THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY
April 12, 2016

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Poetry Friday: Point of View

Confession time, Writerly Friends. I hated high school. High school was the suckiest time in my entire life. I was out sick a lot because I just couldn't deal.

But, with one teen graduating this school year and another just starting her high school years, it's kind of hard to avoid the memories.

This Poetry Friday, we're doing the "Time Warp."


Laura Salas is hosting Poetry Friday
this week at
Writing the World for Kids.
Last Friday, I was helping my daughter get ready for her first high school dance. You can read the post, featuring Sue Ellen Thompson's poem "The Paper Dress" here.


I had a lot of feelings about this dance, about how well my teen is settling into high school, and about her desire to be different. It was one of those times when I felt less like a parent and more like a time traveler who wants to go back to the past and fix everything. My point of view was messed up, because I was seeing through my own teen years. Those are some dark glasses, my friends.

I decided it was time to go back, but not by fretting about my daughter. Instead, I have taken down my high school yearbooks. They've been sitting on a shelf for nearly 30 years. And I have been avoiding them. Junior year was so bad that I didn't buy that yearbook. Even while I was living that year, I knew the memories would be too painful later.

I wrote about some of my high school story at the bottom of this post. Note -- trigger warning for those who have had stalkers or abusive relationships.

One of the things helped me keep it (barely) together during those years was participating in our high school's literary magazine.


Being a part of the literary community
was important to me, even in high school.
During junior year, I was on the magazine's poetry staff. I also contributed a few pieces. Since we're talking about point of view and how it can skew our vision, I'm sharing a retelling of the poem, "Jabberwocky," from the monstrous Jabberwock's point of view.




I have vivid memories of watching my friend Eugene, whom I'd known since elementary school, create the art that accompanies my poem. His father was a photographer and had a darkroom at home. The image was created by placing objects -- puzzle pieces, pebbles, a rubber dragon toy -- on photo paper, then exposing the paper to light. The white images are the places where the objects covered the paper. Eugene was one of the few people I stayed friendly with all the way through high school, so creating this image is a happy memory for me.

I was a big fan of Lewis Carrol's Alice books. Rereading this poem, it's clear how much I connected with the poor, doomed Jabberwock when I was a teen.

The Cry of the Jabberwock
by Laura Dickson (1986)

The endless, idle year I've spent
within these lonely caves of stone.
And centuries, they came and went
and still the halls of rock, my home.

The caverns, though, were dark and gray.
No sunlight reached my tired eyes.
Damp and gloom both filled my day.
The glistening rocks were my blue skies.

Yet, as I slept, the walls would speak
and tell me all that they had seen.
The haunting words would make me weak
and haunt me in my every dream.

The echoed with disastrous scenes
of death and darkness all around.
They cried, they cried unearthly screams.
And all would tremble with these sounds.

John Tenniel's Jabberwock
And I was chosen for their voice
to speak the dreadful prophecies.
And so, went forth, though not by choices,
to find the planter of foul seeds.

I left my home of many years
and yet, I felt no strong remorse.
For what I saw brought me to tears
and this in time would meet doom's force.

I slept among the greenest glens
and breathed the breath of newest life
and hoped that it would never end
or meet with sorrow or with strife.

One stormy day my quest did end,
as I approached from within fog
gray walls that seemed to never end
surrounded by a danger bog.

From Bryan Talbot's graphic novel
Alice in Sunderland.
The endless rock which stood before
so reminded me of home,
I could not move towards the door.
And once again I felt alone.

And He, the one that I had sought,
then looked upon my pleading face.
But in his fear my foe knew naught
and words were wasted on his race.

Alas, the men attacked me then
with arrows bursting into flame.
I was, again, without a friend,
and stood, bewildered, in the rain.

With aching heart and bleeding eyes
I fled that place, and in my rage
I screamed out awful dragon cries
and stumbled aimlessly for days.

Mervyn Peake's Jabberwock
from the British Library
I could not bear to look upon
the beauty that had thrilled me so
and think of it as dead and gone.
I headed to my caves below.

As I approached my dreary home,
much weary from my journey's pain,
a boy awaited me, alone,
and standing silent in the rain.

A boy so innocent, so pure,
perhaps my words had reached his ears,
and he would like to hear yet more
of how to calm the dread of years.

And in my hope my heart misled
and let me trust the human child.
But as he turned I saw with dread
his eyes, like hunter's, were death-wild.

The Jabberwock stars in his own picture book.
The jeweled sword, too large for the boy,
hung in the stillness of the air.
The silver flashed and to his joy
the blade cut in the final dare.

And I did not scream out in pain.
Instead, cried only silent tears
as I lay dying in the rain,
the land of heaven coming near.

And from above there is no sound,
yet teardrops fall from thousand eyes.
For life was lost and nothing found
in endless time to dragon cries.


As much as I still empathize with the Jabberwock, I think it's hysterical that my poem is at least twice as long as Lewis Carroll's original.

Going back, looking at yearbook pictures of people I knew as a teen, reading the notes people wrote on the end papers has not been easy. On the plus side, I feel like I can be more present for my children now, because my mind isn't buzzing with old feelings.

Do you still have writing from when you were a child or teenager? How does it feel when you go back and read what that long ago person, who was you, had to say?

Here's some music to accompany you on your journey.

19 comments:

Tabatha said...

Hi Laura! Funny you should bring up yearbooks as I was just looking at mine last night for the first time since graduation! I was thinking about getting rid of them (since I hadn't looked at them).
I am impressed by your poem -- you had flair!

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said...

"I was, again, without a friend,
and stood, bewildered, in the rain."

Sniff.

Young teen Laura was a wonderful writer! I wish we could have been friends then - I still have silent sighs for "Puff the Magic Dragon."

I, too, have new teens in high school, and you are so right about the feelings this brings up. You're wise. I may have to take down that old yearbook after all...

xo

LInda Baie said...

I still have some old poems from high school, & because of my age, many drift into the fear of the world's ending (nuclear blast!). It was an okay time, but I do remember waiting to leave! My son, an extravert, thrived in high school. My daughter must have had a similar time to you, Laura for she left after 10th grade & went on to college. She worked it all out & actually got the diploma, but h.s. was painful for her. Your poem brought so much back about that time in our lives; she would have loved it. You were already started your wonderful writing then! Best wishes to your children in this complicated road of growing up!

Author Amok said...

A friend suggested that I make a ceremony around getting rid of my yearbooks. I'm considering it.

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Amy. I appreciate you kind words so much! I wish we could have been friends then, too.

Author Amok said...

Linda, you were such a good parent to pay attention to your daughter's needs that way. I asked for help getting a fresh start midway through HS, but it didn't happen. A good friend was the one who got me through it. I *loved* the freedom and new faces of college.

Doraine Bennett said...

Hi Laura, I can identify with you, though my horror years were in middle school. I love that you found connections and solace with fellow writers/artists.

I love this quote from Catherine Marshall. “I discovered that recovery from my emotional wounds was in direct proportion to my ability to stop steeling myself against them. I began to accept the reality of my pain.”

And this one from Leanne Payne. “However much a person lives out of the diseased attitudes and feelings toward the self, to that extent he will fail to find and live from his true center where God dwells, speaks and empowers him.”

So proud of you for walking back into those painful memories and finding grace to walk out of them.

Robyn Hood Black said...

My high school years weren't traumatic, but I remember in an assembly a new principal declaring, "These are the best years of your life" and my immediate reaction was, "I hope not!" :0!

I'm sure I have old writing somewhere from those years (kind of a hoarder about that kind of stuff), but I doubt it's as good as your poem here. I did notice the expanded length, however - ;0) - nonetheless, your talent was shining through. Thanks for sharing, and best wishes for this stage of family life!

Tara Smith said...

This post sent chills up my spine. In cleaning out some old books my oldest daughter had asked us to toss away, I came upon her yearbook. High school years were very hard for her, very lonely. She had left some writing to indicate her state of mind at the time - and i understood , even more, why this book was marked:Throw away.

laurasalas said...

How fun to see your great early writing, Laura! I esp like

The haunting words would make me weak
and haunt me in my every dream.

And the repeated "haunt" followed by "echoes" in the next line...so clever!

I hated high school. I started working full-time in 10th grade. Moved out of my parents' house at 16, and skipped my senior year to start college, which I worked several jobs to pay for. It was incredibly hard, but I was just so glad to be done with high school!

jama said...

High school wasn't my favorite time either -- like you, I found solace in writing. I have a few bits and pieces I've saved but nothing like your wonderful poem. I think if I had known more about introversion and extroversion I wouldn't have blamed myself for being so odd. High school is, after all, a very social time and for those who aren't necessarily talky or outgoing or "popular," it can be a very painful and lonely experience.

Holly Mueller said...

I love this observation: "On the plus side, I feel like I can be more present for my children now, because my mind isn't buzzing with old feelings." How true! Working through the past through writing and reflecting can be a healthy thing! Great post.

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Quite the epic poem, Laura! Fantastic writing for someone so young. I, too, wrote an epic poem for an English project - about UFOs landing! - but I have no idea if it still exists. (Guess I'll have to go search now!)

Oh, and thanks for sharing the video - fun!

Buffy Silverman said...

Wow--young Laura had quite the talent! I'm glad your kids' high school experience is less traumatic than yours was. I don't remember high school being particularly good or bad, but it was difficult to watch my two struggle to fit in during those years.

Magdalena said...

Laura you were 16 going on 50. I forgot about this poem. I drew something for that Serendipity issue. I liked that club. Now I need to go and find that stupid yearbook. God, I am almost afraid to do that.

Author Amok said...

Everyone--Thank you for all of your supportive comments today. I feel lifted up by you friendship & the stories you shared.

Mags-- I'll find your piece in the magazine & will send it to you.

Mary Lee said...

My yearbooks are long gone. Good riddance.

I should, however, go wandering through my notebooks from those years. I'm glad I had the sense to keep those -- a truer reflection of my experience than the Archive of the Popular Kids.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

My heart goes out to this young hurting teen. I'm glad you already recognized the talents that could be used to express yourself and process some of that anguish. My worst years were in middle school, but I think that it helped that my senior year in HS I escaped to a specialized performing arts program that was, of course, an entirely different, more supportive, environment.

Bridget Magee said...

Wow...I am so sorry for your pain during those years, Laura. Your poem is amazing - what talent (and anguish) your adolescent words reveal, especially the lines:
"And I did not scream out in pain.
Instead, cried only silent tears
as I lay dying in the rain,
the land of heaven coming near."

I, too, have a high schooler - her senior year. It has been a tough road for her...I'm hoping in college she finds comfort in just being herself. Thank you for your open, honest post today. =)