This is a semi-regular series here at Adventures in Borkdom. It chronicles adventures I have that are directly inspired by the books I read.
The poems in “Out of True” flow through the stories of life and love, deep feeling and light perspective, all with a foundation in the elemental core of the human spirit.
A few concessions are in order. First, I am a friend of Amy’s. I adore Amy’s blog Lucy’s Football. I also engage in lots of good conversation with Amy on Twitter and email. Amy is one of those people whom I know I can ask for advice, ask a silly question, or just commiserate with, and will always receive a truthful, thoughtful response. She is very real, she is very true.
Second, I hate poetry. No. Correction. I have always proclaimed that I hated poetry until I “met” Amy on the internet, and she guided me gently into exploring poetry. I am learning about poetry, and Amy has been my teacher. She is an expert in poetry, and has provided me with recommended reading lists, as well as guidance in my own poetry instruction as a teacher.
Third, going along with my second concession, I am NO poet. I winged it when I was assigned poetry in creative writing classes, and would boast that “I write poetically in my short stories, so it’s all good. I’ve got lots of poetry in my writing.” But, I don’t. I just write and try really hard to sound poetic with a lot of repetition and seeming rhythm in prose. But, I’m not a poet in any way, shape, or form.
So, with the concessions out of the way, let me also say this: Amy’s poetry spoke to me. To different parts of me. And, I found, that every time I picked it up and read it, I found a different statement there. Duh, Mandy. There’s a bunch of different poems with different themes and different topics in that book. Yes, this is true. But, I guess it’s like what everyone tells me about art (another area I “don’t like” because I struggle with “getting it”): it’s different for everybody. And just as I find with Shakespeare, every time I read it, depending upon who I am at the moment I read it, I get a different story. Or, in this case, a different poem.
Reading Amy’s poetry truly was an adventure in itself. As, I said, I’m a coward when it comes to poetry. I struggle with just taking it in, swirling it around on my tongue, and letting the flavors reveal themselves. But, I took my time with each of Amy’s poems, and found that I got it. Amy’s poems revealed not just who she was, but helped in revealing who I am. I forgot that writing can have that kind of power. That’s the whole reason I switched to an English major in college: I was trying to make sense of my own life, and literature acted as a guide. Amy’s poetry had power for me, just as my first reading of Hamlet did.
In particular, Amy’s poems concerning her searches into the past, trying to make meaning of people and events that happened many years ago, REALLY spoke to me. I am a nostalgic person by nature, and I have a tendency to wonder “what if?” and “who are they now?”. And, I wonder if they feel the same way. I found myself pondering the children of my past when I read Amy’s poetry, and I’d like to venture into this theme with Amy’s guidance.
Therefore, this Inspired Adventure will be two-fold: I will overcome my fear of poetry and putting my raw feelings on the printed page, and I will explore my own feelings of the past.
Looking to the Past
Remember: once upon a time, you knew what it was to laugh
– Amy Durant, “If I Disappear, Here is How to Find Me”
When I read Amy’s “Class Reunion 2002, Photo 23 of 30”, “Downed Wires”, and “If I Disappear, Here is How to Find Me”, I realized that I wasn’t the only one looking to the past. Amy writes of people of her past, who, in the present, are barely recognizable. Yet, she still sees them for who they once were; she still remembers. Sometimes, she seeks these memories, and sometimes she seeks these people. I found myself when reading Amy’s words.
I’m an Air Force BRAT (Born, Raised, And Transferred). What that means is that, for most of my young life, I had to move from town to town every four years. I would make friends in one place, only to be uprooted and repeat the process in a new place. This was pre-email, and my friends and I weren’t exactly good about keeping in touch.
This upbringing had an enormous effect on me as a person. I am very reserved when meeting new people, feeling them out before deciding to move forward in friendship (or dislike). Also, I have an addiction to moving–once my Dad got out of the military, I still felt an urge to move every four years, and did so (and might do so again, soon). Finally, I have a severe case of nostalgia. I feel like so many stories in my life are incomplete. What happened? What did I miss? What are my friends and peers doing?
Facebook solves that problem for the people in my life from the last 15 years or so. But, what about my childhood? I still dream about the kids in my elementary school in Oklahoma. I’m still living my life as a 10-year-old when I go to sleep. It probably doesn’t help that I still sleep with the teddy bear I got when I turned 10.
I’m very fortunate that I have very fond memories of my childhood. Growing up in a small town in Oklahoma was the best upbringing I could ever ask for. It was very simple and pure. We had fields to run in, fossils to unearth, and street lights to gage our time by. I don’t hide from my memories, but rather relish them. Being a grown-up sucks. What I wouldn’t give for the wonder I felt at discovering an abandoned tree house in the woods. The fear that the red clay sucking at my shoes was actually quicksand. The simplicity of stressing over a spelling test. Those were the good days.
I don’t think that I’m an anomaly for looking to the past. Whether we shirk it or seek it, we are living, breathing encyclopedias of certain pasts. The people we encounter, whether we want them to or not, live within us. I think about this a lot. The people who are, perhaps, “nobodies” in their current lives, are absolutely huge “somebodies” in my life. And, they don’t even know it. Amy’s writing has encouraged me to share about these important people in my life who live every day within me and my memories, even though I haven’t seen or had any knowledge of them in the last 22 years.
I sing the hey nonny nonny, I drop my flowers
into the river and I think about whether or not
I would sink or I would float; the wind stopped
being southerly for me weeks ago.
-Amy Durant, “Channeling Ophelia”
Now, for the moment I dread: putting real feelings down on paper and sharing it with the world.
My defenses go up. I’m thinking Hey man. I’m just an Engineering School dropout who likes to read books. What business do I have with writing poetry? I’m into logic, not art.
But, this is an adventure, so I’ll do it!
Amy uses a lot of literary references in her poetry (see Amy’s allusion to Hamlet above), which I love, so I’m going to try to do that.
Also, I’m going to write something in response to her poems. Because, Amy, who’s to say that there isn’t someone out there searching for you? Thinking about you, writing poetry about you? Remembering the beautiful girl that you once were (and still are) and wondering who you are now?
So, here it is. Gulp. My poem. Inspired by Amy Durant’s Out of True. I’m no poet. Please don’t blame Amy. She’s just my teacher. Check out Out of True: it is an amazing, raw collection of poetry that I’m sure will speak to you as much as it did to me.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But, this is true for me.
Immortality comes from remembrance.
That’s what I believe.
Shakespeare was not for an age, but for all time.
And all that jazz.
My mind constantly returns to my immortals.
Melanie, who loved unicorns.
Tommy, with a lisp, who loved Def Leppard.
Curtis, throwing up on his desk.
Brian, Nelou, Bill, and Danny.
These children will always be children to me.
They will always be remembered by me.
Do they remember the girl who moved away?
The girl who almost won the spelling bee?
I haven’t forgotten who you are. I know your dreams.
You may not have become the star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.
You might have gotten knocked up in high school and never lost the weight.
You might be dead.
But, you’re not. Because I remember you.
And you are always perfect. And always beautiful.
Montag was the Book of Ecclesiastes.
I will be
Daniel, with the best hair, who made me too shy to talk.
Seri, with the homemade acid-washed jeans.
Tommy, that sweet boy whom I see in all of my struggling students.
Casey, who seemed to have the best of everything.
Robert, the poor, starving boy with the thick Okie accent and a jar of pickles for lunch.
Steven, who knocked my tooth out. I haven’t smiled fully since.
C.B., the coolest, MTV-watchingest kid, who better be awesome now.
Valerie, the genius girl who taught me that reading was cool.
Bill, the best guy in the whole world.
Brian, the boy every man has had to live up to.
Jeff, the Webelo.
Scott, the rascal.
Kerrie, the girl who wanted to make the Barbies have sex. Ick.
Nelou, the girl who taught me that it was possible to have it all and still come from nothing. You changed my world.
Along with Amy Durant’s writing, my feelings are perfectly encapsulated by the following:
“Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” by Pearl Jam
“I Was There” by Green Day