything, and a lot stronger. I have a good marriage, and I'm secure in my sexuality. That means a lot.