It was the fall of 1982.
The phrase, “E.T. phone home” was on everyone’s lips. EPCOT Center had just opened in Orlando, Florida. Sony was selling the world’s first commercially-available compact disc player for a mere $730. (It really kills me to say these things…has it been that long??)
In the midst of all this, I had just begun my sophomore year of high school when my English teacher gave us the dreaded news:
We were to keep journals.
Now, I realize most folks don’t think that’s too terrible an assignment – and for someone who loves to read and write, you wouldn’t think I’d mind – but I absolutely HATED writing in my journal.
I think it’s comparable to assigned reading: If you want to take the joy out of something a person likes to do, force him or her to do it. So as much as I liked writing, keeping a journal was one of the worst parts of my high school life. (And this, from a guy who got bullied, teased, and was generally despised by most of his classmates. But I digress…)
The reason I bring this up is because I made a discovery this past weekend at my parents’ house. I’m in the process of helping them clean the place in preparation to sell it, and hidden away in the attic, I couldn’t believe what I found.
FOUR of my journals!
So, of course, as soon as I made it back to my house, I just had to pore over every page and be amazed at how absolutely awful my writing was. Well, maybe not “awful.” “Dreadful” might be a better word.
“Labored” would be another.
There are short, ridiculous essays. Even more ridiculous poetry. Even random word lists, word puzzles, and fake advertisements. But I can see now how my style of writing and sense of humor developed and grew, and I am thrilled to have these in my possession again.
I’ll be writing a little bit more about “where it all began” next week here on the blog, and sharing more discoveries. But for today, I wanted to share the poem that started it all…
Not the first poem I ever wrote, but the first poem I consistently received immediate reactions from; the first poem that would instantly elicit a reaction of laughter, eye-rolling, or head-shaking every single time a person read it or heard me recite it.
This is the poem that made me realize I might have a knack for writing:
Ode to Toads
Toads here, toads there,
jumping all around.
Got so many, got too many.
Squash ’em on the ground.
– © Oct. 25, 1982 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved
Ah, yes…my “Ode to Toads” will forever hold a special place in my heart. It really is the poem that got this whole “published author” thing rolling, whether you like it or not! And be forewarned: every Friday throughout the summer, I’ll be sharing another Moldy Oldie from one of my journals, so I hope you’ll make a point to join me for what I hope will be a fun – if not embarrassing – trip down Memory Lane.
Rest assured, though, there is plenty of much better poetry elsewhere (in fact, pretty much anywhere); if you’d like to find such a place, I encourage you to stop by Carol Varsalona’s Beyond Literacy blog, where she is hosting Poetry Friday today. And although I haven’t checked, I’m pretty sure there are no dead amphibians.