I used to write poetry. I wrote it fairly often when I was 13, and I wrote it feverishly when I was 16. Writing poetry felt like sharing secrets...with myself. As dorky as I found the idea of poems "writing themselves," I knew that was what I had going on when I let my mind break boundaries and bask in the abstract. It was a feeling I rarely achieved with anything else; with music, if I took the time to improvise, I had to think hard about where I wanted to go. With art, if I let my mind wander, I drew funny things and weird things. With poetry, however, when I let fly my imagination, I came up with deep, dark imagery.
It was a little bit scary.
Was I secretly angry? Was I a deeply dark person?
And that was a little bit exciting.
On one occasion, during my first poetry bursts at age 13, I took a risk and showed my mother a poem that I felt had been well crafted. But it was a dark poem, I guess, because it mildly alarmed my mother. She asked if I really felt that way. And I did not know what to say. Did I? I thought that was the idea-- when you feel this way or that way, you create a poem that reflects those feelings. Even if the poem wrote itself, didn't it mean that was how I felt, somewhere in my mind? Just a little bit crushed, I tried to understand my mother's concern. I realized she just wanted to be sure I was a happy girl.
For a while I studied the poetry that my mother enjoyed. She told me about her grandmother, Hortense, who had many poems published. They were sweet poems, beautiful and lovely. I liked them. And, wanting to show that I at least desired the same talent, I tried to write my own lovely poems.
They made me laugh.
In a bad way.
So I kind of gave up.
When my second burst of poetry writing hit me at age 16, it came as a necessity. And because my poems were not bright and endearing (or of particular skill), I felt daring when I ever ventured to share even one. I sat and wrote, letting delicious words seize control, making the poem evolve without a planned outline, and when I finished, I read through with the feeling of having discovered a secret about myself. A secret that must have come from far inside the recesses of my mind, a secret so secret I never knew it was there.
A dark secret.
As each poem finished, I felt validated. My emotions, quite often peaking high and sharp, turned to a smoother consistency. I had my outlet with poetry. For a while, I felt a little dangerous with my new passion. I knew there was more to me than most people got, and being exclusive in my personal goings on, this revelation delighted me.
But I think some shame followed me. I never sought dirtiness, but I thought my dark toned poems would shock people into thinking I had problems with self esteem, problems with depression, problems with life. It scared me that the darkness in my poems would make someone think the darkness was the real me. I felt like I was supposed to write those pretty poems my great grandmother wrote, and I felt so sensitive about my lack of talent as well that it seemed I should never share my poetry unless I could somehow write it flawlessly.
Why do we call it darkness? Why does it need to be airy and light to equal happy and good? As I look back, I believe I did have some problems with my self esteem. Normal problems that nevertheless should not be taken lightly. Maybe my poetry was even more honest than I would have liked to admit!
I understand that good things uplift and enlighten people. The argument might stand that if I had tried to write light poetry, it would have "lifted" my darkness, too. The problem with that? My "darkness" was a secret-- a secret to ME, even. I did not know it was there. Maybe because I had difficulty acknowledging any grains of trouble (still true of me today). So I could have written page after page of light poetry and never felt any emotional response. What would it mean to me? Why would I need to comfort myself if I felt completely content?
It was when I let my poetry evolve into these secrets that I found those shadows, those darknesses. And having written them, they could evaporate and leave me lighter (when I never previously knew I needed that). Almost like a free session with a psychiatrist (which sessions honestly seem all about self-discovery, as I understand it). Like running. Like any emotional release.
I think that so long as we are not seeking a "carnal darkness," it is good to explore our personal darkness and in the process learn more about ourselves. Being human, we each have a certain "darkness" to us. And it is not a bad darkness. It is just the part of us that never sees the sun, like the dark side of the moon. We should want to know what is out there...what is in here.
Now, I am going to do something daring. Because I want to be the kind of person someone could feel comfortable with in their own "personal darkness," I will share a poem of mine that is uncomfortable-- and poorly written according to my judgment. If you take the words at face value, it is full of lies. If you take the words with the full impact of attitude they throw around, it encompasses the moody rebellion (and even sarcasm) that secretly stirred in my 16-year-old self.
And here is what I am talking about: had you known me at 16, you would have known a very happy Qait, just a less mature version of who I am today. You would not have thought of what this poem portrays.
But being a 16-year-old girl, I had real emotions that reached both ends of the spectrum. The important thing is that I found appropriate relief of the more troubling feelings with poetry, and with that help, I was able to focus on being a happy person.
Why Are You Reading This
16 years old
Ask them why they did it
Maybe they’ll blink for you
I dropped it; they beat me
I picked it up; they beat me again
Ask me why I want to
I doubt I’ll answer you
I wonder if I care
I don’t really wonder, do I
Tell me I’m not supposed to
Perhaps I will ignore you
I’m not ready; they push me
I am and they won’t let me go
Scold me, it’s alright
I won’t be listening
Ask me where I am anymore
Maybe I’ll give you directions
Forget my name, go ahead
I’ve already forgotten yours
Tell me I should
I have heard you, be assured
I might not believe you
I might not believe myself
Do you think you care
I don’t think I do
Ask me why I did it
Maybe I’ll blink for you
And now, if you would like, you can forget I ever wrote that. The poem means little, if anything, to my current self, but it says so much about (and means so much to) the 16-year-old self from which I grew.