February 25, 2014

My Teen Poetry as a Metaphor

by Bryan Johnston in Creativity0 Comments

Minute Read

So I recently found myself going through some old boxes. When I first moved overseas in 2000, everything I owned was boxed up and has lived in my mother’s basement ever since. I thought it time to revisit. To see what’s what, and hopefully get rid of the dead weight. Seeing as I hadn’t so much as looked at this stuff in a very long time, I was rather certain it would mostly be junk that could happily make its way to the landfill site. And I was right.

Now, to be sure, there were a few sentimental items. Old play programmes from my high school musical career (not to be confused with the High School Musical). Dozens and dozens of photos (remember those?). A couple of stuffed animals from my childhood (I will never, ever part with my Mickey Mouse. Ever).

And my adolescent poetry.

Ah, teenage poetry. What could be better?! Even those you would least suspect (and I would definitely not fall into that category…I had – have – “poet” written all over me) have tried to express something through poetry at some point. It seems to be a rite of passage for most teenagers. Even if it never sees the light of day, is hidden away in a treasure (and I use the word loosely) box, or destroyed almost immediately, the point is we all try…sometimes because our English teacher forces us, but still.

The thing is, I actually like a lot of the stuff I wrote. Some of it is really, really bad (unrequited love seems to happen a lot when you’re in middle and high school, eh?), some of it is mildly interesting, and some of it just works. Clicks. Whatever.

I’ll be honest. Most of what I wrote was about either a) my “love” life (the vast majority), or b) direct response to something happening at the time. But a few examples struck me as poetry for the sake of creativity. And I like that. A lot.

With that in mind, may I present to you, for the first time in a public forum, a poem I wrote circa 1992-93. Please be kind.

Message to the Man with the Rhyming Dictionary

Wordsworth’s wandered lonely as a cloud
Byron’s walked in beauty like the night
My poetic voice is still not loud
My intended message is still not right

Edgar Poe’s knocked at his chamber door
And lived in a kingdom by the sea
I shall learn my craft forevermore
A true poet I shall never be

William Blake’s Tyger burned ever bright
Browning’s famed Duchess lived on the wall
Robbie Burns’ mouse was crippled with fright
Prufrock’s desire was wrapped in a shawl

I have lived a life of servitude
To the poets of forgotten lore
As poetry is, I have construed
It does and it must change from before

W.B. Yeats’ airman saw his own fate
Stevens’ emperor was of ice-cream
The traditional I do not hate
But widespread unique, I still dare to dream
Whitman’s subject was simply himself
And lilacs in the dooryard did bloom
I practice my way in patient stealth
I hide my work in a secret room

Robert Frost’s horse did find it quite queer
Thomas’s father raged against the light
Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne showed no fear
He did not go gentle into that good night.

There you have it. Poetry for the sake of poetry. For the sake of creativity. There is something within each of us – whether writer or not – that demands to be expressed, and poetry seems the easiest way to do it. Or attempt to do it, at any rate. We can’t all play an instrument, or draw, or write music, or paint, or deliver a moving monologue, or sculpt, or draft the next great novel. But we all feel the pull to create, and should heed it each and every time it rears its beautiful head. Your soul will thank you.

So write bad poems. Draw stick figures. Paint like a 5-year old. Learn to “play” an instrument. Badly. Sing in the shower. In the car. In the office. Collage using old Star, Us, and People magazines. Act…even if only in the mirror. Write. Write some more. Let your bad, teenage poetry – regardless of your age now – be your creativity. I struggle to be consistently creative. To find outlets. But they’re literally absolutely everywhere. Let your creative freak flag fly!

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.” ~Oscar Wilde


Bryan Johnston

Former high school English lit & drama teacher. Current writer, stand-up comedian, & improv performer. A big switch? You betcha.

International expat for 12+ years with stops in Beijing, Dubai, Shanghai, & Guangzhou. Dad to a university sophomore, an eleven-month old charmer, & the two best doggos. Lover of funny things & people. Oh, and craft beer.

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