I don’t talk about poetry much on my blog. Today it was a choice between a rant that’s been stewing in my brain for a few days now, or a discussion about poetry and positivity, so I went for the latter. I’m sure you’re all greatly relieved, though of course I might do the rant some other time.
Like most angsty, adolescent “creative types”, I write poetry. Most of it is fairly dark and miserable, some of it is halfway decent, and a lot of it is scrawled illegibly in a series of notebooks in increasingly awful handwriting. (This year alone I’ve written over 21,000 words of poetry which is, uh, a lot. Practically half a NaNo novel, and most of these poems aren’t more than 250 words, with the exception of one that’s 2.5k.) For the first six months of 2013, it was the closest thing I had to a journal, and it’s an interesting way to keep track of my emotions.
Most of the poems I write about myself are negative.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I have awful self-image problems and need to be constantly reassured that I’m not a horrible person
(but actually I kind of do), but simply reflects the reality that the only time I really take a good hard look at myself and my appearance and my actions is when I’m feeling too low to do anything else. So then I write sad poems. It figures, right?
Then I have other poems which are about events. I’ve written poems when I’ve been furious because of a single thing that happened, and reading them I can see the situation all over again. I’ve written poems in a more narrative style.
Some of my poems were experiments, playing with symbolism and imagery and techniques I’d studied in school, but most were free and written quickly to release some overwhelming emotion. Other poems reflect aspects of ideology, or discuss things I’m thinking about, or reference things I’ve read. I have at least four poems in my 2013 poetry document that were inspired by Les Miserables (and one that used motifs from a piece of stunningly artistic fan fiction).
But, somewhat overwhelmingly, I’ve written a lot of poems for other people. You could even call some of them ‘love’ poems, although that sounds pretty pretentious and everybody more than two years older than me is laughing at this melodramatic young poet. But hey, that’s basically what they are. They’re poems about or for people that I love.
Admittedly, I’ve also written the complete opposite, where I just rant about everything I hate about that person at that moment in time, even if they’re someone I care a lot about, but I tend to get over it and forgive them once I’ve got it down on paper, and those poems are a very small minority of my overall collection.
So, love poems. They’re interesting, right? Because we always write them about other people.
Sometimes, they just talk about that person’s good qualities, extolling the virtue of their appearance or their mind or something that’s exceptional about them. But quite often they take that person’s flaws and insecurities and turn them into something beautiful.
We never do that when we write about ourselves.
When we love someone, we tend to see their issues as a part of them, and we don’t judge them for it. But we judge ourselves for our scars and our backstory, don’t we? Yet if you translated all our flaws onto fictional characters, there would be people who loved them for their brokenness.
I wrote a poem about myself the other day, taking everything I kind of like about myself, and even the things I don’t. It felt arrogant, to describe aspects of my own appearance. It felt wrong to let myself think, “Yes, actually, I’m worthy of this poem.” I wrote it in second person, as though somebody was talking to me.
I read it through, and it made me happy.
I have written a lot of poems where I reprimand myself for things I’ve said or done or felt, and where I’m angry at myself. But this was the first time in my life I wrote a poem in the style of those I’ve written for other people, not judging myself because I wouldn’t judge them for those things.
That poem is important to me. While it strikes me as sad that I wrote myself a poem expressing affection (rather than somebody else doing so), I also see it as terribly important in an ongoing battle to love and accept myself for everything I am, not just for the external construct I create to hide what’s inside my head. It’s about learning to see yourself the way you see your friends.
I can’t remember the exact quote, but somebody once said that you should never talk to yourself the way you wouldn’t talk to your best friend. “Be careful what you say,” they said, “because you are listening.”
Maybe some of you write poetry, and maybe you don’t. But my challenge to you this weekend is to write a poem of love to yourself, telling yourself that you’re unique and special and amazing. It doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to be pure poetic genius that’ll be hailed as the next masterpiece.
Just see what happens when for once, you look at yourself the same way you look at the people you love.