Poetry Friday: “Sunday afternoon, 1975”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllWell, I hope you enjoyed that little excursion into the past with my Throwback Summer series…many of you commented that you couldn’t believe I was willing to share poetry I’d written in high school and college, and my response is, “Hey, we all had to start somewhere!”

Granted, “Ode to a Dishrag,” “Ode to Lint,” and “Ode to a Poem I’m Writing Only Because I Couldn’t Think of Anything Else to Write About” were never Pushcart contenders…but I wanted to show readers how far one can develop through hard work, practice, and sheer determination.

As I always say, #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

Today we get back to my present-day writing, and the following is one of those poems I wrote specifically to submit to a journal. I’ve previously shared my thoughts about the value of submission requests as inspiration to write, and this was one of those cases; the journal was looking for poems about ice cream, so I put this together.

It was just a few weeks later that I went to the journal’s website and all references to this particular issue were removed, and even the contact person’s name was nowhere to be found. Sigh. Oh, well…no reason to let the poem go unread, right?

Sunday afternoon, 1975

Ice cream, again. One of them said
something wrong, I think, something the other
didn’t like;
I don’t know what. I don’t know why
they’re even here in front of the grocery store
instead of at home – one of our homes –
but we’re here, and people
I don’t know are looking
and all I can do is fight
a shiver in my chest. I try not
to make them mad, but it always happens
around this time
every second weekend.

Without warning,
mom snatches my hand and turns, walking
so quickly I can barely keep up; I turn my head
to look behind
and see dad, standing on the pavement
watching, arms
by his sides, right hand
angled in a half-wave
as if to say
he’s sorry
it’s ice cream again.

– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Poetry Friday is being hosted by the one and only Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm, so head on over for all of today’s poetry links, and learn more about a brand new book being published by the folks responsible for the Poetry Friday Anthology series, Pomelo Books!

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Poetry Friday: Throwback Summer concludes in “Stride”

Let me just tell you.. I am SO glad I didn’t need to come up with anything too long or witty for today’s post – I simply could not have done it.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllJust before 3pm on Thursday afternoon, I was ripping out part of our garden when I apparently disturbed a yellowjacket nest. I was promptly stung about 8 times, primarily on my scalp. Not fun.

Then, after my wife came home from work, we were eating dinner when the crown on my right front tooth fell out – and rather than relax for awhile, I was on my way into the city half an hour away to get to a pharmacy for crown repair cement. Doubly not fun.

And this is all happening the day before I begin a long, 4-day weekend as the PA announcer for the local state fair! Triply not fun.

I’ve been trying to maintain a positive attitude about all this (hey, at least I didn’t have a serious allergic reaction to the stings, right?), but in all honesty, I’ve had enough. I’m exhausted, and my bed is looking really good right now.

So with that said, I can now present the final installment of my Throwback Summer series, which started when I discovered my old high school journals and other papers in my parent’s attic.

Today’s poem was written in my college Creative Writing class, and I was still trying to get a handle on free verse at this point. I really liked rhyme and structure and that sort of thing, so free verse took some getting used to. And unlike most of the Throwback Summer poems I’ve shared here, this one isn’t too bad. Yes, it has its faults, but compared to everything that has come before…I think it holds its own…

Stride (poem)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane – it’s certainly been eye-opening for me, to recall what I was writing and doing back then. And it’s quite a relief, to know that my writing has gotten (marginally) better! Speaking of writing, Penny Parker Klostermann is hosting Poetry Friday today, so please stop by and check out all the links and fun!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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“Constancy”

This post was originally published August 3, 2012. It was my first poetry post on this blog, and only my second post ever, following my introduction. But I repost it every year around this time, as my wedding anniversary is August 10 and the poem was part of my wedding vows. I wouldn’t be where I am without my wife, after all – she’s the one who allows me to be a stay-at-home dad who writes for a (modest) living! 

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poetryfridaybutton-fulllThis is only my second posting on this blog, and although I knew I wanted to do something for Poetry Friday, it took quite a bit of deliberation to decide which poem of mine I should spotlight.  Children’s poetry or adult poetry?  Published or unpublished?  Happy or sad?  Funny or serious???

Well, after careful consideration, I decided I would post an unpublished poem I wrote a few years ago for the one person in the world who has done the most for me in my quest to become a published children’s author:   my wife, Jenny. Through her unwavering support (emotional, physical, AND financial), I’m able to pursue this dream along with all the other people who have been so helpful to me, like my kids, friends, and fellow writers.

This is a traditional Elizabethan sonnet (three quatrains with an a/b/a/b, c/d/c/d, e/f/e/f rhyme scheme followed by a rhyming g/g couplet) which I wrote as part of my wedding vows.  No, it doesn’t read as a contemporary poem; it was deliberately written in a sort of old-fashioned, classic sort of style. I wanted to express the thought that even though poets throughout history have written words of undying love and immutable steadfastness, my love for her surpassed all their metaphors, all their similes, all that they could ever have imagined.

Yes, I’m a romantic; I make no apologies.

I conclude my poem with a suggestion for them as to what they should compare their love to…but it’s not a rose or a star.

Looking back on it (indeed, even shortly after I’d written it), there are things I would have changed, edited, or revised – it is a bit over-wrought, I admit – but I was under a deadline, of course, and this was what I came up with.  Unlike my other poems, “Constancy” will never be put through revisions, however.  These were the words I spoke to my wife on August 10, 2008 (in a voice loud enough that the entire state of Massachusetts could hear) and so they shall remain.  These words were part of my vows and are as unalterable as my love and gratitude for her.


Thanks again for saying “Yes,” Honey.

Constancy
For Jennifer

How many have, before me, tried in vain
To capture beauty, constancy, and love
Through fluent phrase, in happiness and pain,
And simile of summer, star, or dove?
Their words so eloquent, imagery lush –
In perfect imperfection testify,
For seasons change, the steadfast heavens rush
To swirl about themselves, and doves will die.
How best to show the one whom I adore
The fullness of my amorosity?
I fail to find a finer metaphor
Than that true love which you have shown to me.
The poets fail! Their thoughts do not dismiss;
‘Tis better they compare their love to this.

© 2008, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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Poetry Friday: More questionable poetry, as Throwback Summer continues!

Warning: this blog post contains hazardous reading material which may leave you wondering how to regain the 4 or 5 minutes of life you will have lost.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllThat’s right…it’s an another thrilling excerpt from one of four high school English writing journals I recently discovered in my parents’ attic! Last week, I explained why I’m sharing these early writings of mine, and how my writing back then helped me develop my writing style now.

This past Tuesday, I shared a few pages from my very first children’s book – more or less. It was a high school Creative Writing project, but the fact that it still exists is stunning.

Today, I have another poem from my sophomore year; this time, from March 1983, the same month that Dr. Barney Clark died 112 days after he had become the first artificial heart recipient, and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” was all over the airwaves. (I have to mention, it was also the month that Monty Python’s “History of the World” debuted!)

The following doesn’t say much about my poetry-writing skills so much as it gives you a pretty good idea of my sense of humour:

Some Sort of an Ode
(Click to enlarge, if you dare)

For more poetry, please visit Diane Mayr at Random Noodling for today’s Poetry Friday roundup!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Poetry Friday: Throwback Summer continues!

When I shared my ground-breaking poem, “Ode to Toads” last Friday, I warned you there were more poems where that came from.

journals - high schoolWelcome to the future, my friend!

Having made huge nostalgic discoveries in my parents’ attic recently, I now have FOUR high school English writing journals from which to cull choice tidbits of my handiwork (and I use the phrase “choice” very loosely).

Earlier this week, I spent a little more time explaining how and why I’m sharing these early writings of mine – and the fact that my time spent writing poems, news articles, and cartoons for our high school newspaper helped shape my style and develop my vocabulary. If you didn’t get a chance to check out the post, I really hope you will.

Today, I have another poem from 1982 – my sophomore year. I’ve said before I never liked keeping writing journals. And as I look through them, I am struck by how much of my time is spent writing about the fact I have nothing to write about.

Ode to a Poem I’m Writing Only Because I Couldn’t Think of Anything Else to Write About

I sit and stare
At a blank piece of paper,
Wondering what to write.
I can’t think at all,
Like my mind’s a brick wall,
Though I’m trying with all of my might.

What should I write about?
What can I write about?
How should my next entry read?
When I sat down to do it,
I thought I’d breeze through it,
But I can’t – so help me, I plead!

– Nov. 5, 1982, Matt Forrest Esenwine

While not as darkly humorous or satisfying as my classic “Ode to Toads,” I do like the fact I was attempting a rhyme scheme that’s not particularly easy. Hey, I was a 15-year-old kid trying to be funny! And I never spent a lot of time putting my entries together, so if I had to guess, I doubt this took me more than half an hour to write.

As I read this, I’m thinking I had probably recently seen the BBC miniseries of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which explains the ridiculously long title. Not quite as bad as Grunthos the Flatulent’s poem, “Ode to a Small Lump of Green poetryfridaybutton-fulllPutty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning,” but it definitely gives all Azgoth poets a run for their money.

For more poetry (and much, MUCH better poetry, I might add), head on over to Carol’s Corner for the complete Poetry Friday roundup – you won’t be disappointed! And if there’s any sort of lesson to be learned from today’s post, it is the importance of spending time practicing, developing, and learning…in other words: #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Amazing new discovery: My childhood!

Well, ok – I admit, that headline is a bit misleading. As someone who spent 25 years in radio and now writes for children, one could make a case that I never really left my childhood.

Matt lunchbox
The only lunchbox I ever owned. Alas, it’s missing the special “silo”-themed Thermos! Ahhh, memories of lukewarm milk and room-temperature Beefaroni. It’s a miracle I lived through all the potential food poisoning.

However, as I mentioned this past Friday, I recently came upon a huge stash of papers and memorabilia from my school days, while cleaning out my parents’ house. Their attic has been a treasure trove of nostalgia, where I have discovered old school tests and projects, several of my old journals, and even my elementary school lunchbox!

The journals – portions of which I’ll be sharing throughout the summer – were only part of the story.

The folks saved darned near everything

If the strength of a mother and father’s pride in their only child can be measured in the number of school papers and knick knacks they save, my parents are superhuman. Among the additional artifacts unearthed:

  • Poems by Emily Dickenson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and others that I was required to memorize in high school.
  • A printout of my senior-year computer class project:  a program I designed using BASIC (any geeks remember that??) to keep track of a basketball team’s stats. I actually went back to school the Monday AFTER I graduated to try to fix a bug in the program. I wasn’t going to get any extra credit for it, but it was one of those things that kept annoying me and I had to fix. Never did. >sigh<typewriter 1
  • The first typewriter I ever owned! Yes, we all have to start somewhere.
  • Copies of the high school newspaper, of which I was a staff member and editor-in-chief my senior year. (see below!)
  • A big, pink, construction-paper heart envelope filled with 2 or 3 years’ worth of elementary school Valentine’s Day cards. You know those cheap, dozen-for-a-dollar cards they sell every year? Mom kept them all.
IMG_1259
My mug shows up twice on these front pages…score extra points if you can find me! (click to enlarge)

I still have wonderful memories of working on the student newspaper:  spending days after school typing stories on the old word-processors; cutting and pasting the stories, artwork, and photos together; and being embarrassed during journalism class when our teacher, Mrs. Jencks, told everyone her two younger daughters liked visiting us after school because they thought I looked like Remington Steele.

Not sure why Pierce Brosnan gets to keep his hair these days and I don’t…but I suppose that’s just more proof that life really is not fair.

IMG_1260  IMG_1263

When I first joined the newspaper staff, I started out entering news stories on our clunky Apple II computers. (MS DOS, anyone?)  I also created word puzzles, which I absolutely loved to do. During my senior year, I was not only editor, but also provided some of the cartoons. The school faced serious overcrowding issues; hence, the cover art on the left! (click to enlarge)

When you suddenly realize none of the kids you knew…are kids

A very sobering aspect of these discoveries is that I look at names and faces and need to come to grips with the fact that none of these children knew what was in store for them.

The kids whose names fill that Valentine heart, in particular – barely older than my 6-year-old son – give me pause to reflect on life, death, and fate. April, who went on to marry her childhood sweetheart. Karen, who became our senior class Salutatorian when I became Valedictorian. Chris, who committed suicide before he had a chance to graduate. Eric, who, a mere 2 months after high school graduation, died in a terrible car crash that should never have happened.

I think about Chris and Eric, and I so desperately wish I could somehow go back in time and wrap my arms around them, these little 7-year-old boys, and protect them the same way I would protect my own little dude.

Hold them. Shield them.

Warn them.

But they grew up, as we all do, and made choices they should not have made…and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that.

typewriter 2So I’ll continue sifting through my memories, sharing them here, and hopefully creating new ones, as long as God or Fate allow me to do so. And as I watch my son tap excitedly on my old typewriter, making up stories in much the same way I did – albeit with a dry, 40-year-old ribbon – I pray that he, and all my children, and everyone’s children, may live to see their dreams come true.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

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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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!