The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

December 26, 2009

Poetry from a younger me

Filed under: poetry,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 22:18
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As I’ve said time and time again, I am not a poet.  But I’ve always liked to dabble in poetry for fun.  When I was a kid, the occasional poem was a much-needed outlet for quite a bit of my outsider angst.  I won my first poetry contest when I was in the third grade — can’t recall the poem, but it was awarded by a publication called Read Magazine and I won a cheap little charm shaped like a scroll.  Thanks Read Magazine — validation rocks.

Then when I was in high school, freshman year, I started entering a poetry contest that the University of South Carolina – Spartanburg, now called USC Upstate, sponsored.  The first year, one of my poems was published in their literary magazine, quirkily called Maggie’s Drawers, (from the frontispiece of the magazine are the words — For those not acquainted with the term “Maggie’s Drawers,” it signifies a complete miss of the target on the rifle range), but I didn’t win anything.  The next year, I lucked up and won an award of special merit for a poem I’m too embarrassed to re-print — although I do recognize early Pagan interests in the lines and am amused by the fact that my insecurities clearly required me to include a nod to Jesus near the ending, lest my spiritual uppitiness land me burning forever in hell.  (I’ve always recognized the utility Pascale’s wager, which says that if you believe in a supreme being but you turn out to be wrong, you’ve lost nothing — however, if you don’t believe in one and there actually is one, well, you’re just screwed.)  Shift and dodge, dodge and shift — ain’t religion grand?

Finally, by my junior year, one of my poems was awarded first place in the contest.  It’s funny now to look back and see myself as the little drama queen I was — given my distaste for such creatures as an adult.  But it won out of 500 entries, (granted 500 entries that likely originated from upstate South Carolina — not exactly the arts capital of the Southeast), so here it is, in all it’s dripping drama.  (note the lack of capitalization — e. e. cummings was my hero)


doodle my name

on the place mat

set under cold bacon and egg

and warm memories

of other mornings.

I don’t ask for

clean or silent thoughts

just as long as they’re

of me and not

the ones before.

Lean on my wallshadow

and cherish yesterdays


8-year-old new bike Christmases.


hours are minutes

I’m but seconds away.


Personally, I’m much more fond of the following poems, which were published in the same issue, but not recognized.


i wear new shoes

like a dog eats grass

casually at first

taking for granted

the fields of choroglory

and soles of leatherbetter.


now and then i

wonder almost hope

that both would turn

to cindergravel.


(Quite the budding socialist there, huh?)

and this clever little gem …


If you write poems

day after day

eventually you

write one you

believe in.


About truth

or faith

or promises –

wait – that’s not right …


If you write poems

day after day

eventually you

write one you

believe in.


By my senior year in high school, I had already won first place but I entered anyway and, this time, was awarded second place in the contest.  It’s funny now to look back and see how much difference a year makes in the growth of a young person.  It’s not that the poetry is that much better, but it is braver — and that makes me happy.  Here’s the second place winner, and it has a title.


No Imitation


I don’t want to write down

love words or nature phrases

or spell myself with little letters

or substitute silly exclamations

where a simple word belongs.


And I don’t want to write of sex

as an ocean and God as a brother

or his another

or the way Mr. McKuen

makes poems into songs.


I just want to write of me

and my yesterdays and

next years and burst bubbles

and plan the ones I’ve yet

to purse my lips for.


I’m too interested in acquainting

me with me to try to imitate

you, the man who died

fifty years past, or some sea-gull

who learned to soar.


Cute, huh?  This was in 1975 when Rod McKuen was all the rage — he had teamed up in the fifties with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and moved spoken word poetry into popular culture.  Then in the sixties, he was responsible for translating much of the work of French singer/songwriter/poet, Jaqcues Brel into English before his death. I still have a few of his LPs, despite the fact that I soon learned — and may have been learning even in high school — that his work is uniformly considered pretty iffy.  Still, it meant something to me at an important time in my life — so there! to critics and idiots alike (and sometimes one in the same) who think they can determine what is and isn’t art based on their own world views alone.  As for the sea-gull reference, Richard Bach’s beautiful but naive novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, had been published in 1970, aiding and abetting in the non-conformity movement of the time,which, as my previous poetry so well illustrates, I was all about even as a child.  This fact could not be better illustrated than by the following self-righteous little ditty of mine that served to close out the 1977 issue of Maggie’s Drawers.


… After my words have pleaded

with you,

if you still believe yesterday

can carry the weight of eternity —


then never shade your eyes

against my sun again …


Well, that was a fun little trip down the pot-holed, briar-ridden, tar and gravel path of Memory Lane.  It’s hard to not find oneself introspective at the juxtaposition of old and new years.  Funny though, I found this last poem printed in the pages of Maggie’s Drawers today, coincidentally entitled December Twenty-Six, which is the self-same date as today.  It’s a sweet little poem and I still like it a lot.  So, here’s a gift to today’s readers from an 18-year-old me.


Happy holidays to the children we were and will always be.


December Twenty-Six


Packing away ornaments

I store a month of memories

of crowded stores

and anxious eyes

beside a dry and brittle tree,

icicles still intact,

in a full and contented attic.

Outside, G. I. Joe spies

pink ruffled undies

mounted on a chrome horse

who toots to me at the window.

And I turn, lost in thought,

to toss away an age-old Madonna

and reach for Santa’s tiny sleigh

to gingerly wrap in tissue.


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