Recently, yours truly posted a question on Quora about poetry, specifically the fear of letting others read your poetry. It is no secret, I have only posted one of my poems, EVER. That was a special occasion, or so I saw it at that time. Turns out the feelings within were not special, they would become the new status quo. For that which may have gone unseen then, most certainly, was not lost on the Quora crowd.
The response to my gut-wrenching poem was quite remarkable. To paraphrase the best of the bunch:
It was too nice, too perfectly aligned with all those lines with the same number of syllables (which was then a source of pride), and the work needed to be sent to the mean streets, beaten in the gutter and bloodied up– for then, and only then, would my poetry show signs of promise.
Thank you, Quora crew for such honest and sound advice.
In full disclosure, the spirit of their message did not offend nor was it lost on me, not in the slightest. With the spirit of bloody, messy, and non-perfect– the following is a few random writings stemming from my internal frustration, it’s not poetry, it may not be technically sound nor even good, but it is honest.
Fuck you said
To oneself repeated, over and again
through the voice of another
Seriously, who cares?
The answer = nobody
Don't confuse reality with desire
Be a coherent imbecile
The monster within
Goes away with Love
or so "they" say
Love is said to take the pain
far far far away
or... so "they" say
Bullshit I said
The pain is everlasting
until you're dead
I can write those words a million times
A million times written to eventually get it "perfect"
As in the poem, lines of prose that flawlessly rhymes
The strife of perfection will assuredly be met
With a dissenting voice-- it's poetry to forget
Time and again
Perfection = fool's errand
The mortals sin
Or so "they" say,
Before, just like you,
They go away
Yet, The MONster never dies
as the beast remains well-fed
by a lifetime of misery and lies
The greatest truth ever said
was never heard because the truth is dead
The lying succubus devours the soul, bit by bit,
until swallowed whole
Then-- I lose; You win.
Of course not, that'd be too easy
and reality must always be a mess
a mess that's far far beyond queasy
Sure, you took all of me
At least the good chunks
but fragments and shards remain
allowing the MONSTer to feed--
on an endless neverending pain.
Thank you for truth told through bullshit and lies;
For as now, you are a reason the MONSTER never dies.
This proud declaration may be a result of discovering the most beautiful flower of life. It’s right there, just waiting for you, easy pickings. Then, as you reach to claim your prize, abruptly, a searing pain rushes into the body. The heart begins to beat heavily, the pulse increases, the breathing becomes rapid as fear leads to bewilderment,
“What has happened? Why am I hurting?”
Suddenly, the eyes discover the culprit, two well defined, fresh piercings now show on the forearm. Instead of collecting the beautiful flower, one has become a victim of the quick strike serpent. The snake has made its mark, followed by a fleeting escape. Everything happened so quickly, you didn’t even get to see the culprit, hit and run, gone.
The wound may heal, but the mental scar remains.
Now, one is left with a choice. How much does one want the life flower? Enough to go back and risk being bitten by the unseen viper? Or does the memory of the previous agony remain too strong? Maybe the mind has dreamed up the image of the unseen monster, even given the snake a face. Perhaps the mind envisions an enormous, sadistic creature that chooses to stand guard and will never allow anyone, especially not YOU to claim the flower of life. So, what’s it going to be?
The life flower or Fear?
We’ve all been there. Conceivably, the bite may have come in the form of asking another out, only to be harshly rejected. Or, it could have been the time wanting to show off one’s karaoke skills by belting out a fabulous version of “Don’t Speak” but, it turns out, there’s only one Gwen Stefani, No Doubt. Whatever it might be, does not really matter, we all have been there. The important thing is not the strike to the ego, but how one handles the ordeal. Some may wish to play it safe, while others accept the possibility of failure remains a worthy risk.
There is no right answer, no choice is wrong.
The story of the life flower snake seeks to explain the true nature of this work– self-doubt. Specifically, the challenge of putting one’s self out there. Is the reward worth the risk?
When I first started TheDR.World, my vision was to have a forum, an outlet to express my own creative endeavors and also to encourage others. Yours truly must admit, it came as a surprise that few opportunity takers would step up and display their uniqueness, their genius within.
To me, that’s a shame. But sometimes, all it takes is one or two of the “right” people stepping forward. Thus, it is my distinct pleasure to highlight such an occasion.
Not long ago, someone I know sent me a gift. The new treasure– was a poem. Just my view, but it is a solid, respectable poetic effort. Furthermore, the best attribute of this particular poem (again, my opinion) is the emotions, the writer meant the words and the reader can feel it.
Unfortunately, the author did not wish to be identified by their real name, I can respect that decision and do not ask as to why. However, please note, TheDR.World will publish almost anything creative but does believe the creator should receive the credit they are due. Having adequately stated that belief, let me assure all, the writer is not me (Darrell).
Despite my fondness for poetry, I admit to being somewhat intimidated and have only publicly published one poem (Heartless Holiday: Not a Poem Poem). Therefore, allow me to introduce the first effort, a work by my friend– a person known as “Deuce” Hacksaw**.
**NOTE: For many writers, poets, artists, a good pseudonym is a “just in case” must. For the record, my chosen alternate moniker is Glee Iconoclast.
Ladies and Gentleman, please enjoy:
So this is what Misery Feels Like
By “Deuce” Hacksaw
So this is what misery feels like.
I never thought I’d feel the crushing weight of the world on my shoulders.
Life is pain.
We take a brief respite in the simple things every now and then.
The taste of good food, the warmth of a lover.
It all fades with time.
The taste grows stale, the warmth fades.
The joys slowly dissipate until nothing is left but the hollowness of our souls.
This is what happens when disillusionment sets in.
Love is lust.
Joy is realized desperation.
The things we take for granted are a gift.
She lays outside of arm’s reach and all you want is contact.
The distance can be measured in light years.
You’re falling deeper and deeper into the blackness every day.
Is life too short, or too long?
Never has a life line been needed more, but friends are fleeting.
Family is temporary and exists as long as their utility.
I am Sisyphus and Prometheus.
I keep pushing, but already know what the end result will be.
I spill my guts on the mountain, only for your vultures to eat me alive
Human nature often revolves around one’s desire for self-importance and individualism.
“The Road Not Taken” is a classic Robert Frost poem that exploits individual desire by utilizing wily verses and legendarily closes: “And that has made all the difference” (20).
Through ambiguity, the poem serves as a timeless catalyst of perpetual interpretation. One such example, an episode of “Orange is the New Black” presents a brazen assessment of Frost’s epic as a prisoner proclaims,
“Everyone thinks the poem means to…do your own thing. But…the two roads are…the same…[the choice is] random…[but] everyone wants…[to] think that their choices mattered, but…shit just happens the way that it happens, and it does not mean anything” (Hess).
The truth is that one need not fret nor regret yet to be determined consequence; accept the choice not as a struggle but as the founding of a new condition.
Now, muse a new tale of choice that during retellings could be cleverly modified to influence an ever-changing audience. On some days, the story could utilize a suspenseful delivery akin to a notorious episode of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone.” On other days, the narrative may echo the sentiments of “The Road Not Taken” traveler whom alleges:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence” (16-17).
The origins of this tale can be traced back to November 2010, as an accomplished hero returned from deployment primed to reap the benefits of reward.
Nineteen years of untiring devotion was poised to snowball into an avalanche of success. Everything was perfect—except it wasn’t. Our protagonist held a guarded secret. Our hero would face a choice; this would be a “The Road Not Taken” moment as “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood / And sorry I could not travel both” (1-2). But there would be no taut struggle.
An unexpected moment of reckoning would grant clarity.
Chronic bouts of pain that plagued the hero grew worse as numbness extended from the shoulder down to the fingers. The injury was a secret and if it were the first injury—then it would not have been such a “big deal.” Unfortunately, it was the third injury to the right side of the hero’s body during a five-year period that began with a severely busted foot in 2005.
October 11, 2007, a personal day of infamy, a wrongly planted leg during a base defense exercise in Korea led to a dislocated right knee and three torn ligaments.
Six months later, the hero was not only running on it—but was running a lot. Why? That’s the military way. Military commanders provide constant pressure to perform—medical advice be damned.
In December 2008, a knee operation would result in removal of broken bone and most of the knee’s cartilage. Furthermore, the surgeon stated, “Our hero has the worst knee I have ever seen…and it will only grow worse. The hero must stop running.”
To not run was not reasonable as it was a required duty but the hero’s knee would continue to deteriorate. Two years later, another injury and a new dilemma. At this moment, a newfound awareness had fallen upon our hero echoing Frost’s verses:
“And be one traveler, long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could” (3-4).
Long story short, by August 2011, it was determined that an October surgery would be required. In the meantime, the hero mentally accepted this reality and didn’t think much more of it…until one day.
On that day, the hero was standing outside as a middle-aged gentleman relying upon a cane would slump along his struggling journey. This image ignited an unrelated flashback involving a nineteen-year-old soldier injured by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The youngster had a broken back that required immediate surgery, or otherwise, he faced permanent paralyzation. The closest hospital was a 45-minute helicopter ride away in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
It was the hero’s job to inform the pilots that due to a “haboob” (an intense dust storm) between the hero’s location and Kandahar—the weather conditions would not allow any attempt at transporting the young patient for at least twelve hours.
Sadly, the hero’s forecast was precise, and the injured teen would arrive much too late for any surgical attempt. The sight of a hobbled fellow mixed with this flashback—provided clarity.
The young soldier popped into the hero’s mind, as he realized the soldier had no choice on being crippled—but the hero did have a choice. At that moment, a realization hit—the hero’s decision would likely determine his fated end. The options were to continue a path of extended years of service at the risk of being crippled or to just retire.
At that moment, a decision was made.
The hero, like Frost’s traveler, realized:
“Yet knowing how way leads on to way / I doubted if I should ever come back” (14-15).
Immediately, the hero would submit a retirement request to take effect briskly after his 20th year of completed service. Later, attempts to talk the hero out of it were made, but the decision was final. Following a successful surgery, the hero retired on January 6, 2012.
Future telling of the hero’s story may embrace added drama or flair, but the truth will remain simpler.
In reality, just like all that had come before and all that shall follow—military days are numbered. Regardless if it’s two or forty years, no one stays forever. Some will follow “The Road Not Taken” narrative relying upon Frost’s famous words:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I / I took the one less traveled by” (18-19).
Many others will lay claim to Frank Sinatra’s famous “My Way.” As for this story’s hero, he chooses to reminisce utilizing The Talking Heads “Road to Nowhere,” and a frank revelation that:
We’re on a road to nowhere
There’s a city in my mind
Come along and take that ride
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right.
Upon our farewell, I propose for you not to fret past choices, instead celebrate the successes within the selection of individualism.
After all, you are a unique being—just like everyone else.
One can establish an apparent quest for truth in the death-themed “Success is Counted Sweetest” (Dickinson). In the first stanza, success is most appreciated, Dickinson writes: “By those who ne’er succeed. / To comprehend a nectar / Requires sorest need” (2–4).
In the professional judgment of author Beth Macly Doriani, the poem is “less an exercise in self-consolation than assured declarations of truth: pursuit and struggle do have value [as] the agony and defeat…precede the triumph and “comprehension” of victory” (170). Additional analysis, suggests the work “seems to argue even the superiority of defeat over victory since the former results in spiritual gain [and] awareness…crucial for the prophet” (Doriani 170). That’s great, but what would a less idealistic (and perhaps more palatable) appraisal reveal?
“Success is Counted Sweetest” by those that may seek a mystic glory while, within the same pursuit, ignoring a grim alternative—reality!
Specifically, the poem exposes that those who seek to win a mystical glory through an all too real (physical or metaphorically religious) battle might discover the true jubilance of victory as they, the defeated, wilt to the throes of death. In the simplest form, the poem reveals those chasing eternal grandeur from a (physical or spiritual) war might come to realize, in death, that life is the source of jubilance. In the end, a grand discovery is divulged—but the revelation comes too late.
The essential truth of “Success” is to question the nobility of hyperbolic or mythical illusions. One could assume, in 19th century America, the questioning of one’s mortality might not make a favorite topic of conversation. So, imagine trying to curiously inquire about long-held religious beliefs—as a member of a Puritan community (reminder, this is Puritans from the 1800s). So, what are the odds a girl afraid to discuss time with her father, would grow to ask aloud if the afterlife is bunk?
The second example of Emily Dickinson’s pursuit of an alluding truth is found in her religious-themed poetry.
One must note the adequately consistently inconsistent nature of many Dickinson religious works. In A More Beautiful Question: The Spiritual in Poetry and Art, Glen Hughes declares Dickinson’s poems provide a “severe honesty [that looks to] consistently explore and articulate genuine truths about the human situation” (65).
Hughes highlights a key to Dickinson’s work is that “human beings are, first and last, passionate questioners…for a certainty and fulfillment that remain unavailable to us in this lifetime” (65). Therefore, one must understand Dickinson’s religious themes seek a truth that will be left unfulfilled.
For instance, within the same poem, a bold declaration will be countered by an equally audacious but opposing statement.
In “Going to Heaven!” Dickinson writes: “I’m glad that I don’t believe it / For it would stop my breath” (20-21). These lines represent the belief in the afterlife is a sign of impending death. Later in the poem, the point is countered by declaring, “I am glad they did believe it” (25). Why is the narrator glad? Turns out that “they” are dead. The poem establishes a clear distinction of certainty, in that within the supernatural, the afterlife, and the religious proclamations there are no certainties. One must understand the dogmatic origins of confusion within Dickinson’s religious poetry.
“The Ambiguous Relationship with Religion: The Poems of Emily Dickinson” explains that “truth was the guiding force [to Dickinson’s desire to] realize truth wholeheartedly” (Gain). However, “she did not want to borrow the phraseology of clergyman [and Dickinson’s] search of truth was kind of a spiritual quest” (Gain).
Also, religious ideology would begin to face scrutiny under the challenge of worldly discovery. During Dickinson’s lifetime, conflicting views between religion and new knowledge would add confusion to her life, leading to questions often explored within her religious-themed poems.
As one of America’s most famous recluses, innuendo, distortion, and personal agenda would enhance the rise of Dickinson’s lore.
Although, open to interpretation, “there is a constant wobble in Dickinson’s dualism; she is always questioning both faith and doubt” (St. Armand 34). She was likely not a black magic witchy queen hell-bent on future shaping the 19th century Puritans—NO! Emily Dickinson was merely an intelligent Puritan girl too afraid to admit to her lack of understanding that as a woman would continue to be scared to ask questions—so, she wrote it down.
Of course, the only way to acquire absolution to Dickinson’s works would be to ask her—but, long ago, the moss silenced Emily Dickinson’s quest for both truth and beauty.
Dickinson, Emily. “Letters from Dickinson to Higginson.” Received by Thomas Higginson, Dickinson/Higginson Correspondence: 16 August 1870 (Letter 342), Dickinson Electronic Archives, 20 Mar. 2000, https://www.archive.emilydickinson.org/correspondence.
Doriani, Beth Maclay. Emily Dickinson: Daughter of Prophecy. University of Massachusetts Press, 1996. p. 170.
Gain, Anannya. “Ambiguous Relationship with Religion: The Poems of Emily Dickinson” International Journal of English Language, Literature in Humanities, 4 Apr. 2017, https://www.ijellh.com/ambiguous-relationship-with-religion-the-poems-emily-dickinson.
Hughes, Glenn. A More Beautiful Question: The Spiritual in Poetry and Art, University of Missouri Press, 2014. p. 65.
St. Armand, Barton Levi. “Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin.” Emily Dickinson International Society, May 2015, p. 34. www.emilydickinsoninternationalsociety.org.
Wardrop, Daneen. Emily Dickinson’s Gothic: Goblin with a Gauge. University of Iowa Press, 1996. p. 191.
The first example of Emily Dickinson’s pursuit of an escaping truth is expressed in her death-themed verses. In the second stanza of “I Died for Beauty” a conversation in the bounds of a tomb occurs between truth and beauty, truth initiates the dialogue as: “He questioned softly why I failed? / “For beauty,” I replied. / “And I for truth – the two are one” (5-7).
The next misinterpreted “professional” analysis shall be provided by author Daneen Wardrop as she enthusiastically describes “I Died for Beauty” as a:
“gothicized Romeo and Juliet [and that the] allegorical ciphers” (191) goes nowhere substantive. Additionally, the poem’s focus “may indicate sexual consummation…not on earth but in the grave [which asks] in the traditional view [which asks] is there love after death?” (Wardrop 191).
While bold, Wardrop’s assessment takes lyrical liberties to establish the desired agenda. So, if the poem is not about the failure of goths to find everlasting love albeit in life, or in death, then what does the poem “I Died for Beauty” truly reveal?
A truth-first inquiry must also consider the poem’s conclusion along with the text.
For instance, both beauty and truth died “for” the duo’s “failed” conquests. The duo acknowledges that the “two are one” and are “brethren.” This mutual admiration leads to the pair meeting for nightly conversation. However, both truth and beauty seemingly fail to realize an ever-present and beautiful truth—the moss. This miscalculation represents the real failure of the characters (truth and beauty).
The pre-conceived ideas of both beauty and truth led them to overlook the world around them until it was too late. The outcome results with the end of their words, as they and their names will be covered. Then, they shall be forgotten—a new death of sorts from the growing moss. The moss could undoubtedly represent an obvious truth ignored, and obscure beauty overlooked. One could deduct the new death also serves to provide the answer to how both truth and beauty “failed” not only in death but also in their previous lives. For those that fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it…are they not?
Boom! Case closed. Point made.
What? Not easily convinced, eh?
Fair enough, but the next example will not be a simple restatement. No—it shall be a transitional interval linking the truth of death to religion.
Wardrop, Daneen. Emily Dickinson’s Gothic: Goblin with a Gauge. University of Iowa Press, 1996. p. 191. EBSCOhost, https://www.nclive.org.
In a letter, Emily Dickinson claims, “I never knew how to tell the time by the clock until I was 15. My father thought he had taught me but I did not understand & I was afraid to say I did not & afraid to ask anyone else.” (L342). Does such a revelation hint of wisdom or virtuosity?
Nevertheless, some claim Dickinson’s masterpieces as displays of fatalistic genius.
Sure, Emily Dickinson’s poetry encompasses uncomfortable topics such as death and religion (or the lack thereof), but the centralized theme around many of these works remains fundamentally consistent—the pursuit of truth. The brilliance of Dickinson’s work stems from a hybrid of the poet’s self-realization mixed with her admission of self-ignorance.
Dickinson’s poetry is a mere expression of a Puritan woman’s quest for knowledge, like the tale of her father and clock supports, that had previously avowed too “afraid to ask anyone else” (L342).
To comprehend the poetry of Dickinson, one must accept the legend of the poet and how folklore adds mystic elements to her poetry. During her natural life, a majority of Emily Dickinson’s work went largely unnoticed, not widely published, and not exposed to public viewing. However, a funny thing would happen—Ms. Dickinson died. Then, her extensive collection of poetry would be “discovered.”
Naturally, where talent meets potential for profit, the works would be published—and a new legend would soon be born. This modern myth would grow as the story of a recluse, and her obscure works team with speculation, facts, innuendo, and of course, plucky claims grandly certified by distorted half-truths. Over the years, this would give rise to today’s Emily Dickinson and her customizable poetry to fit virtually any preferred narrative of choice.
Wish Emily Dickinson to be an agnostic goth? No problem.
What about an iconic pre-feministic shaman witch? If that’s what you want, well, you got it, pal or gal (as applicable). After all, Dickinson’s creations are equally fit to serve the equalitarian or the hocus pocus witchery crowds alike—while perhaps written under the muse of magical mushrooms. But, amusing portrayals are self-serving and oft overlook the pure actuality, to see—the real E.D.
Dickinson’s poems provide an opportunity to the sophisticated overthinking intellectual, the self-proclaimed “expert” that over inflates the meaning of a few of Dickinson’s words scribbled on a page.
The problem with overthinking Dickinson?
Straight from Dickinson’s eloquence one may deduce a unique wonder behind Dickinson’s poetry which originates from an extensive debate, that aims to, as Dickinson writes: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant – / …The Truth must dazzle. gradually / Or every man be blind –” (1, 7-8).
Emily Dickinson, too, was an overthinker. Thus, a complication of a complication leads one further away from understanding Dickinson.
One should examine the deep-thinker with a mind of simplicity. The truth of Dickinson’s poetry falls somewhere in between the pursuit of an evading fact and the lack of stimulating conversation. Evidence to both is evident within Dickinson’s unique quest for unanswerable truth revealed within her death and religious-themed poetry.
This writing is dedicated to all those that are, for one reason or another, missing their perfect loves–but these loves wish to have nothing to do with ya(S).
Please remember, during the moments you may feel so isolated in pain, loss, despair, grief, or in tribulation–you are never alone. From time to time, many of us have been there, and many now share that same type of pain too.
If there is any solace in misery, it is that you are still alive. Life is the key to hope, with life–there’s hope. Always remember that LIFE = HOPE while DEATH = FINAL. One day at a time, keep living–nothing is guaranteed in life, but it beats the alternative guarantee found in death.
Additionally, this writing is dedicated to missing perhaps the most exceptional person I ever had the opportunity to meet and spend some great times with. For one reason or another, I’m not really sure exactly why, but it appears those days are over. Although a harsh reality, pass/fail endeavors can only end up either as victory or bust. So, one must willingly take the risk to ever have any chance to gain the reward.
On the work itself, one could classify it as a “poem” if they choose to do so. Yours truly avoids writing “poems.” Why? Well, in simplest terms, poetry is difficult, it is a hard task to write good or great poems. In the purest form, verse requires proper use of concepts such as alliteration, anapest, meters, couplets, dactyls, and decasyllables. Of course, one must not just what a “meter” is–but also how to properly utilize a chosen “meter.” Hence, admittingly, my knowledge of poetry reaffirms my novice status.
Regardless of how the reader chooses to define the non-poem poem below, the words come from the heart. In truth, learning to express the inner-most feelings to the world is a new concept to me, it’s also scary. However, to become a better writer and a better person requires the ability to express the real-self without fear.
Finally, the following is also dedicated to missing my perfect, my kinda f*cked up:
A Heartless Holiday
As I lay down hopeful to sleep,
all my restraint to avoid a weep.
Abruptly, a yearning appeared in my head,
“Your heart will remember,” this faith said.
The most beautiful of dreams dance in my mind,
but these were fabrications of a reality–blind.
A new journey is soon to start,
of holidays coveting a missing heart.
For I would awake to a great fear
of craving a soul nowhere near.
I waited until the glorious disappointing bitter end–