I don’t remember the finer details of my youth, except what’s preserved in photos. I’m amazed that in so many of those pictorial memories, there’s usually a book nearby.
The family-vacation photo is a classic, with all of us lined up under the “Welcome to California” sign. A paperback is firmly clutched in my left hand, while my right hand is in my mother’s grip. The classic picture is me reading a book on a curb, while a parade passes by.
Life — schoolwork, play, and chores — were all distractions from the really important things like reading, reading and reading. The Three R’s, of course. I loved words and the pictures they painted. Words were my escape, my future and my fortune. Who cared about the world around me, as long as there was a book that could take me elsewhere?
Somewhere along this journey, my love of reading prompted me to write poems, penning hundreds of them as a teen. Most are lost to the winds of time, multiple moves and shifting priorities.
I do have a collection of about 60 that survived, because at the age of seventeen I self-published a book of poems. “Book” is a loose term. I mimeographed 100 of my favorites and bound them into a yellow folder with the bold title, “Echoes of Glory” printed on the cover.
I gave this book to my high-school sweetheart in a solid ploy to show her that indeed, she had a sensitive man. It worked. She showed it to her mother and her girlfriends, and they all cooed in approval and envy. I was in.
But not for long. A month later, my girlfriend starting dating a wide receiver from the football team. He
was more given to Joe Namath than Joseph Wambaugh. He read comic books and disdained anything without pictures. The axiom seemed to be true: the intellectual loses out to the jock. My best friend laughed and asked, “What good is poetry if it can’t get you a woman?”
Over the years, my writings morphed into a more narrative style. My essays and articles always had a poetic sense, a structure that allowed me to get good grades and success. I found that I could capture words, snap them into visual pictures and translate them into sentences. Over time, I quit writing poetry. I had a full-time job as a corporate writer, and I just didn’t have the leisure, the drive, or the insight.
Then a series of losses struck. My wife left. Both my parents passed away within a few months of each other. Even my dog died. Stripped of my deepest relationships, I returned to my writing past.
Thinking back on my friend’s laughter, I now realize that poetry isn’t a tool to impress. It’s a way to reflect the soul. Armed with narrow paper in a quiet place, I am beginning to hear the poetic voice I thought was long gone.
Photo by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by David Rupert.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99. Inbox peace. Monthly themes. Beautiful art.
- Journey into Poetry: David Rupert - March 12, 2012
L. L. Barkat says
The three R’s made me smile. 🙂
So glad that you have found soul-solace in poetry. The poetry taps into a deep and important part of you.
Sandra Heska King says
Poetry is “a way to reflect the soul.” Beautiful. Did you never get your poetry “book” back?
Maureen Doallas says
Lovely that you came back to poetry, which can, indeed, save you.
David Rupert says
I do have a copy of that “book.” Some of it is — pretty bad. But others, with a little work are not too terrible!
L. L. Barkat says
So would that mean you’d have to revise the title? Echoes of Nothing Too Terrible? 🙂
David Rupert says
Or how about this. “Hello? ….. Hello?”
L. L. Barkat says
That’s a fine title. 😉
Now, Megan has a little challenge for you. (Maybe you could fudge it and pull out one of the old poems and change a few lines? 🙂
Alyssa Santos says
Writing is good therapy. Cheap good therapy. It has pulled me through times of near insanity…. And even the “bad” stuff is cathartic and purposeful. Like Ann Lamott says : write a shitty first draft. We have to dig through life and hurt and dirt and words to find the gems. I loved this piece, Thank you.
Megan Willome says
Alright, David. You’ve outed yourself. Show thy poems! At least, one or two.
Nancy Franson says
“What good is poetry if it can’t get you a woman?” That really is the age-old question, isn’t it?
Good for you, David. You’re a much braver man than I am. 🙂
Will Willingham says
And this narrow paper, it helps?
Diana Trautwein says
This is lovely story-telling, David. I, too, would love to see a poem or two – old and spruced-up or brand new, either way. Thanks for this.
Reno K Lawrence says
Well, David, we must be keenly the few rare guys in the male population that can relate to the described evolution of poetry. enough said on that! It’s a beautiful discovery to dig up, whether after a year, or thirty!
Amy @ themessymiddle says
“A way to reflect the soul” — and a way so often I don’t get. I’m not the poetic one in my family (as proved last week by my ten year old niece sending me a poem on her hatred of math. It would never occur to me to express my feelings at that age in poetry! Love it). But today, on Pi Day, I do like to use “Pi-ku” as a way of worship. Please, poetic souls, come over and leave a “real” poem in the comments. Mine are banal, but well intentioned! http://wp.me/p1Ut5W-aG
Kimberlee Conway Ireton says
Thanks for this post, David. I too was the kid-with-a-book-at-all-times. My aunt’s boyfriend used to worry that I would grow up socially awkward because I read so much. And he was right: I was a rather awkward adolescent and young adult, but at least I had lots of companions in my awkwardness, even if most of them were fictional 🙂
And I totally relate to the teenage poetry impulse and also the shoving-it-under-the-rug-when-it-didn’t-pan-out impulse. Glad you pulled the notepad back out from under the carpet!
Monica Sharman says
Really (about the parade)? THAT was impressive.
The paper does need to be narrow, doesn’t it?
Chris Yokel says
Interesting how life silences us for a time, often to bring us back again. My own poetic journey was like that.