As a teen I loved creative writing. When the assignment called for a short story or descriptive passage, I threw myself into the task. All five senses were given their due; sentence variety was a snap. You want smooth transitions? I’m your girl. And my idea of fun was combing the thesaurus for words with the perfect nuance of meaning. I beamed as my teachers read my work to my bored and restless classmates.
But during study hall I wrote poetry so atrocious the walls of my high school must have shuddered. Except for the shuddering walls part, I’m not exaggerating. The proof is in the brown spiral notebook I’m holding, the one with “Private Property” printed inside the cover.
It should read “Enter at Your Own Risk.”
I wrote poems about my friends, teachers, and boys I liked and didn’t like. I even wrote poems about poems. And I seem to have had a creepy fixation with teeth. In one poem I called a boy's teeth “little stones so ivory white” and in another “a white picket fence.”
Yes, my imagery really was that dorky.
And then there were the “rhymes” I used to glue my images together. What do you mean, “focus” and “atrocious” don’t rhyme? They both end in “us,” don’t they? If I’d written in free verse, maybe my poems wouldn’t have been as awful, but I doubt it.
It’s all the more embarrassing because I had plenty of exposure to good poetry. My mother—who also loved to write—won a poetry contest in high school. The prize was a thick book of poems I read from cover to cover many times while I was growing up. Because I loved reading and reciting poetry, I thought I could write it, too.
In case you still don’t believe me, the following example will remove all doubt. It’s untitled, which is just as well. WARNING: If you are easily traumatized, STOP reading now!
A blur and a swirl,
A dizzying whirl,
Uncomprehending though it seems
Has lights and rays of knowledge beams.
All seems darkness,
But a light
Like the moon on the blackest night
Though it’s small
I know it’s better than none at all.
My mind seems blank and dark and wet.
I know that all’s not hopeless yet!
All may not hopeless, but my poetry definitely was.
Happy Holidays to every one of you!