Re-reading My Earliest Poetry

I try to put a positive spin on things by telling myself that at least it is obvious that I have improved with time. That my writing has improved. And while that is an encouraging thought, I still cringe a bit when I re-read the earliest poems.

The “earliest poems” are of course only ten to twelve years old these days, so it isn’t saying a lot. But those ten to twelve years span my age of 18-30. I think it’s safe to say I’ve changed a lot during those years. And I certainly find it hard to recognize the person writing those poems. So dreamy and romantic. So soppy. So unlike the hardened, cynical shell I’m contained in these days. Beautiful but somehow weightless. Hopeful but incomplete.

As I re-read the poems, I try – and mostly fail – to feel what I felt when I wrote them. But I’m just not that person anymore. Not in that state of mind. And while I do have a frail memory of what it was like, it is not something I can return to. Nor do I want to. I recall with perfect clarity the chaos that surrounded me at the time, and the refuge I sought in writing those poems in the first place. It is not a place I would want to revisit. But the ability to feel everything as keenly as I did back then – now, that is something I would like to get back every now and then…

I don’t regret a thing I wrote. I cringe a bit at the wording and overwrought tone. But I cannot regret any of the content, which I suppose is positive. It would be terrible to have such an amount of poems in the public eye if one couldn’t stand them.

But it is a strange feeling nonetheless. Kind of like re-reading old diaries or seeing childhood photographs of oneself. These poems are a snapshot of a past me. A past way of thinking and feeling. Frozen in time.

They were stepping stones on the way to where I am as a writer today. And as a person too, since the writing of them helped shape my way of thinking. As such, the more time passes since I wrote them, the more I come to see them as fragments or drafts rather than finished poems. It amuses me that a new reader should stumble upon one of them, and read it as a finished work. I can’t really see them in that light myself anymore.

But I can appreciate all it gave me and taught me to write them. And the sincerity I put into the effort. And the imagery my words still manage to conjure up (at least in my own head).

It’s nice to remember one’s progress every now and then. Developments can be subtle and hard to see in one’s daily life. Looking back can sometimes help get a sense of perspective.

I’m glad I’m in a different place now. And I am more satisfied with my writing now. And my life in general. But, wow, to feel everything so acutely and see everything with fresh eyes… To still have some disappointment ahead of me… 😅

But that version of me is gone.

And all she left behind

were angels in the snow,

melting in the spring

at sun’s relentless glow

– myself in Snow Angels, 2010

Published By: K-M Skalkenæs

Danish poet, writer and painter. Writings include her own original poetry in English and Danish, and translations of poetry from the Scandinavian languages and German into English.

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