For some time now, my husband and I have been having a debate. Unlike most of the debates we have (of which there are many – we are naturally argumentative souls), we have not yet managed to find a middle ground on this one.
The debate concerns the discovery of a teeny, innocent-looking book around eighteen months ago. Let me give you the scene: I’m sorting through my considerable book collection when I stumble upon a notebook, hard cover and adorned with the artwork of Paul Cezanne. Instantly, I remember it and it is one of those moments where the heart leaps when you realise that, contrary to what you thought, this little memento of your youth has survived. I open it and peruse the contents. In amongst Cezanne’s fine paintings of fruit and trees are my words, written between 1999 and 2001. This little book contains some of my teenage poetry.
Immediately I show the book to my husband. Looking back on that action alone, I realise now how incredible it was, and how teenage me would have cringed at showing her words to ANYONE. Mind you, teenage me cringed at a lot of things. My husband reads with interest, and afterwards he says something which still astounds – and terrifies – me. “Sarah,” he says, “you should publish this.” Straight away, I protest. “No,” I say, “who would want to read the angst-ridden ramblings of a teenager?” He laughs. “You should do it anyway,” he says, “and you could call it ‘the musings of a teenage goth’.”
Hmm. That was a lot of months ago, and no such poetry collection has been forthcoming from me as yet. I will admit that I like the proposed title, but I still find the idea of putting my poetry out there a bit excruciating. It’s weird; after writing a couple of books I am reasonably comfortable with my stories being scrutinised. My poetry, however, is another matter, perhaps because it’s so personal, such a window on my soul. And my teenage soul at that.
Tonight I re-read some of the works in my little collection and an idea occurred to me. I don’t think I’m ready to put it all out there but I might test the water a little and put a few of my favourites on my blog, one per post for a series of posts, and see what my lovely readers think.
Now, I will admit that with this first offering I am cheating a little; the following poem is one of the few to ever make it into the public domain, as it was published in the schools’ poetry collection, ‘2001: A Poetry Odyssey.’ At the time I was sixteen and studying war poetry in English literature. I had also not long returned from a visit to Ypres in Belgium as part of my history studies and my poetry at the time was greatly influenced by what I saw there. So, without any further ado, this is “Ypres”:
The flat green landscape once scarred by shells,
Was the setting for where the last man fell.
Corrupted by war, by murder and hate,
His name is now on a wall of the Menin Gate.
The soldier’s body was never found,
And buried by war, it remained on the ground.
But his friend John, he would have like what he got,
“Known unto God” in the cemetery of Tyne Cot.
Those two young soldiers, they’d had some fun,
In the back trenches, away from the Hun.
But when the wood became the front line,
The boys couldn’t escape the enemy in time.
It was he who fell first, and John soon after,
In the face of despair, all tears and no laughter.
Their souls were devoured by the appetite of war,
Just like all the brave soldiers who had gone before.
You can visit the memorials to those who fell,
Unable to comprehend their time in hell.
Please remember today those who met their fate,
And understand their warning; no good comes of hate.