Tuesday, 4 March 2008

I Sound My Barbaric YAWP Over the Roofs of the World (Because Chicks Dig Poetry)

I used to keep a diary. A proper diary – the kind you cover with tears and bad poetry and keep hidden under your mattress like a shameful secret or a semen-sock. The kind that in recurring dreams is devoured by family and other sneering enemies, maybe over your coffin.

Last night Keith and I got talking about a weekend we spent in Brighton many years ago. He claimed that in the middle of the night I stripped off and marched into sea, shouting, ‘Any fool can walk on water. It’s merely a matter of mind over matter!’ I maintain however, that no such thing happened. I maintain that the water-walking episode took place in North Wales years later.

So when I got home in the early hours, I dug out my old diaries and checked. I was right. Of course I was right. For I have the memory of a giant computerised elephant, whereas Keith has the memory of goldfish with Alzheimer’s. Why, sometimes he even forgets he has a girlfriend!

Sorry. Sorry, Keith. And happy birthday for tomorrow. Me old mate.

Anyway, the reason I mention all this is because I ended up staying up till gone light this morning catching up on my adolescence. Mostly diaries from when I was 15 and 16. What was particularly astonishing and not a little dispiriting was how very little has changed. I still spend most of my time bemoaning my physical appearance and lack of female company. The only difference is I wrote a lot of really shocking poetry then.

So I was thinking of maybe sharing a bit of the really embarrassing stuff, by way of full exposure. But I think I might be a little too ashamed. I’m definitely too ashamed to include any of ‘Angry Poem on Gulf War’, written on 27 January, 1991.

God, I was ticked off about that war.

But besides war in general, nukes specifically, vivisection, suicide, dandruff and despair, I also seemed to specialise in poems that appeared to be clever but in actual fact weren’t. They gave the impression of having depth but were in fact empty Petri-dishes of disappointment. Like this one:


A cat steals bread, by the slice,
From the kitchen of its owner.
Takes the bread to the garden
To use as bait for birds.
The owner of the cat notices
That his girlfriends
Are getting younger.

This next one too is similarly delusional, but for some reason I still actually quite like it. It was written when I was 16, so it’s quite a mature, introspective piece. Yo, check it:

My Eyes

My eyes.
Nestling in their walnut shells
Like frightened boys in crowded cells,
To and fro like sulphured bells
Which toll when someone dies.
My thighs.
Like two pale boys who cower in fright
With shifty eyes of cellulite
Which twinkle spiteful through the night
When someone lonely cries.
My size.
A sea of impact, pressure, noise,
A mass of ass devoid of poise.
A crowded cell of frightened boys
With watering, damaged eyes.
My eyes.

Then there’s this, one of my unrequited love poems from one of my 400 volumes of unrequited love poems. I’m almost ashamed to say, but I’m pretty sure this was written about Ange, back in the day, when she was giving herself at parites and I was hiding away in my bedroom reading ee cummings and listening to George Formby. (I had already found out the meaning of ‘unrequited’.) I’m actually quite proud of this one. It doesn’t have a title:

thy skin is a bandage of unbroken beauty
thy unsleeping bones beat the passion of truth
thy head (clenched with questions) laughs poems of loving
thy heart (filled with giving) smiles proof


Go on then, one more.

Tick Tock, Tick…

How her wings do flap and carry
Folk to coffins, kids to bed.
Mistress Time without a worry,
Winds her watch and finds me dead.

Hmm. I should have stopped at the love one. Damn it!

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Ginny said...

Dear God, my dear, that's as bad as my poetry.
And that's saying something.
Whenever I try and write poetry, I either sound like a four year old or a pretentious twat. Here's an example:

If He were a poem…
He’d be this one.

You see, I tried to write a poem about how I feel.
But I couldn’t.
And I was confused,
Like whatever I did, I was going to lose.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
It chased circles in my brain.
I’d have extravagant ideas to capture it, make it mine
But the situation was always the same.
Nothing would change.
With only myself to blame.

I talked about it all the time,
About this word,
This phrase,
This rhyme or line.

I think my friends got quite bored,
But they listened anyway.
I think they knew how important it was,
And how there were things I simply needed to say.

And then I realised I was embarrassed.
I was scared.
I’d never found this so hard. It’s usually so easy.
Second nature to me.

But this one was different.
And I liked that.

And then I realised why I was confused,
Churned up inside,
Why I was so shy
Over one single guy.

It’s because he’s different.
And I like that.


I only wrote that last year. *cringe*

Luka said...

My poetry is all amazing and frequently wins awards when I blog it*.

*May contain traces of lie.

Unknown said...

Did you ever write a poem called Beirut?

Anonymous said...

I like the last one. It reminds me of something very Edward Gorey, whom I love. I wish he were still alive so I could shower him with adoring fan mail.


Carolina said...

So you seem to have mastered teenage angst poetry. New poetry challenge; rework this line into a stunning new creation: "a mass of ass devoid of poise." I mean, how do you abandon the combination "mass of ass?" And then get it illustrated by Exploding Dog. Yip, I should be you're agent.

Sue said...

You know, your writing style is very familiar. I can't place it. No, I take that back, I can. I'm too embarrassed to say it, though.

I wonder if I could even locate my old journals. *shudders*

Glamourpuss said...

Reading old journals was the very thing that inspired me to sort my life out for the very same reason - moaning about the same old shit, year after year. Now I find new shit to moan about. Hurrah for personal growth.


Anonymous said...

I have old diaries hidden, (locked) in a trunk in my attic. My family know that if anything should happen to me the trunk is to be burned and never opened!
I didn't write poetry though, does that make mine less tragic?

Anonymous said...

Hello Bete,

Good entry. First and foremost well done on name checking Billy Bragg and The Saturday Boy. What a great record that is. "A girl not old enough to shave 'er legs"

Second. There is a night put on in a pub somewhere in London where everyone is invited to take to the stage to read out selections from their own teenage diaries. Not sure where it is tho. Was started by an American woman I think.

Finally here's my obligatory bad diary poem. Well one that I can remember for some reason.

If honeynut cornflakes were heroin
then I'd be Lou Reed.
But they're not
and I'm not,

You would be astonished if I were to tell you what I did on Tuesday. And I'm going to do it again on Thursday. I might very well have to write to you privately and tell you.

La Bête said...

Ginny. Oh come on! Your poem is brilliant! OK, OK, just kidding.

Luka, I’ve read some of your poetry and… well, words fail me. If only... No, no, I couldn't possibly.

Michael, not Beirut, no. But I did write a poem called Abu Ghraib a few years ago. It included both Betty Grable and Clark Gable. It was so good it had to be destroyed.

Tamara, I love Edward Gorey too. He’s ever so dark. Feel free to shower me in your adoring fan mail instead.

Carolina, I’m going to have to duck out of your challenge, I’m afraid. My poeming days are done.

Sue, speak! Speak, Sue! Don’t be embarrassed.

Puss, hurrah indeed. I like to think of my personal growth as personal shrinking; getting rid of the things that made me less of a good egg: i.e. excessive weight, whining about stuff without doing anything about it, and poetry. Onward!

Penelope, you know of course that your family will not honour this agreement, don’t you? There’s no way that stuff is being burned without being read. No way.

Mr Fermata, as far as I’m concerned, you are Lou Reed. Now email me your astonishing news at once. I’m aching to hear it.

CG said...

I have to say I really enjoy your blog and check it (almost) everyday, however this post makes me feel young (I'm the tender age of 18). In a world were everyday I'm made to make decision on my future and told they are the most important decisions ever, only to be told the same again, I really appreciate you reminding me that I am still young. For I do not need to read back over my diaries (I have been writing since I was 11) for I feel sure I rememeber almost all incidents wrote in them. Sadly I am not a poem writer more of a horny teenager but If it is true what people tell me that this IS the best time of my life then I am glad I am documenting it that I can look over it in future. Check out my blog at endurekatie dot blogspot dot com, I am a new blogger and would love some input.

Much love


P.S. Having re read that I hope you dont take it to mean I think you're old mearly that I am still young.

Anonymous said...

New reader here, just catching up from the beginning. The love poem is really no worse than a lot of 19th-century Lieder text. I mean, it almost invites setting to music.

La Bête said...

Thank you, tea-cantata. You are very kind and without doubt my new favourite reader.