Bad, bad, so very bad…

WritingI’ve been avoiding doing this for a while. Almost ten years in fact. It has been a decade since I first discovered poetry—probably a little later than most in truth. No longer an angst ridden teenager but still angst ridden, I was in my early twenties and the right side of a university arts degree—not the usual or most direct route to a love of verse and crafted, written word, but then any route will do.

As William S. Burroughs once said, and very much after the fact: every writer fears the amount of bad writing he will have to do before he does any good. And I really did some bad writing.

Long hidden at the bottom of a box and I long hiding from it—notebook after notebook of poetry and wild-eyed, stream of consciousness writing. Best forgotten but compelling like a car-wreck, they are the rubber-neck memoirs of a tortured youth—page after anguished page of over-wrought, over-thought poems, almost poems in truth.

With the benefit much bad writing written I can discern a semblance of a poetry in the output of this younger self—a single sentence or stanza attempting to take flight, but that is all. The seed or germinating idea for a poem is present, discernible just, and the formative experiences certainly are or were—the messy, moving stuff of life clamouring for poetic expression, but the ideas and emotions are never fully grown, written down in full.

Aim, concentration and focus are all wanting badly in these poems, scattered in the winds of distraction, perhaps personal dis-function as well; lost before the wisps of substance and meaning could bind together and form.

If my poems had been written consciously they would be great art—if the compelling, true to life back story, clearly discernible now with the benefit of time was actually present on page—but alas such is not the case. Instead they are the reflection of the artist as a young, very young man, but not a true or worthy portrait—words writ blurred and myopic, pen tripping over clumsy mind, spilled out without thought as page over page of stumbles, heart scribbled in the margins, wanting to be found.

I really can’t believe how bad they are—how bad I was. Melodramatic emotionalism without restraint, turgid, vapid—subtly but a dream, the shores of sensibility—and just plain sense—a long way off. Exhibits of an obsession with fruitless self-analysis, and a futile search for meaning in the mud of mental and emotional obscurity.

Thank God I got over myself. Thank God I stopped writing poems about myself.

If I was perhaps different
Then what would I be?
Would the life I have lived
Then mean nothing to me?
What road would I travel
And where abouts would I go
My journey now falls behind me
Ahead nothing I know

And another…

Whatever you know
I know something better
bigger, vaster,

Whatever you are,
I am something more—
something Infinite.

You torment me, torture me
rage on within me
But your torrent of noise
is your weakness
not mine

O cornered ego
O delusion and distraction
Your angry shouts and wounded howls
invoke a death from which you can not hide.

You, not I.

Update: From one brain to another, although hopefully not so tortured, check out the Monday Poetry Train at From My Brain to Yours.

  • alf
    Posted at 12:27h, 29 April

    I wrote a lot of stuff exactly like your first poem once too, so as a step on the ladder perhaps it just can’t be missed; being a teenager is a universal experience. I have to say though, I feel the cosmic touch in the second poem, particularly the second half.

    Good to see a new post from you.

  • rhian
    Posted at 12:32h, 29 April

    But you know what J – there’s something powerful and compelling about the raw honesty of youth and that burning need to release it with words. I have stored boxes of horrendous, deplorable poetry and prose buried in a storage unit but i can’t bear to part with them. There’s too much of that younger self alive in those pages. It was part of the journey and i think a precious part, as well as a brutally anguished part. Maybe it has something to do with being artists? grin.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 12:39h, 29 April

    Thanks Alf and Rhian. If only I had been teenager at the time it would all be a little more excusable! But yes, we all have to start somewhere, and thankfully I was never under any illusions back then as to my grandeur. Well not too many…

    Yes, I have kept all of these first attempts precisely because they have their own kind of value, and also because one day I hope to revisit them, and salvage perhaps a few precious gems—of course considerably re-polished.

    I perhaps should also reveal a little secret—I choose two of the better ones! I’m not really that brave…

  • Dinesha
    Posted at 04:07h, 01 May

    Nice poems blogo it is always a liberating experience to look at the past and realise that we are progressing.Personally I would like to see you repeating some of your experiences of your yesteryear .God willing I will see you on the marathon course in August.

  • PatyC
    Posted at 06:45h, 01 May

    WOW, I like the way you are able to examine what consumed your thoughts in your youth. Looking back at what we write gives us a clear picture of what’s on our mind at the time . As I’ve been posting some of my high school poems, I too realize that some of them are really sad, grey and angry, which it doesn’t make any sense…As far as I thought those where the best times of my life – according to my memory- but now I am not so sure..who knew?

  • PatyC
    Posted at 06:45h, 01 May

    I do love those poems though!

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 10:52h, 01 May

    Dinesha, you must have too much time on your hands if you’re reading my blog 😉 Hope you’ve got your running shoes on though cause I’ve already started training…

    Paty, consumed is certainly a good word—some things really are best left in the past it seems! But thanks for the compliment.

  • Larry Keiler
    Posted at 12:18h, 04 May

    I think the main flaw of all of our youthful writings is that it tends towards the purple. The fact that it’s self-absorbed and angst-ridden is just the way it is and probably always will be. It takes a special sort of genius to be a young genius. But it also takes a special sort of genius to even attempt writing (anything) in one’s youth. I wrote similar stuff to yours when I was young. And now I think I’m blessed that I had the courage to do it, and the outlet it provided. (Because I was angst-ridden and hormone-hyped and drug-addled and generally confused…) Many of my friends did not have this. They became 100 yard hurdlers and racewalkers. 😆

    We’re all writers, else we wouldn’t be blogging would we? But even now, most often I write ME. Even when I’m thinking through other characters, I’m still writing ME. And in a certain sense, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For a while I wrote Jack Kerouac. Or Kafka. Or any other writer whose name starts with K. Now I get to write Keiler, for better or worse.

  • Larry Keiler
    Posted at 12:40h, 04 May

    I just remembered something else too. 🙄 In my first year of university, I wrote a short story with a rather “Book of Revelations” ending involving snow. My professor said it reminded her of the themes raised in Margaret Atwood’s “Survival”, a particularly Canadian book. I’m not sure I still have a copy of that story, but looking back on it now, I remember it as being simply over-wrought.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 21:42h, 04 May

    Thanks so much for the comments Larry—as you may already have noticed I invented a “Comment of the Week” award just because of you. Incidentally, it sounds like there were more similarities between our youths than I have already admitted to…

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