On Being an Angst-Ridden Thirty-Something

The sky is dark.
My heart is death.
All the trees have fallen
on their blood-red leaves.

The above, before you ask, is not a poem of mine.  Yes, I just wrote it, and yes, it is poetry, but don’t for a moment extrapolate from that four-line stanza to conclude that all of my poetry is just like that.

Or maybe you should.

In my darkest (or most clear-headed) moments, I think the same as you, and I hate myself for it. (Though, be assured, I don’t hate you.  Whoever you are.)

But I guess the truth is that the actual focus of poetry (and, perhaps, writing in general) doesn’t change all that much from the time we’re testing our pens in high school to when we’re fully-fledged Poets & Writers in adulthood.

What are the subjects that populate high school lit mags and diaries?  Death and sex.  Or, more specifically, depression and love.  Or, even more specifically, the overwhelming crush of the meaninglessness of life and the pining after the untouchable love object who doesn’t even know you exist, even though you sit behind them in third-period English and, every day, they hand the dittos back to you, your eyes locking for that one brief but significant moment.

But that isn’t the problem with high school poetry.  The problem with most high school poetry – or, really, any poetry by someone who is unpracticed or just starting out or who doesn’t really read poetry – is that it’s too abstract.  There are no details, no sense of a real world that’s being described, but instead an attempt to literalize emotion.

Emotion, however, can’t be literalized (just as the revolution finds it difficult to be televised) since emotion is unique to each person that experiences it.  What it takes time to develop as a poet is the knowledge that emotion can only be evoked, and that the life of an artist is a learning curve dedicated to evocation.

Still, since most of what I write is poetry revolving around the extremes of human behavior, I sometimes feel like I haven’t moved all that far from where I began as a writer, penning poems based on the rhythms and subjects of heavy metal songs.

And I ask you: Is that such a bad thing?

Realize that an honest answer may just create more angst-ridden poetry.  That you will then have to read.

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