• Wed, May 2 2012

I Regret: My Undergraduate Poetry

Do you have regrets? Tell TheGloss your regrettable story in 600-800 words and you could win these designer shades to hide your shameful, shameful face.

There was a time when I genuinely believed God intended I be a poetess. I regret everything about that time.

This delusion was the result of a prolonged encounter with the poetry of T.S. Eliot, the release of The Downward Spiral, and a break-up with my high school boyfriend who had recently become gay. It was a cocktail of angst further stirred by the Novelist then teaching my creative writing class.

He was an odd one, the Novelist. A decade after the publication of a short work of tepidly-received fiction, he’d fled the City to assume a post in the English department at a Southern land-grant university famous for its engineering school. Though his claims to fame were dubious, the Novelist’s fluorescent silk shirts were dazzling and, given the ubiquity of flannel and coveralls, I mistook them for the height of urban chic.

We would meet in his office, the Novelist and I, to discuss my Future in Poetry. We both of us sincerely believed I had one. The Novelist looked at lines like “your delicate saccharine hatred/pounding through the torn lace veils of my blackened mind” and he said my poems would take me far. He pushed me to do better. He knew I could.

At the time, I thought there was nothing in the entire world more enchanting than the Novelist’s assertion that, as artists, we must craft “verbal word pictures of opaque transcendency.”

Opaque transcendency. I didn’t know what the hell it meant, but by God, I was going to do it. Now, I wonder if maybe he was on drugs.

My poems were not all bad. There is one. It is satisfactorily mediocre. It is, as they all are, about my high school boyfriend being gay.

That’s the fundamental problem with adolescent poetry: there’s a relatively limited well from which to draw. Not that this deterred me in the slightest. My high school boyfriend’s being gay was my only poetic life experience and, hand on heart, I sucked that thing dry.

The Novelist praised the poems for their realism and honesty, but I had embellished. I was a virgin and our physical contact had consisted of the simple, chaste holding of hands. Even that, I admit, had been arduous.

But the poems paint an altogether different, violently sexual picture. Had I purposefully set out to assess every aspect of my relationship with my gay high school boyfriend through the context of the “Closer” music video, I could not have done a more thorough job. There was so much sucking and fucking and dripping and fingering in my oeuvre that my narrators were only ever in bed or on their knees.

In the span of 39 days, I wrote 115 poems. Let that be a testament to their quality.

This was the heady days of the early Internet, when sharing was suddenly so easy, just a single click away. And so, professors, friends and family, none were exempt.  I shared the poems with everyone I knew. When boys expressed an interest in dating me, I insisted they read my poetry, so they would know who I really was. Like, on the inside.

Alas, my high school boyfriend was not spared. With the Novelist’s words ringing in my ears and visions of opaque transcendency dancing in my head, I spent the night before Christmas break alone in the dorm printing my poetry. With “Fake Plastic Trees” on repeat and four forbidden candles lit, I loaded the tractor-feed paper one sheet at a time.

Bundling the pages with a yellow ribbon, much as a cat lays the carcass of its catch at the feet of its master, I packed the poems in a box and sent them to my high school boyfriend, who had recently come out.

We stopped speaking. Immediately.

I wish I had not written poetry in college because, in college, you aren’t smart enough to tell yourself to shut the fuck up.

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  • Ewa

    This is a good story, a good regret. Loved the blue ribbon detail. Plus, your teacher definitely had a problem.

    • oline

      the silk shirts were a tip-off. i should’ve known.

    • Ewa

      :)
      plus – how, on earth, did my mind turn yellow into blue? My memory must be colorblind:)

  • Amanda Chatel

    Amazing.

    As a former “poetry major” — I came to my senses 2nd semester of my first year — I totally relate. How many times did I listen to “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Hurt” on repeat while writing my poems? Way too many times.

    • oline

      i see a gloss-sponsored bad undergraduate poetry slam in our future…

    • Amanda Chatel

      As do I!

      We could also turn it into a drinking game: every time someone cringes, you take a drink.

    • oline

      yes! like the jack-and-rose titanic drinking game, i imagine this could be deadly.

  • Magda

    This was great.

    Haha.

    I kind of have the opposite feeling towards all my horrible poetry. I love looking at the angst filled works of my tween years. It makes me realize how much my work has progressed and keeps my ego in check. Like, if this stuff is so horrible, then maybe my stuff now isn’t that great.

    Best part, “Opaque transcendency”. I don’t know what it means either, but it sounds AWESOME!

    • oline

      right? i’m pretty sure that- against my will- i’m going to spend my whole life striving toward opaque transcendency. though i’m equally certain it’s total bunk.

  • G

    This was amazing. I sniggered heartily.

  • CMRS

    This is indescribably amazing. I made the mistake of reading it at work and spent the whole time with my fist stuffed in my mouth to muffle my laughter.

    Also: “opaque transcendency” is my new favourite phrase.

    • oline

      yay! and thank you.

  • Jennifer Wright

    What I liked about this was the way it was opaque and YET… transcendent.

    • oline

      well played. that made me guffaw.