Keep it up. / by AB Mann

I first started writing poetry in 7th grade. It was an English class assignment, the first one I'd ever had where I was aware enough to have read any poetry. It was the first time I'd ever encountered writing flow where I went from idea to full text very, very quickly. It was a brief flirtation with bliss.

Until, a week after turning in the assignment, my teacher read it to the whole class. Mine was the only one he read. My mind exploded. You could, like, be recognized for poetry? People could care about these little half-sentences? These tiny paragraphic stanzas? These words of deepest meaning to even a rotund, bespectacled, nerd in middle school?

Yes, please, I would like some more of this existential satisfaction, if you would. Just plop it down like buttery mashed potatoes with a thick, meaty gravy.

I wrote maybe two dozen more poems in the next few weeks, turning each in to my teacher. He, not really grokking the gravity with which I bled on to these pages, accepted them with a nod. He read them and, occasionally, offered some feedback with the bright red pen or a kind word between classes.

"Keep it up."

I did. I wrote off and on through high school for myself when I wasn't too busy with theater or studying for AP exams. I know, knew to the heart of my existence, that I needed to do this. I needed this to survive.

Losing the horizon

As high school progressed, I fell further into the rigors of Succeed and Achieve and started looking to college and padded pages of extra curriculars. Who had time to write? I had theater productions and AP exams and girls and... something. Something not right.

I sort of saw it coming, that first depression. I was filling my life with classes, college resume goals, girls that were really uninterested in me, friends that kept me around because they looked better around me. I recognized they were not in it for me but the invited me out, just enough, to convince me that I mattered. I was their somebody.

I stopped writing and fell into a deep, dark pit. I nestled in, drew blankets of dirt and earthworms about my shoulders, and settled in for a long winter of snow and sleet and cold pelting me while the world around saw sun above.

My little pit of deep, dark, comforting petrichor kept me in some weird stasis. High school happened; my fiends had dates, dances, and parties; I had earthworms, cold sweats, suffocation. You can't write with a mouthful of dirt.

I chewed through it.

Oddly, in that I didn't expect it but it makes mountains of sense today, writing saved my life.

In 1998 I started writing on OpenDiary.com. I wrote god awful poem after poem after poem. And slowly, thimble by thimble, I dug myself out of my pit. Each stanza was a worm here, a stone there; I cleared my way through dust and settling sediment and shouted, hoarsely, "This is not okay."

Writing gave me perspective. It was a way for me to remove my mind from my body, to excavate the deeper Things entrenched in cavernous unknown holes that were churning, building pressure like lava under mantle. In that time, I met some nice internet people nearby that pulled me up onto a more positive level. They shook off a little of the crusted dirt and reminded me that, yes, you have value. Keep exploring, understanding, writing what matters to you.

“Keep it up.”

And I did.

And I found a college that respected, if not expected a little weirdness where I could study poetry and writing and… learn something else that would actually pay he bills.

It is cliche, sure, to say that writing saved my life but I do think it did. The great expanse of green hills and flowers that the internet can be drew me into a world where I learned what friends could be which threw, into stark contrast, the lack of support, the subtle cuts, the occasional direct shovels of dirt in the face I received from my other friends. I understood what it was to be who I was without caveat.

And that is what I am finding today.

To you, Reader.

Do not think, O Reader, that I am lost in some fantasy of Great Writing. I am not. I am blowing off the dust from a machine I had previous kept well oiled. My mind, bolstered by little pills printed with edible ink and a constant stream of creative writing, has reconnected with a veritable mountain range of ideas.

But. It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve done this with regularity. I’ve blogged, sure, but poetry… what a different thing. I do not know strong from feeble, stout from brittle, good from bad. And I’d like your help.

I have created a feedback form (also found under the Specific Things menu) to which I will link from posts subsequent. It only asks for the title and your comments and does not track anything else. I want to know what you think. Was this entry or post or poem or picture good? Bad? Something specific worked really well for you? Something fell flat?

Should I keep it up? Should I keep it up?

Well… really… I’m going to keep it up irrespective of what you say.

But! Let us both endeavor to make it better. Let us make a mountain?