The previous installment of my early writing took us a bit out of chronological order to examine the museum-quality pieces preserved in my childhood home, but today we'll return to our journey through the main archives. We left off with a last look at fifth grade, and I said we were in for some middle school angst ahead.
I may have oversold the angst idea, since the trials of adolescence aren't especially apparent in the school assignments that make up most of what's been saved. I do have a personal poetry journal that probably contains a few emo gems, but I've been cringing too hard to look at properly. We'll get to it soon, I promise.
The most miserable year of my childhood was sixth grade, when I was bullied and nearly friendless (shout out if you're responsible for keeping me at "nearly"). The curriculum that year didn't involve much in the way of creative writing, and I only have one surviving piece of sixth grade work. It's a script called "A Broadcast From Valley Forge" that imagines a television news correspondent visiting General Washington's cold, starving troops to report on the desperate conditions. I have no idea whether the assignment called for this experimental anachronism or if we were expected to write something more conventional, but I do recall delivering this report in front of the class and playing all three parts. I can only imagine what this did for my social standing.
Seventh grade went better, and one bright spot was my wonderful English teacher, Mrs. Mahoney. As a unit in her class, we studied different poetry forms and composed examples of each. Let's see if my poetry skills improved any between fourth grade and seventh grade.
Spoiler alert: The cover is the best part of the collection. At the time, I was very into decorating letters, for example when writing names on the envelopes of birthday cards. I think some of that ephemeral work was more accomplished, but this is what's been saved for posterity. How do you like the poet-tree? It took me a while to figure out what B and Y are doing, but I believe they are pointing their fingers (not guns, as I first thought) at the letters in my name, who are nudging, giggling, and audibly smiling.
"There are many fish in the sea,"
My mother has always told me,
And I always wish
She would stop -- I can't fish
I don't care if there's a million or three.
Note that Mrs. Mahoney enjoyed my sense of humor, even if nobody else did.
Five sense poem
Reading a good book is warm shades of brown, orange, and red.
It tastes like homemade bread fresh from the oven.
It sounds like muffled conversations all around.
It looks like whatever the book is about.
It smells like burning leaves.
Reading makes me happy and warm inside.
I was on board and even fairly impressed by this until Young Me barely bothered to phone it in with "It looks like whatever the book is about." Sure, I was trying to say that reading a book causes you to visualize the story, but that is a truly terrible line of poetry.
Yawning, foreboding, suffocating
Darkness, sombriety, happiness, light
Purifying, bustling, echoing
My teacher didn't comment on the nonexistence of the word "sombriety", but did apparently like my choice of the word "purifying".
We climbed to the top of the mountain, only to hike back down.
Only the mountain shape makes this anything more than an uninteresting sentence, and it's still pretty feeble. I imagine that masterful poems have been written using the concrete form, but probably not ever in an English class dutifully checking off poetry styles.
Lisa's my name,
I think you should know,
Softball's my game,
And I've gotta go.
See, if you read the first letter of each line, it says "Lisa", and that's the most clever thing happening in this poem. I can't believe all I had to say about myself was that I played softball. Remember that coat of arms from fifth grade? It didn't mention sports, and I assure you my athletic abilities didn't improve in the intervening two years. Mrs. Mahoney was so at a loss for what to say about this poem, she had to channel Santa Claus.
Dewdrops Are Stars
The dewdrops lie on the grass:
The stars have fallen,
The black drips out of the sky,
The moon hurries home, his mother has callen,
Mother Earth is alone,
She asks "Why?"
Finally, there's that angst I promised!
Good Stuff Out There:
→ At Jezebel, Catherine Nichols reveals that when she sent her novel out under a male name, the responses were better: "To some degree, I was being conditioned like a lab animal against ambition. My book was getting at least a few of those rejections because it was big, not because it was bad. George, I imagine, would have been getting his 'clever's all along and would be writing something enormous now."