11 February 2012

very bad poems by me

Once upon a time, in Rouen, France, some 90 miles from Paris, there lived a small girl in a large high school.

You'll have to forgive me for a bit of silliness; I just re-watched Sabrina {the Audrey Hepburn one} on Friday night, and I've always loved that beginning line: "Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some thirty miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate."

I've also always felt a kinship to Sabrina Fairchild—she who heads off to France and discovers there that she has strength she didn't know she had. She discovers that there is a grace to every day, and she finds that she is worth knowing.

If you have to go somewhere to find yourself, France is an excellent choice.

Sabrina learned that; I learned that. She spent two years learning how to cook, and I spent nine months trying to teach English to high school students {and living in the boarding school}, but the end result was the same: we came home and life hasn't been the same since.

As she says, France "is for changing your outlook! For throwing open the windows and letting in...letting in la vie en rose."

But before you can get to this changed outlook—before you can start seeing the world through rose-colored glasses—you have to do a lot of pondering, walking next to the Seine, drinking very strong coffee, getting lost on cobblestone streets, and writing.

And for me, writing came in the form of very bad poetry. I don't know if Sabrina had to do this; if she did, it was smartly left on the cutting room floor because it's painful enough to live through yourself. We don't need to see Audrey Hepburn writing overly emotional and trying-to-be-deep poetry, although if anyone could make it look enticing, she could.

I recently re-discovered my writing notebooks from when I lived in Rouen. There, I spent hours in Le Bistrot des Carmes, hunched over my notebook and looking for all the world like I was five minutes from taking up smoking as I scribbled and sighed.

At some point in the year, I decided to write a poem a day, and here is a tip for anyone going through their own early 20s discovery period: DO NOT allow yourself to write a poem a day.

Or maybe do.

More than other forms of writing, poetry is prone to people trying too hard.

If you want to take on the world or if you think you have the world figured out, it is very easy to be tempted to write a poem.

If you're feeling like no one understands you, there is no better way to express yourself than in an attempt at iambic pentameter.

Poetry might be so appealing because we have the mistaken idea that it's supposed to be obtuse. The more complicated and symbolic, the better—right? The more you can confuse with your comparisons of love to moss {or whatever tack you want to take}, the deeper you are.

This idea of appearing deep and thoughtful is especially appealing to those just out of college, and if you allow yourself to write a poem a day at a stage when you're trying to figure out life, it will lead to much laughter years later when you re-discover the poems.

By that point, you will have figured out that you can't entirely figure out life, and you'll be both grateful and embarrassed for this record you have left of when you were too full of yourself and your own ideas.

That's how I felt when I found these poems: simultaneously grateful and embarrassed. My time in France—the hours in cafes and wondering the streets—made me who I am today.

But in these poems, I can easily encounter who I was then as I was putting on the rose-colored glasses and learning to let in la vie en rose.

For Your Amusement and Because These Poems Shouldn't Just Languish in My Journal: A Sampling of the France Poems

2 December 2004
{Note: None of these have titles, just dates. Because who can bother with a title when there are deep things to convey in short lines?}

Arrow clouds
Squeezing to a point
Skinny triangle of reflected heat
Burning orange

From where I sit,
cross-legged in the garden, my breath floating like smoke,
The clouds become the way

They are pointing to a choice:
hidden path of dead, known leaves
leading arrow of lively light

I choose to follow the sun
West, towards the eternity of tomorrow.
Analysis by a 30-year-old: What? What choice are you talking about, 23-year-old Kamiah? And what's with the mixed imagery of a clouds making an arrow—but then you're talking about dead leaves? Are the arrow clouds pointing to leaves? Are you referencing that the leaves are the same color as the orange clouds? Are the sun and the leaves the same thing?

I know exactly where you were sitting when you wrote this poem: in the hidden garden on top of the wall that was, in medieval times, Rouen's protection. I can even see the orange sky and the sun flaring off the cathedral spire. But even knowing the image you were looking at, I have no idea why you wanted to follow the clouds {or the sun?} away from the leaves.

11 December 2004
Time passes and where does it go?
Waste and spend, spend and waste.
A minute saved is a minute earned.
Waste not, want not.

Time passes and what it been worth it?
Inside, I hear a nagging voice
a voice like teeth on fancy silver
each tine a stab of guilt
for what I do not know.

But I do know this:
I waste away
but feel the need to prove justify explain conquer.

And then the voice changes
and it's calling out in the wilderness of my soul,
"Prepare ye the way of self-recrimination!"
Analysis by a 30-year-old: Okay, so maybe you were feeling useless when you were in France. You worked 12 hours a week and spent the rest of your time either running, drinking coffee, or, apparently, writing bad poetry. I get that you were questioning what you were doing with your life—with your time.

But wow, cut yourself some slack, little girl! Just because you're having trouble filling a few hours does not mean that you're a failure. You can tell that voice like teeth on fancy silver to go wander around the wilderness, shouting until it makes itself hoarse. It's not worth listening to.

Also, way to work in paraphrases of Benjamin Franklin and Isaiah into the same short poem.

8 December 2004

And oh it's wonderful!
Does everyone feel this—
this bursting cheer, growing surprise, smiling inside?
Does everyone feel—
and oh it's wonderful?

It doesn't seem fair to feel all—all—all
Analysis by a 30-year-old: Um, you do realize that you're stealing from Katherine Mansfield, right? Re-read "The Garden Party" if you're unsure.

Although I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I also congratulate you on writing a rather chipper poem on your birthday, as opposed to one of those guilt-ridden, image-laden confusions.

11 November 2004

Why I'm here depends on so little:
the Eiffel Tower sparkling at 10:00 on a crisp fall night.

But you must understand that
before you can know how I can be here,

But here for a reason.
Analysis by a 30-year-old: Inspired by William Carlos Williams, eh? "So much depends on a red wheelbarrow" and all that.

But I appreciate your attempt to convey that even when you're in this place of beauty and wonder, this place that you've dreamed about, it can be hard. It can be the hardest thing you've ever done, and even as you're amazed that you get to see the Eiffel Tower so much that it becomes commonplace, you're aware that your life is feeling very much the opposite of commonplace.

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