14 April 2013

In Celebration of National Poetry Month, Some Bad Poems and Some Not Quite So Bad Poems

I used to write poetry. A lot. I have pages and pages of horrible poetry from high school. I have pages and pages of some better poetry from college. And I have some decent poems from my post-academic career. Once upon a time, I even considered getting an MFA in poetry. Since I've taken to writing novels (a task which once I found impossible to imagine), I don't really write poems anymore. Some day I think I'll go back, but for now, my heart is pulling me in another direction and I know well enough to follow it.

My first piece of published work was in my high school literary magazine and it was the following poem:


Painful separation
Tearing them apart
Each word piercing
Each silence threatening
Their precious love sacrificed
To bring him happiness
New danger never dreamed of
New threats never heard
At least it's not us

Painful separation
Tearing us apart
Each word brings horror
Each silence shaking our bodies
Our precious love destroyed
To bring him joy
New terror never imagined
New life abandoned
With no purpose but to teach me
What I was foolish to never learn.

It's funny to read that poem now, so many years later and wonder, "What the hell was that about, anyway?" Many of the poems I wrote early on were pretty abstract and rather angsty. I was a rather serious high schooler. In fact, my nickname was "Dead Serious."'

I continued writing poetry in college and when I was a sophomore I had two poems published in the college literary arts magazine. The first was a lighter poem for me and on this cold and wet and gray day, it makes me wish for the days I know are yet to come.

Breath of Spring

Just breathing in the air itself is intoxicating today. So let me breathe it in deep,
Let me take breaths so full
I become dizzy with delight.

I am dizzy with something.

Maybe it's the blue sky, that pale blue that
stretches and stretches
beyond the limits of horizon
and into the dimension of we.

You are my daffodil friend.

I say it's you dancing dizzily around me in your daffodil style all
and green
and orange,
dancing your dance of colors,
a stretching rainbow
across this great expanse of sky
and into imaginary lands.

In the spring of my junior year, I was contacted by a student taking a music composition class asking if she could use the other poem that had been published during my sophomore year. It was probably one of the most flattering things that had ever been said about my writing. How could I say no? That April I went to the recital where the composition students had their work performed. What I didn't know until that night, was that a second student had also chosen that same poem. The only difference was that person hadn't asked. It was hard to know whether to be flattered or offended by the lack of permission. Either way, it was still an incredibly surreal moment to hear my words sung by a stranger.

Apocalyptic Visions

Looking up
there was conflict in the sky
and I,
I was in the middle of it all.

Blue and white lay out on the left.
Black and gray covering the right.
Me, standing in between, awaiting the battle cry.
And it came.

In movement,
in sound,
with birds as they flew flew flew from the trees
into the very air that seemed to call for something,
that seemed to echo something,
something is coming soon,
coming soon,
coming soon.

And it came.

My senior year, I also had two poems published in the literary arts magazine. I was the editor so there may have been a slight bias. One of the poems was something I had written in response to the adaptation of my poem the year before. I have the vague memory of walking out of the recital hall that night and needing some time to myself. I went to one of my favorite places to sit outside, alone in the dark, and I let my thoughts wander as I tried to process what the experience meant to me.

disconcerted utterances

disjointed thoughts
connected only by the wind
I just don't understand
why my words
for your song
how did you find my voice
I thought it was gone
abandoned on some mountain
with a pair of wool socks
from that time I had
to leave in such a hurry

I am speechless
where words once were
there are tears
that won't fall
they rest
in my eyes
shadowing my vision
making me question
what happened
in that undefined space
between what was
and what is

it is there that you seem to sing.

To conclude this tour of Jessica's Poetry: From High School to Beyond, I will leave you with one of my more recent poems that I've been working on since one amazing night at the Aladdin Theater after seeing Josh Ritter perform his (then) new song Thin Blue Flame before it was released on an album.

Dear Josh,

I wanted you to know what it felt like
the first time I heard Thin Blue Flame
as the rest of the band seemed to disappear
from the Aladdin's stage into the depths of the darkness.

You stood on the very edge of the stage,
closed your eyes and opened up your voice,
lulling us down a plank into the wide open sea
leaving us to sink or to swim.

Wolves circled in anticipation.

Goosebumps rose from my skin
as tears welled slowly, then rolled
as a restless crowd grew still,
caught in the hypnotic snare, the rhythm consuming.

There are few moments in this life
that transcend all boundaries of time, of space,
those moments which become part of an eternal strand,
threaded, perpetual, true, and definite.

This moment was one of them.

I thought you should know.


The sheet music for my song.

07 April 2013

Reading & Writing

Lately I have been devouring books as if they were necessary, probably because for people like me, they are. In the last week alone I've finished 4 books, started a 5th, and abandoned a 6th. I have no idea how, exactly, I found the time to accomplish this, yet somehow I have. And I've done it at the expense of my own writing time.

There are very few people who give advice on writing that don't talk about how important it is for writers to read. As Stephen King says in his book On Writing, "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut."

I guess I was just really hungry to read the words others have written.

Or maybe I was just avoiding the difficult work that is often involved in writing your own.

Perhaps it was a bit of both.

Lately there have been quite a few demands for my time. Some, quite pleasant, others...not so much.

But being alive can be a great deal like joining the circus. Sometimes juggling, sometimes balancing on a tight rope, sometimes letting go and trusting that someone will catch you.

This afternoon, I've secured a few hours to myself to listen to music and get some words of my own down. Fingers crossed there is some magic that happens.

But either way, at least I got my butt in the chair.

One of my favorite trees, located, quite conveniently, in my front yard.