Look Back, Look Way Way Back…the Writer You Used to Be

I was recently sifting through my previous blog, which is now locked away in the interwebz forever. It was called A WANDERING MIND and it was almost exclusively for poetry. Circa 2007-2010. It carried hundreds of poems upon its crooked little back. The thing I notice when I occasionally pull it up to have a read is that the poems were, by and large, inauthentic. Or, if you will, fictional. Sure, I occasionally pulled out an authentic retelling or heart-truth. But everything was cloaked and shrouded…presented from a place of darkness with just the tiniest hint of a back-lit glow to the authentic. I was writing from a place of self-repression.

I give you exhibit A. In way of preamble, I wrote it on March 30th, 2008. I never burlapped a thing in my life. Hydrangeas? The word must have sounded pretty to me at the time. The bloody things do not have winter limbs…if you do it right. I don’t recall EVER being in Penetanguishene. Or on a train heading north, for that matter. My father was never dying. What’s a Plymouth? I couldn’t pick one out of a line-up.

Things to Do Today

Remove the snow
from the burlap shrouds
encasing the hydrangeas,
ready their limbs for rebirth.

Take the train north
to Penetanguishene,
where screams of ennui
will be muffled, go unheard.

Call my dying father,
speak of ’72 Plymouths
getting air on railroad tracks
long since removed.

Light the candles
on the sky white mantle,
watch the flames flicker
and later disappear.

post-amble? Come to think of it, I did own something in that poem. I remember the weightlessness of going over railroad tracks while climbing a steep hill in a car. It’s a glorious feeling to get air. Especially if there’s music on the radio at the time. It’s all Dukes of Hazzard and what not.

The more I scour the old poetry, the more I think I should rewrite it with my freer post self-repression mind. When you live with a secret like childhood sexual abuse, you shift everything to fit into little boxes. Even all the things you want and need to be authentic are slightly askew. Simply because you’re not the you you were supposed to be (and you never will be–you are a changed version of what you would have could have been). Your walls and barriers and safe places BLOCK OUT just as much as they RESCUE AND SAVE. So, really, until you face the demons…there is no winning.

That poem had almost nothing to do with me. And just like the hundreds of other poems that came from that period of my writing life, I had no recollection of having written it. It is as separate from my psyche as War and Peace is. I don’t know if you’re aware or not, but I did not write War and Peace. It can also be said that I didn’t write any of the poems that came from the dark era. But I did. It’s a conundrum. How can you own something that is not connected in some way to who you are?

On the same day that I wrote the above poem, I wrote one that perhaps I can still feel a bit of connection to. My go-to novel to use as a template for the perfect novel has always been The Great Gatsby, so the admiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of those things that is constant in my life…it was there in the darkness and it is here in the light. I suppose a vestige of who we are is always there, whether or not we choose or try to access it.


Ode to F. Scott Fitzgerald

And I will dig up his grave,
and wonder at the box
in which he is kept.
And I will adorn
myself with his bones,
wear them like a coat
my fragile body.
And if he be but dust
I will swallow
in handfuls
to have him inside me.
And all for the sake
of an image
he wrote,
will I suffer
the height
of my madness.
“and the curtains
and the rugs
and the two young women
to the floor”.
And for that
I will adorn myself
with his bones,
wear them like a coat,
Wrap myself in wonder
and partake of his dust.

Perhaps it need stay in the darkness. From what I can gather, I dug up the old sport and ate his dust. These are things of darkness, I’m sure. But thus is the extent of my hero worship of his writerly abilities. So, I’ll own it still. It gets to stay.

I’m not sure what this blog post is about. I just feel the need every now and again to revisit the writer I used to be. I don’t try to judge him or weigh the texts of my past with the texts of my now. I don’t need to know that I improved, and I certainly don’t need to know that I haven’t. I just feel that–whatever it is that I find–I accept it for what it is. Something I wrote while on my journey. As with life and each step we take to get us to the step we’re about to take and the place in which we find ourselves, our past writing is what has brought us to who we are now. Just own it. Don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t discard it. Like the bad memory that made you who you are, the bad poem also had a hand in shaping the writer you have become.

Acceptance of self. It’s a good thing.

On the same day I wrote the two above poems, I wrote this one on apologies. I have no idea where my mind was at…but I won’t apologize to myself for having written it. I am writer, hear me roar.

Prelude to an Apology

We’ll let the devil
Tongue our eyes,
And drink our light
In gulps divine.
We’ll let the saints
In numbers,
Stomp our dreams
And teem inside,
With lust,
The dust divine.
And shout,
We will,
The awkward silence,
Awake the night
We walk in vengeance,
And just a slight of hand
Away from wonder,
We’ll construct
Our own mythology,
but never will we offer
Those elusive
Things we straddle
And preen to pretty,
The often considered
But never whispered
Hushed and hidden apology.

Be your writing. And remember to look back on the journey every now and again…


By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.

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