(26 Oct 08) Today I tackled a folder of old poems on my computer. They were written on old PCs, and are now barely readable by my year-old Mac – being the organised-sort that I am (i.e. so organised that it scares people who are unorganised), I decided to decode them and put them in an archive file.
It was an interesting journey scanning over the first poems that I ever wrote, at university, nearly 20 years ago, and from a few years after. I saw the handful that made it into my first collection of poetry, Slant, others that came close, and more that were never in the running.
As a young writer, I often did not have enough to say in the poems, there was a good idea or image, but not much else. I had the tendency to describe emotions and the world in general and grandiose terms, with an occasional interesting turn of phrase, but often lacking something specific, a detail, which would really bring a phrase to life.
I wrote too often about poetry itself, and language, but being young had nothing wise to say. There were some pieces which are better off as pages of a journal, a few cringe-making earnest political tracts (the one about the anti-fur lobby stood out here).
But I was also drawn to what made good poetry: weight, gravity, grief, joy. There was a lovely youth and liveliness to some and occasionally I could keep an idea uncomplicated but sharp enough to work well. It was interesting to revisit all those seeds and grains and see how they grew into what were published in magazines, and then my books, to see the young poet in formation, in love with words, already on his way.
This translucent stone
is bright and simple.
I fixed it to my forehead
with apricot jam
and thought of you all night.
Now it reaches you
after having travelled
no person could ever fit.
Touch it to the ground once more
and ask from it its secrets.