Arts · Poems

There are few things more terrifying than poetry

Obviously, yes, there’s dying and spiders and being forever alone. But also poetry. Reading it, writing it, showing it to other people… argh.

I blame Sylvia Plath, who sits comfortably at the top of my list of ‘things I wish I’d written’. (Other favourites include most Florence + the Machine lyrics, His Dark Materials, and this article about the sea in literature.) I just want to write down how I feel in a way that is both tidy and not tidy, that only uses about five words per line and that rhymes and echoes in the reader’s head for years afterwards. Too big an ask?

Perhaps I was traumatised by Dorothy’s opinion of ‘teenage scribblings’ in The Tower Room by Adele Geras: ‘a morass of sentiment, and couched in words that are of the most violent purple imaginable’. I hadn’t looked at that book in years until today, and I’d remembered the criticism as being far more reasonable than it actually is. It’s not that I keep forgetting that I’m not a teenager, I’m bloody glad not to be a teenager, but I am frequently startled by the distance between myself and my teens, when the time seems to have gone so quickly. My poetry can no longer be excused by teenage exuberance. Either it is good, or it is shit, or possibly it is merely ok-ish and bland.

Just in case I haven’t blithered on about this enough, I went out with a guy and now that I’ve dumped him I’m giving myself licence to moan about the fact that he didn’t like my poetry. It’s really bothering me. Can you tell? I’m furious with myself for letting the opinion of one puny bloke have such an effect on me. But affect me it does. What if all my poetry is terrible and I’m making a complete twat of myself by putting it online? I have such a keen ear for subtle criticism that I probably hear stacks of it that isn’t actually there. I should be focusing on the people who do read my stuff, rather than the people who don’t. Of course not everyone is going to like everything I do. But still I agonise over all my acquaintance who perhaps think I’m completely up myself. Perhaps it’s true.

I’m very much aware of when they ask you in therapy: ‘would you excoriate a friend like this?’ And of course you say: ‘NO! that would be TERRIBLE! my friends are AMAZING!’ Do I even have a right to twist myself into knots over this when it is such a small, insignificant blog in the midst of countless blogs of a similar size and quality? Nobody, in the grand scheme of things, beyond a small handful of people, gives a shit about me. So why should I give a shit about myself? I believe the kind answer to that question is because that would be TERRIBLE, and I am AMAZING.

So, in the spirit of trying not to be terrible to myself any more, here is a poem I wrote a couple of months ago that I’m calling ‘Acclimatise’, about my break up but also about my longing for change:

Don’t keep me waiting,
This time there can be no forgiving,
Just another extension
Of a grander scheme.
There will be no sudden windfall,
No change in fortune,
And I will not stop hating myself
Until I acclimatise.

Maybe I’ll just carry on in ignorance,
Sit in the bliss of silence
Until you are echoed out.
Maybe if I sit in stillness the thoughts will filter through to me.
There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on,
And would I rather it faded away
Or came across the room to me?
I’ve placed my hands on the sheet of the Earth
And pushed it together
So that it crumples into mountains.
The ground is moving beneath our feet
The plates are realigned.
Will you stumble?
I want to see you fall, so I know it’s not just me with vertigo.
Am I wrong?
One day we will all be allowed the luxury of forgetting.


I thought I might start a little news section at the end of the blog! My news is that sadly my grandad passed away on the 29th June, so it’s been a funny old week and I haven’t quite known what to do with myself. In theory this would fuel more grief-related posts, but I am yet to have any ideas.

Also, I’ve decided I’m going to set myself the target of posting something on here every other Sunday, because I am told people like consistency with these things. This might be a be a little over-ambitious, given my current state of health, so insert obligatory ‘it’s worth a try but perhaps I won’t manage it’ here.


Header: text from The Tower Room by Adele Geras


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