4 poems: Creating a persona

One concrete example of being competent and in charge of an English class group assignment happened during 11th grade.

I was in the regular version of this English class, not AP. I remember receiving a bit of flack about that from the teacher, who was fully convinced I was taking the easy way out by not going for his AP class.

Anyway, we had a group project where we had to create a persona, create the background of a character: who this person is, what they are doing. And then somehow we needed to tie in some type of literary piece. This was an English class, after all, so it wasn’t merely about writing a paper; it required some creativity.

I know our group settled on a female student who was studying different key events in history or was at least interested in history. We decided to create a journal for her where she reacted to various moments in history. Somehow we created journal entries and then also established that she wrote poetry. Yes, I’m sure the poetry aspect was all me, but I was happy to volunteer to make that writing my responsibility.

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The Goldilocks of English class

Reading books

Throughout high school, I alternated the difficulty of the English classes I took. First regular, then honors, then regular, then Advanced Placement.

The regular classes I found to be fairly easy to the point where I became the point person in group assignments because no one else had ideas or they just didn’t care. I also had a perfectionist streak in me in these classes, I suppose, an air of wanting to do very well. So I guess my classmates and group members knew that if they slacked off, the work would still get done. I also felt confident that we would be graded as a group, not for how the work was divided up. Meaning if someone fell through with what they were expected to do, it would impact the entire group instead of just that individual. So I never wanted to let that happen.

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Depression of high school

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pixabay.com

Along with being unable to accept compliments, there was also this long held concept of being less than and inferior to others, which began early on for me. I struggled in so many ways to match the speed, ease and ability of my classmates that I saw it as a flaw in my very character rather than strictly my ability. It defined me to the core, this idea of not measuring up. That even if I managed to improve, it seemed to matter very little because someone else was still better. My focus was all about how I compared to others instead of establishing my own track of development.

You’re supposed to pay attention to your interests and abilities to recognize talents as those might influence future areas of study to pursue and a potential career path. How do you successfully accomplish this with a negative view of yourself? Yes to a degree I saw that writing and creative writing were more strong suits. But it wasn’t enough to completely draw confidence from it or to see it as an actual talent. I still felt misunderstood for preferring to write in a notebook rather than trying to talk with others.

I twisted most of the compliments I received, convinced that people were just trying to be polite or telling white lie because they felt sorry for me. And with this internal, self-defeating attitude, you can tear yourself down pretty far. I didn’t need extra help in this area. So the emotional and sometimes verbal bullying/antagonizing that I received in previous years just reinforced this feeling of being inferior and incompetent, unworthy.

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Poetry philosophy: Show me, don’t tell me (also struggling with compliments)

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Theodysseyonline.com

I’m not sure where the phrase “show me, don’t tell me” first originated. I think it was through exposure to creative writing exercises and other writing efforts. But I took that to heart. I took that seriously. And in many ways that influenced my approach to poetry writing.

You don’t want to just say “she was upset”; that doesn’t tell you much. But instead you describe the used tissues scattered on the bed, the box laying nearby, how her eyes are puffy. You acknowledge the remnants of a bowl of ice cream. You describe the girl curled up on a bed, clutching tight to a pillow or stuffed bear. These images offer more details, they help tell the story. She probably didn’t just screw up a pop quiz; it’s more likely that she had a fight with her boyfriend or they broke up.

I was much more interested in showing the details of a story and describing the scene versus being straightforward. I still had trouble balancing what was described and how much to describe rather than saying things outright. I often went overboard on the descriptions and imagery, especially early on, but I was trying to find my style, trying to figure out what worked. How much detail do you really have to give?

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Poem: Grandma

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My maternal grandmother died when my mom was 16, so I never got a chance to meet her. I had a relationship with my step-grandmother, but it was still a bit distant and formal. My paternal grandparents lived several states away so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together either.

Generally speaking I got along with my step-grandmother, but we weren’t super close. We would spend time together a few times a year, usually going out for lunch. In many ways she was the classic Southern woman, and she tried to teach me manners and social etiquette. Not that I was an animal, but I had a preference for eating burgers and fries that she wanted to change. The  biggest restaurant moment that stands out is her insisting I try chutney with my meal. (I must have branched out with a chicken sandwich.)

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Poem: Questions for My Sister

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I grew up with Andrew, my brother who is two years older, but we have a sister, too. She was stillborn because of umbilical cord complications. She would have been three years older than me.

My parents named her Lauren Elizabeth.

While growing up, I’d often wonder how our family would be different if she were alive. How our relationships would be different. Thinking of how maybe, just maybe, when I felt like I couldn’t confide in anyone else, I probably would have been able to turn to her. Longing for that sisterly advice. I generally got along great with my brother, but there are just some topics you can’t really bring up.

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Embrace the squeaky shopping cart

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This weekend I was visiting with my parents to celebrate Mom’s birthday. It was nice to be able to get away from work and spend time with family, no matter how brief.

There was a moment when I was out shopping that I had a little epiphany. I’m sure you have similar instances when a seemingly random object or event suddenly evokes greater meaning.

While out shopping, the cart I grabbed seemed just fine, but after a few steps it was quite clear this one had a problem with a wheel. It was loud, rattling and didn’t want to go straight. This was going to be a short trip in the store so I kept it.

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Conversation hijackers and other communication problems

So, previously on the blog I’ve described some of the internal struggle with communication, the spinning Rolodex in search of information, in search of something worthwhile to share.

But there are other external factors that impact communication.

Perhaps I’m over-analyzing a particular encounter I had in high school. Perhaps I’m remembering it wrong. It’s entirely possible. I honestly don’t think those details are the thing to focus on, though, because the feeling I had afterward are what have stayed with me for so long.

I was in the school cafeteria, waiting for the morning bell to ring so that I could go to my locker and get ready for class. And I was talking to another girl. She was describing a concert she had been to over the weekend.

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Preschool through 8th grade: Where do things stand?

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Since my preschool diagnosis of sensory processing disorder and the completion of eighth grade means about 10 years have passed, I thought I would do a review of how things have progressed. I’m looking to address these questions:

  • What areas seemed to have improved?
  • Have I grown out of anything?
  • What am I still struggling with?
  • Has anything new developed?

If you missed my big rundown of sensory issues, you can find it here. And don’t worry, throughout this list, there will be links back to appropriate blog posts to offer further explanation. 

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Poem: Vanishing (with back story)

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Wired.com

This is the poem that got me started writing poetry on my own time. In previous classes over the years we had written poems, usually following a form or writing haikus and limericks. Those were good ways of being introduced to poetry, but they didn’t seem to be very personal.

In May 1998, near the end of eighth grade, I was at home in the den/family room. I remember Mom called out asking me to bring her the newspaper or something. So I got up and walked toward the kitchen as requested, and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. I had blacked out or something. They ran tests at the hospital, including an EKG, but no one could find anything to explain what actually happened. I was given a heart monitor to wear for 24 hours.

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I didn’t fully understand the seriousness of what happened that weekend. I just knew I detested having to wear the monitor. But I just wrote down what I felt on paper.

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