Poetry Friday: It’s going to be a Throwback Summer!

It was the fall of 1982.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllThe 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!

journals - high school

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.


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31 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: It’s going to be a Throwback Summer!

  1. maryleehahn

    It doesn’t matter so much what you started with, it’s the fact that you kept going that’s important! (Good advice for young/beginning writers!!)


  2. margaretsmn

    Memory Lane is a fascinating place. I’m not sure we can be completely objective, though, when we look at our earlier selves. The fact is whatever you started in those journals has led you to where you are today. So for that alone, they are rich.


  3. Every memory lane should be paved with toads. LOL I have this written in my high school journal:
    A Week Ago I // A Week Ago I/ got a job as a / supermarket peon/ but I didn’t get a / name tag until today./ Now I am. by DJ Siess I still love it.


  4. Karen Eastlund

    Hahaha. Moldy oldie indeed. Yeah, that brought back some memories. Thanks for sharing. Now excuse me while I laugh some more….

    Tee hee.


  5. Matt, dead amphibians do not inhabit my virtual garden but in my real garden I have several frog garden adornments. I think your toad poem may be just what 3rd graders would love and it brings me back to my children’s days as swimmers. One of the country club pools had baby frogs all over the perimeter of the grassy area. When the children were not swimming they were off catching the frogs. Throwback Friday is going to be great fun as you reminisce and I remember alongside you.


  6. I kept journals for years until I had a large stack of spiral binders. Eventually I tossed them all and decided I could better spend that time learning to write poetry and prose that was worth other people’s time too.


  7. So glad you uncovered those notebooks. And looking forward to more shares this summer. This reminds me that somewhere I have a “Brownie Dairy” that I started when I was seven or eight.


  8. dmayr

    What a find! I’m from the days before journal writing was a “thing” in school, so I don’t have anything like that to look back upon. 😦


  9. What a treasure! Maybe some of your old writings will put you so in the mindset of your younger self, you’ll be inspired to write as him! (In other words, I’m sure this find will do good things for you as a children’s writer.)


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