Something like Teenage Poetry

April 14, 2011

The first time I remember writing a poem was February 6th, 1997.  I was in 7th grade, I wrote it for a boy who died in my school.  He was a junior and he was nice to me which was rare as I was awkward and nerdy to the nth degree and he was popular, the kind of popular that carries weight in a small town long after high school.  So I wrote a poem and stuck it to his locker with all the notes of mourning classmates and truthfully I felt silly.  Who was I to offer something as powerful as language to the lament of those who knew him best?  I thought about taking it down, making sure no one could laugh at my terrible rhymes and my sad attempt at alleviating or illuminating the weight of the present sphere.  It stayed up.

When the time of sadness coupled with embarrassment was over, I thought maybe, just maybe, the fact I talked too much could be channeled into pen, paper and indented lines of text in math class.  So I wrote, as often as I could, about whatever I could and there in Mrs. Carlson's math class I became a self-proclaimed poet.

Over the next few years I wrote about high school, sixteen year-old infatuation and seventeen year-old heartbreak.  I told my best friend she was so, I scolded so-called friends and I berated the me who never seemed to measure up to standards set by an intangible and invisible antagonist I often gave different names, but never the right one.  In college I wrote about actual heartbreak, the deaths of those around me who gave into their heartbreak and the joy of finding the one who would promise to try his best to shield me from the very heartbreak that followed me relentlessly.  And is he ever good at it.

Then something funny happened, the poetry stopped.  The words stopped finding the indent on the notebook paper.  The ideas remain, the pain and joy still come in ebbs and flows of life, but the poetry has left the tip of my pen.  I have a binder full of poems I have written.  Many of them make me cringe, some make me weep and even though the stanzas have ceased I don't feel the loss I would have expected. No matter how bad the teenage poetry was it reminds me how important language is to the soul of all who have the courage to listen closely.

Maybe I'll be a real poet someday and then 80 years from now my books will sit in a cute used bookstore and someone else will take its picture. Maybe someday I'll get one of these really cool old typewriters and use it to write my book.  And maybe, you'll just enjoy these two photos and know that if you ever want to go to a used book store, you've got company.

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