View Full Version : Do you ever look back at and get embarrassed by poetry you've written long ago?

01-03-2016, 10:44 PM
Sometimes I come across super angst-ridden poetry I've written when I was like 15, and I just cringe and can't help but laugh. (To be honest, sometimes it happens with poetry I've written a week ago, but let's leave that for now...)

I've come THIS close to deleting some poems and then erasing all traces of their existence, but ended up keeping them on my laptop just in case I ever feel too confident ;)

How are your old poems?

Edited to add: if someone wants to share some of their old work...

01-04-2016, 03:55 AM
I used to write poetry like my life depended on it. I remember sitting in foods class in high school and writing poems about a single word that a classmate threw my way. Some of them were pretty ridiculous lol. I look back over some that I wrote early in my adult years, poems I thought were pretty awesome at the time and am horrified that I actually might have sent them out to an editor once...but it shows just how much I have grown both as a person and a writer. I have matured and honed my craft.

A particularly embarrassing poem I have saved to show myself how far I have come lol

Rub a dub dub
my hand on the tub.
Rub a dub dub
my feet caked in mud.

Rub a dub dub
drank at the pub.
Rub a dub dub
filled one more mug.

Rub a dub dub
I'm now in the tub.
Rub a dub dub
Did we get a new tub??

William Haskins
01-04-2016, 04:09 AM
i've never gotten past "super angst-ridden poetry," so perhaps my shame lies in the future.

01-04-2016, 04:26 AM
Short answer: No. I'm not embarrassed.

I think of every poem I've ever written as one more step in the process of my becoming a better poet. Now, if I could just look at prose sentences this way more often...

01-04-2016, 04:53 AM
Me, age 15 (written after listening to a girl in my homeroom go on...and on...and on...about how she wasn't jealous of her ex boyfriend's new relationship). it isn't like anything I'd write today, but it still amuses me. I was trying to catch her tone in my meter, and I think to some extent I managed it, though I mangled it in spots.


He says I’m jealous, my ex boyfriend,
that I simply can’t forget him,
that I’ve never gotten over our breakup in the fall --
that I follow him and stalk him,
but it simply isn’t true --
I can’t help it if our lockers are just across the hall.
What he does is no concern of mine

‘cause I’m not jealous.

I don’t want him, my ex boyfriend.
She is welcome to my leavings.
It wasn’t me who wrote that stuff about her on the wall.
And she isn’t even pretty
and it’s sad he’s sunk so low
and why would I even bother to hang up when I call?
I can’t see why he’d choose her over me

but I’m not jealous

She can have him, my ex boyfriend.
It’s not like I would take him.
It’s not like he is someone I’d ever stop to miss.
I can find a better guy,
but he’s the best that she can do.
And I’ll bet she can’t stop thinking, every time they kiss
“he used to be with her instead of me”

but she’s just jealous.


Somewhere in a similar thread, I posted one of my college poems, written when I was in my no-rhymes-ever stage. I'd gotten a lot better by then and actually am still proud of it. If I can find it, I'll link to it here.


heh. I think I'm no more or less prone to writing about my angst than I was as a teen. I just think I do a better job of it.

I'm pretty much with Kelly -- I look at old poems as steps on my way to getting better (and as snapshots of my brain at various points of development).

01-04-2016, 09:29 AM
I get embarrassed by the poetry I write now. Doesn't stop me from writing it. My secret? I'm always embarrassed. I'm always certain that whatever piece of art or writing I'm in the middle of is utter crap...and yet it usually turns out a little better than I expected. Sometimes a lot better. As with Kelly, all those steps are necessary to take.

01-04-2016, 11:26 AM
Yes and no. Memory is an odd thing. If I was proud of it once, it had reason, it had merit--and it was mine, about something important to me at the time. I have boxes full of folders and notebooks storing 25+ years of poetry, most of it terrible, all of it wonderfully more than photographs.

There are photos of me which if you saw them, I'd have to kill you. Seriously. Worst part is, I don't own those. They’re with parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, etc. They serve as a visual reference to a point in time--no matter how embarrassing they are, they hold that.

Old poems are similar in this way, but they don’t offer a static image; my poems contain my thoughts and ideas, my hopes and aspirations, naivety and maturity, intellect and emotion, and are told in my voice at that time—the register, syntax, vocabulary, recurrence all say something about me at that time beyond the content/theme of the poem. They are little slices of me.

After my Nan died, we found when sorting through her stuff, a box filled with notes, love-letters, poems, and clippings… (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?301039-Nan&p=9231975#post9231975)there was a little purple address book which had little flowers pressed in it, and line sketches of my grandfather, short verses and one-liners, scribbled hearts :D My Nan was a proud and practical lady; all of this was silliness—had it not been for that box, then there would have been so many little pieces of her lost, little pieces none of us knew existed.

In some way, I hope my children, and grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren can get to know me in my formative years and thumb their way through my life. When you look at it that way, how can you be embarrassed?

01-04-2016, 02:05 PM
The flaws and oopsie moments in my "ancient ones" (name of the folders where I have old stuff stuck) are wonderful ego boosters, as they show me how much I have learned and grown in my craft.


01-04-2016, 02:22 PM
That's true, Kelly! I don't often think about it like that, but everything you make does add to your growth somehow. Sometimes poems have helped me work through feelings and looking back at them, I vividly remember the emotions that were poured into them, even if I can't relate to the actual situations so much anymore.

I love what you wrote, kborsden, about parts of your grandmother's life being held in those clippings. It's really a beautiful story. A lot of the poems I wrote when I was younger deal heavily with guilt at what's going on around the world, and when I read them again it feels like I'm re-discovering parts of my development I'd forgotten. They're still awkward to read though...

Cassandra and Canuck, thanks for sharing! Here's one of mine. Not as share-worthy but at one point I was very proud of it. I had to cut it off because it goes on for another 6 stanzas...ain't nobody got time for dat.

Look up to the sky
and see the dogs burn

the silver scratching fur
and glowing eyes

What have they seen, heard, thought
about them, innocents caught in a tightly woven mesh
of haphazard messes and near-death misses
of half-hearted dreams and broken wishes
of a revolution that failed

about us – inability. Lack of ability.
nothing is impossible
they said
they used to say, they used to tell us
change the world
you are the drops
that make up the ocean

But the oceans are dry and the sea beds are barren
there are too many of us, and not enough,

and still too many
and still not enough, and still
it is not enough

01-04-2016, 02:28 PM
Oh, yes. Especially the ones I printed out for my brother and gave them to him asking him to compose them into songs because while a chronic, pathological over-thinker, I never thought it through that composing and recording a song involves way more than my craft, which is sitting down on my own and moving my own 2 hands according to what my mind tells them.
They were those angsty, dark poems I wrote back when I suffered from BPD and was haunted by childhood pains and self-loathing. And thinking back at them, I remember not to make too much fun of teenage/young adult angst, because that crap I wrote did come from a deep dark earnest place.

01-07-2016, 06:23 AM
Nah. I look back and think that I was onto something which developed over the years.

01-07-2016, 12:58 PM
Yes. So much so that I have a folder of horrors that I haven't opened in twenty years.

01-07-2016, 03:41 PM
When I breathe, I regret.
It's hard to read poetry
I've written five minutes ago...
that me was such
a clodhopper
I can't bare
to look back
on him
with kind eyes.

01-07-2016, 03:46 PM
Kevin I am going to steal that first line.

B.D. Eyeslie
01-07-2016, 04:23 PM
Charlie Tuna, you're alright
I'd put you in my gut tonight.
What's all this crazy fuss about--
your age, your weight; you're not a trout
or some fine culinary dish.
You're just a lowly tuna fish.

...and it was all downhill from there.

01-07-2016, 04:40 PM
every poem is but a missed opportunity for frugality and the economy of words
of course we look back on them in anger

01-07-2016, 05:27 PM
I've been thinking about this -- my poetry is actually more angst-ridden now than it was as a teen. As a teen, I had much more of a tendency to write satirical or funny stuff, narrative poems, or the occasional political/opinion poem (those are the most embarrassing to me now, since they're a bit preachy -- my satirical ones are far better than my serious ones). I didn't start regularly airing my angst in poems until college, by which point my craft had made some strides.

I spent most of my teen years (pre-college) experimenting with meter and rhyme, some of it awkward, but looking at that type of awkwardness gives me satisfaction that I've made some progress. And I get the occasional spot of amusement when I see that my satirical streak was flourishing even when I was 14 or 15.

My teen diaries are another thing entirely. I put a lot of angst into those.