Poet in the making

I have always written poetry, both prose form and metered verse. Although I scribbled lines in my own version of a journal, a favorite memory recalls sitting at my grandparents’ typewriter pouring out my heart line by line. I suppose I made up for lack of talent with a boatload of youthful sincerity or teenage angst.

I graduated from San Gabriel High School in 1970. Our 50th reunion was scrapped last year for obvious reasons. One more anniversary lost to the tolls of pandemic restrictions. I can’t honestly say that I would have attended, but I had been flirting with the idea.

I recently came across a high school creative writing journal containing my published submission, “The Sea.”

There are so many lines in this piece that make me smile, or maybe cringe just a little. I don’t think I have ever seen the skeleton of a perch, and “the tempestuous, driving forces” were more likely a reference to the emotional drama of that age and stage.

Simple and sentimental prose poem aside, it is true that the ocean is my favorite thinking spot. Now that we are able to move about with fewer restrictions we are back to spending time at the beach. Throughout 2020 we drove to watch the waves, but for the first time in my life we didn’t spend one day sitting on the sand. Some of our beaches were closed to the public, and others, when available, were just too crowded for my comfort.

Fortunately, we have returned.

I graduated in June of 1970 and three months later entered a private liberal arts college.

Finally I could study what most interested me. I promptly enrolled in an English course, “Metaphysical Poetry.” I don’t know how I managed to sign up for a course without reading the course description, but that’s exactly what I did.

I don’t specifically recall my expectations, but I think I had interchanged my limited ideas of “psychedelic” with “metaphysical” and placed the poets somewhere between Rod McKuen and Bob Dylan. I was shocked when the course syllabus hit my hand and I realized I would now be studying the works of Francis Bacon, John Donne, Milton, Spenser and others.

I remember being disappointed and a little confused, immediately overwhelmed and out of my depth. I also recall the moment I learned that I really did enjoy allegory and I was determined to decode the rather dense works. I must have managed to do well enough to get through it, as I don’t recall a poor outcome. (As opposed to dropping out of a Biology class when the fetal pig was brought in for dissection.)

This all took place a long time ago!

I own a lovely volume of Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene, the Coronation Edition, dedicated to Elizabeth I, and published 350 years following her reign at the Coronation of Elizabeth II. It is indeed a spectacular book filled with intricate illustration plates, and I sit with it from time to time relishing the beauty of Early Modern English.

It’s fascinating to me, but reading an epic poem circa 1590 makes me feel young again.

Age is relative, isn’t it?

And poetry is timeless.