Thursday, August 08, 2019

Throwing Out the Past

When not working in the yard or cleaning my home office during the short break that I have before fall semester classes start, I have been reading four years of a journal that I kept between 1980 and 1984.

My entries initially focused on the poetry that I was writing for some of my classes. At that time, I focused on ideas more than sensory perceptions in my poems. I was also fixated on line length in my poems and altered my language to fit the length of the line, not recognizing that my foremost aim should be clarity. One of my teachers, a visiting poet with whom I took a short tutorial during my last semester of college, recommended that I become conscious of an audience when I write. That awareness would have made my writing more accessible and would have allowed me to worry less about form. Making the transition at that time was difficult to achieve. My entries sometimes reflected my anger at my teachers and classmates for not recognizing what I was attempting to achieve in my poems.

After I finally finished my undergraduate degree, I started to record my job search efforts. Although Wichita, where I was living at the time, had a bus system, it wasn’t convenient or readily accessible. My job efforts were hampered by not having a vehicle. It would have been so much easier finding even a temporary job if I had had access to a car. I probably wouldn’t have lived in the city if I had had a choice. The noise from barking dogs and neighbors in the same apartment building often made sleeping difficult.

There was a marked difference in the entries I was writing during my job search. My entries became much more descriptive as I recorded my employment search and my observations. Not having any family nearby and having very few friends, I often wrote much more in my journal during holidays, often recording things that I had done when I was much younger.

Later, these entries described my move to Connecticut, where I temporarily lived with my sister before I moved to Hartford and earned a living of sorts by proofreading and substitute teaching. Several of the last four or five blue books described my relations with a woman I had met at work.

Overall, while sometimes painful to read, these blue books record how I apprenticed myself to language. I had written plenty of essays in college. Even so, it took this regular habit of writing for myself before I became comfortable with my writing voice. In retrospect, it wasn’t important what I wrote; it was more important that I gained practice in using language.