UBC Day 3: Teenaged Poetry Slam! How It All Went Wrong

Many of you may know that I am a voracious reader, and at some point during this thirty day challenge, I will tell the stories of what shaped my reading habits and gave me a pure and unadulterated passion for the written word. You may also know that my number one genre is romance. To that end, I find it hysterical that during my teenaged years, no one was finding their happily-ever-after in anything that I wrote. Since one of my many talents includes the ability to make fun of myself, let’s take a journey of what that body of written work included.

First, let’s talk about the tools of the trade. At one point, younger me begged my parents for a Daisy word processor. This was different from a typewriter because I could backspace and delete the characters. I wanted to be like the cool kids and write in print, so this was my answer. This was not a foolproof method. One miscount and the words were screwed up, so I also went through an ungodly amount of typing paper. It didn’t matter, though, because younger me had a plan. It wasn’t a very well thought out plan. I didn’t take proofreading into consideration, but I wanted a damn Daisy word processor and my parents made it happen.

A year or so later, I became the owner of a Braille ‘n Speak. For those of you not in the know, it was a notetaking device for the Blind that was slightly bigger than the palm of my hand, with a six-dot key input system and a voice that sounded like a suffocating robot. I used it for high school educational pursuits as keeping a personal diary, writing down what books I wanted to read and how much I hated pretty much every literary pic my high school teachers made us read, and writing really emo poetry and short stories. That was me, stellar student extraordinaire.

I am constantly surprised that I chose poetry as a medium to get most of my feelings out because I hated every poetry analysis class, I was ever forced to sit in. Poetry analysis was a class synonymous with torture. It often meant reading a poem by some dead white guy and being asked what I thought he was trying to say. I would give my definition based on trying to piece together this literary jigsaw puzzle and be told ‘No, that isn’t correct’. My frustration with this line of coursework came to a head one day when I finally blurted out ‘You asked me what I thought. You always say it’s wrong, so just tell us what the right answer is!’ I firmly believe this is why I disliked poetry for a very long time after that. Funny, though, that it was my outlet.

At first, I wrote my poems on the daisy word processor, but it was cumbersome to both write it down and attempt to memorize it as I went. So, I pulled out my braille ‘n Speak and wrote my little heart out. I wrote four or five poems but only remember three of them with any regularity.

The first poem was entitled ‘seclusion’. I was no Robert Frost, let me tell you. But the following stanzas make it so that you don’t really have to guess how I was feeling during that time.

I live in my seclusion,
I seem to live in fear,
I reach out in the darkness,
But there is nothing here.

It moved on to some other woe-filled verse that I have blocked out but ended on this lovely little number.

If darkness keeps surrounding me
And hope I cannot See
What becomes of the seclusion?
What becomes of me?

A sad and ambiguous ending to this poem. But, readers, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Once I wrote them out on the Braille ‘n Speak, I typed it up on the word processor. I felt like a real author! At least until my mom found the print pages and dramatically read them in front of her friends at a party. To this day, she can give a riveting performance of my teenaged angst. I can laugh about it now but at the time, I was mortified! Let that be a lesson to blind children everywhere. If your parents don’t know Braille, write all your good stuff in a medium that they cannot read.

The next poem that I wrote was called ‘Picture Perfect’. I can only imagine what was going on in my head around that time. I was attending a very strict Pentecostal church that believed women shouldn’t wear pants, make-up, or jewelry. We couldn’t get a haircut or even sit in the pew with the opposite sex lest the laws of physics and reproduction be redefined and we might end up pregnant between the sermon and the altar call. We strove for a perfection that we could not reach. I rebelled against that perfection after hiking up Stone Mountain in an ankle-length skirt in the middle of summer and rewarding myself by immediately shoplifting a $3 souvenir from the gift shop. I really did need an outlet in writing

Picture perfect, perfect me
Queen of my reality
On a stage for all to see
Picture perfect, perfect me.

That is the only verse that I remember but it held a lot of meaning and encapsulated how I felt at the time.

The last poem was written like a folk ballad. It told of a sweeping love story between a woman named Bethanie Rose and her lover who was obviously so important to the plot that I couldn’t bother to name him or give him any physical features. I just remember that I wrote a line and then the next line would say ‘my dear, sweet Bethanie Rose’. Maybe I didn’t give the guy a name because it was written in first person point of view and the syncopated rhythm of the poem was the driving force. What I do not understand is why she snuck out to the middle of the woods to be with him in the mid-90’s. And why she went to those woods in the middle of a thunderstorm while riding a horse. The horse tripped over a fallen tree conveniently struck by lightning, pitched Bethanie Rose off of it, and then ambled into the clearing where the man waited for his midnight Frisk and tryst. Meanwhile, Bethanie Rose died of a broken neck. Like what?

If that was a novel marketed as a romance, I would have been pissed at the ending and rightfully so. I wrote this sweeping adventure of these two not being able to be together in some Romeo and Juliet-esque angst, and once she finally hopped off of AOL to take her chat messages real time, she just rides on her convenient horse in to the murder woods and dies? You couldn’t have just driven through and picked her up in your car, my dude? Decide to meet at Zaxby’s for some chicken tenders and some fries? Take to heart the wise words of Alan Jackson and ‘settle for a burger and a grape Snow cone’? The final insult was that the horse met him in the clearing and he instantly knew that she didn’t make it.

My last “impressive” body of work was a short story called Sweetwater. This story was about a woman named Julia who was a victim of domestic violence and slowly being poisoned by her husband. She lived in a small southern town with a lot of old and dangerous secrets. She finally left him and moved to Sweetwater, where she fell in love with a good man. Thank goodness I gave them a happily-ever-after. I realize now that I was basically writing some ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’ fanfiction.

There are other stories that I have written over the years, some of which will never see the light of day. I enjoy the process and am glad that my younger self read from an early age and was able to craft stories. While they weren’t perfect, they were mine and that is all that matters.

2 thoughts on “UBC Day 3: Teenaged Poetry Slam! How It All Went Wrong

  1. Thanks for sharing this post on Facebook. I’ll be subscribing to your blog, which I can now do since I have a link. And good luck with the challenge!

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