Poetry Friday: “The Situation”

What was happening in 1984? “Ghostbusters” was the top-grossing film, Prince released his groundbreaking album, “Purple Rain”…The Soviet Union withdrew from the Olympics in the United States…and Yours Truly was dancing on the ceiling…

Two reminders before we hop in the ol’ time machine and fly back to the ’80’s…

Antarctica coverFirst, you still have a few days left to enter to win a brand new, signed children’s book! Just check out my interview with Irene Latham and my review of her new book, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems from the Frozen Continent (Millbrook Press), and leave a comment as your entry! You can also share the blog post on Twitter for an additional entry – but it all wraps up on Feb, 29. I’ll announce a winner, to be drawn at random, next week, so don’t wait!

Also, Laura Shovan’s February poetry prompt series, the 2016 Found Object Poem Project, continues all month long at her blog. You can view all the photos and the poems inspired by them – and you can also log on to Michael Ratcliffe’s blog for today’s prompt and poems.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllNow then…onward and upward!

…and backward…

I’m dusting off an old poem today – and by ‘dusting off’ I mean actually dusting off. And disinfecting, too. With gloves.

You see, I was talking to a fellow writer last week who asked me what my first published piece was, and I told him it was a free verse poem I wrote back when I was either a junior or senior in high school. I remembered what it was about and its general structure, but not much else; it got me wondering how it would hold up now, if I’d written it today.

So I started digging through my archives – and somehow found it! It was published in 1984 in a local college’s literary magazine called The Henniker Review. Published by New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, The Henniker Review began in 1979 and, to the best of my knowledge, is still being published today – and I’m grateful I made it into at least one edition!

How does it hold up? Meh…not sure. If I was writing the poem now, it would most certainly be different – it feels very amateurish to me, but I suppose that should be expected from 30 years of hindsight. Don’t get me wrong; I still like it, because it’s one of those high points in my life I can look back on and recognize as a motivating factor in my pursuit of publishing. But it’s definitely a younger, less-experienced me who wrote it:

The Situation (poem from Henniker Review)
(Click to enlarge)

– © 1984, The Henniker Review (New England College), all rights reserved

Note the yellowing of the page…the mold-induced smudges…the overwhelming mustiness…

Well, you may not be able to smell the mustiness from where you are, but trust me – it’s there. Hope you enjoyed this little excursion back to the ’80’s, and I hope you’ll swing by Elizabeth Steinglass’ blog for today’s Poetry Friday roundup!


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15 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “The Situation”

  1. Matt, I enjoyed looking back to an introspective younger you. I think when we write as adolescents/young adults we write with a different perspective that hopefully blossoms to a mature insightful voice. I can see that this poem provides the start of a you looking inside for answers. Words that lift off the page, vastness-emptiness-void-enveloping-surrounds-engulfs-succumb-may be the start of a new poem from a mature Matt.


  2. Hi Matt,

    I thought it was a very fun excursion. When I read your poem I’m not really thinking about whether it’s an amateurish poem. What strikes me is that it reflects that time in life, when you’re eager to think and participate in a much bigger world. I’m impressed you could find it. I wonder where my poems from the 80s are? Thanks for sharing it!


  3. I like it, and the mystery of it. I did not guess where it was going, and that was nice. I have a few from high school still, and they fall into the worries of adolescence for sure. I can’t connect to them anymore, but clearly they’re about feelings. Thanks for the share Matt. I liked seeing your “younger” self.


  4. I still have my first published poems, and the judge’s comments that accompanied them. Like yours, they were my high school poems. They’re part of the reason I’m a writer today – because someone believed in me back then… and that belief was always nudging at the back of my mind, all through the years when I wasn’t a writer.

    My first thought when I read your poem was; Michelle’s little ditty challenge last month – Nothing! My next thought was that your poem definitely held up well. I’m impressed.

    Thanks for sharing.


    1. I’m so glad you liked it, Kathryn – thank you! It never occurred to me that it could easily have been one of Michelle’s blog poems…good catch! And yes, that faith that others had in us early on, even if we weren’t quite that polished, meant so much.


  5. maryleehahn

    How fun to be able to trace your writing tracks back so far! I have a few poems that were published when I was in high school. Also a bit cringe-worthy, but it’s fun to know where the writer I am today got her start!


  6. I liked what I perceive to be a rawer voice, a willingness to be mysterious and vague, in the first section ending with “Not until then.” That sort of post-modern punk thing (as I think of it) is still appealing to me, and I love how even as you become more aware of the situation, you withdraw and fall asleep.

    Fun to share! I often think how the first version of my poem “The Moon Moves” was written in about 4th grade, down to certain phrases that I know were in it but cannot prove…where could that first draft be?


    1. Thanks, Heidi…you’ve got to share that poem if you find it! I think I was around that age when I wrote one of my very first poem-type things, a song about a goat who swallowed a boat and it got caught in his throat or something. Ridiculous, but I’ll always remember it!


  7. For me, Matt, your poem brought back memories of my own high school years, when pondering was deep and emotions flowed with wild abandon. I also have poems from that time that seem overwrought to me now, but back then, the drama was real. Unfortunately, though, that was also the time when a creative writing teacher dissuaded me from considering a career as a writer. I say let teen writers be teen writers without judgement.


    1. I’m sorry to hear about your writing teacher…they should be encouraging! When I was in high school, I was dissuaded from getting into computer programming because it was a career that too many were going into, and it probably wouldn’t be that lucrative. Ha!! So I got into the very UN-lucrative broadcast industry instead.

      Oh, well – at least we’re both where we are now!


  8. Pingback: Poetry Friday: A little bit of “patience” during Throwback Summer – Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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