For those of you who have been following me on Instagram for the last little while, you may know that I’ve recently released a series of micro-poems there.
If not, the collection is called Autobiographical Alphabet: Life After Nineteen.
The poems were written in 2017, after I turned twenty. In New Zealand & Australia where I’m from, 18 and 21 are considered ceremonious years. Personally, I feel like the transition between 19 to 20 is, linguistically at least, just as important because it marks one’s departure from the ‘-teen’ years (13-19).
With the set structure of the alphabet and the challenge of keeping to only a sentence or two per poem, I wanted to use this series to explore more broadly who I am and what I observe & feel in this awkward phase when I am no longer a child but don’t quite feel like a proper adult.
I’ll be delving into some of the circumstances and intentions surrounding the pieces below. In all honesty, I think that to a large degree, an author’s intent is irrelevant to a reading and it’s important for you to take away what you will from the standalone poems. With that being said, I selfishly wanted to explain them a bit more so I can pour over these memories & experiences yet again. I’m sure there are some people who are curious about it too, so this is for me & you :—)
I wrote this poem for a friend who I’ve known since intermediate (middle school). She is an absolute angel – beautiful, kind, perfect. I don’t think I’ve met more than a handful of other people who are genuinely as soft and pure.
Though sometimes in private I’d wonder if she was a bit too perfect. Maybe it makes me a bad person (I’d never argue to the contrary) but I kept waiting for the day when the image would crack and something mean or unreasonable will spill out…but it never did. When a boy broke her heart, she mourned so gently and with so much poise that it left me unsettled.
I didn’t put my finger on it until recently. Perhaps it’s just me overthinking but it was almost like she couldn’t allow herself to hold onto an ounce of bitterness, even when she had every right to, in case it stained her with something that was too dark and too real. Ugly.
This poem is for her and women in general who were taught that they had to hide their pain. For women who are expected to shirk their own needs forever and always so they can be so good and generous to everyone else with their seemingly endless love and comfort.
What are your thoughts on nature vs nurture? Either way, I was a shy and introverted child. Mum always pushed me to speak to strangers and make new friends. A word she always wanted me to strive for was “bubbly”.
Bright, light, fun, harmless, palpable. Her friend’s child was like this, why couldn’t I be? Over a decade later, I would say that I feel like a carefully pruned bonsai tree who has gotten closer and closer to her ideal. I would say “bubbly” is one of the top 5 words most of my friends would use to describe me.
I still don’t like that word. I think it’s because it feels like an act, even now. It’s so tiring to be friendly and happy, it doesn’t really leave room for much of a personality. I don’t know if it’s who I am or who I’ve been taught I should be and being around strangers acting “bubbly” leaves me so flat and empty. Scariest of all though is that the formative years are over, the shape is set, I truly don’t know how else I can present to and exist in this world.
I wrote this for someone, who at one time, was my best friend. I had written a poem for him before too.
Without going too much into it, we had a falling out, and it broke my heart a little bit. It’s not like we hadn’t fought up to that point and it didn’t feel any different this time, but for some reason it just was. Years later, I don’t even remember what I said or did just this regret of not telling him how much he meant to me before it was too late.
Time heals, they say, but too much time dilutes a shared fate and we slowly drifted apart. I ask to catch up but chicken out when we discuss the details, retreating into vague somedays and maybes because worst of all, is knowing that they’re long over it or perhaps never cared as much and you’re the one who is going to be hurting for the both of you for a while yet.
Finally, this poem details my, and I’m sure many other creatives’, relationship with their work and audience. There is such a strong desire for approval that contradicts with the artistic endeavour to create whatever resonates with us, regardless of whether it’s appetising for others.
Thus, we pretend to be “true creatives” who do not cater to anyone else whilst secretly hoping that you will come, stay, and appreciate what we’ve put out into the world.
That’s all for now, I’ll be sporadically releasing these expanded stories, spliced in with regular long form.
I have something in the works at the moment, but may be relatively quiet for the next little while as I’m going to be solo travelling in Southeast Asia until late-January – hopefully discovering new people and things to write about!
All the best,