River of Awkwardness

During our recent renovations, I came across a tub of junk I’ve been saving since high school. Until just a couple years ago it was safely stored at my mom’s house, where I didn’t have to confront the piles of awkwardness and teen angst that filled its plastic depths. But alas, part of growing up is getting all your shit out of your parent’s house and so the tub moved to my attic until a lack of storage spaced forced me to open it.

Lucky for you that I did, because today I present to you a PRICELESS GEM of 16-year-old brilliance:

The marbled scrapbook paper! The pinking sheered edges! Every poem in a different crazy font!!!

The clip art!!!!!!!

I’m pretty sure the assignment was to find 20 different poems on a topic (say, LOVE, which would have taken exactly 2.4 seconds in the school computer lab, even in 1998) but because I was SUCH A LOVER OF POEMS I refused to conform to such a simple and foolish instruction. My introduction:

For some, creating an anthology of poetry is a real trial. Having to find twenty poems by different authors is a hard assignment. It was a trial for me as well, but for a different reason. How could I ever limit the poems I wanted to put in this anthology to only twenty on one topic? I have an extensive collection of poems that I like, and some that I truly love as well, but to put them all under one single heading was a real challenge. What I created was a title of “Learning Life’s Lessons” and then stretched all my explanations of poems to go under that title. That is why some of the poem summaries are so strange and disjointed. Even with such a broad topic I had a hard time forcing some of my poems under it, so I broadened my horizons and found some new poetry to add. While looking for new poetry I found that by structuring my anthology around life (i.e. starting with childhood and then ending with death) I could create a sense of growing. So I divided up the anthology and my explanations of the poems made sense. The whole experience was very educational as well as enjoyable. I learned to appreciate poetry more after my attempts to write some, I learned what kinds of poems I liked more than others and I learned that poems really can teach you life’s lessons.

As 16-year-old me might say, gag me with a spoon. The “extensive collection” of poetry I owned included one Edgar Allan Poe book and the complete works of Lewis Carroll – which explains why Annabel Lee (the OMG MOST ROMANTIC POEM EVAR), The Raven, The Walrus and The Carpenter and The Jabberwocky (to be fair, still one of my favorite poems) are all in this sad little project.

The teacher also let us include song lyrics as 2 of the poems because, as I’m pretty sure I loudly and annoyingly pointed out, writing songs is just like writing a poem and, like, totally emotional.

My two songs? Family by Dar Williams (because I was OH SO EDGY) and Cold Day in July by The Dixie Chicks (because I’m pretty sure some boyfriend I can no longer name or remember had broken up with me).

To be fair, both cd’s were in the tub too, and I’ve already put them in my car’s cd player. Don’t judge me.

Anyways, in my beautiful and incredibly well written anthology, I took great care to explain each poem’s meaning very carefully, just in case my English teacher was both blind, deaf and dumb as a rock.

Can you read that? There is a miracle possessed in a baby! Someone call an exorcist! I know it is hard to understand but the poem is an adult talking to a baby and the baby in answering. Crazy! Babies can’t talk! That must be while it’s, like, Art.

Guys, our society, here in high school…it’s like, SO HARD. And just because some boy kissed you at the Homecoming Dance doesn’t mean you’re going to get married some day. NO REALLY, IT DOESN’T. STOP THINKING IT RIGHT NOW.

For your reading pleasure, here’s the poem this summary is about. I think you’ll find the page it’s on to be a PERFECT example of why I loved it soooooo much when I was 16.

Side note:  I can’t remember ever hearing or reading this poem before in my life. So obviously it wasn’t really my favorite poem OF ALL TIME, unless time officially ended with graduation. Which I was pretty sure it did when I was 16, so, there’s that.

Of course, what anthology about life’s lessons would be complete without a poem about Abraham Lincoln?

Obviously the lesson here is: don’t go to the theater or you might get assassinated. Duh.

And because I love you, here is the poem I wrote, River of Time:

No I am not typing it out. If you can’t read my blurry photo then OH WELL.

I think I should point out that in high school I felt Very Strongly that poetry was meant to rhyme. VERY. STRONGLY. Of the 20 poems/songs, there is only one that doesn’t rhyme. I think I passed over a lot of really good, meaningful, high quality stuff just because I wanted wabes with my outgrabes and Lenores with my befores. So I considered my beautifully rhymed poem to be the very epitome of good writing. My little dig about how I “hoped it wasn’t going to make me fail the assignment” was just me being modest.


So really, I think the life’s lesson I learned here is: Hanging on to crap from high school may give you a migraine from all the eye rolling you’ll do when you find it again some day. Or maybe: Try harder to come up with things to blog about or you’re going to end up intentionally embarrassing the crap out of yourself.

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29 Responses to “River of Awkwardness”

  1. Cole says:

    Wow. o_O

    I’m pretty sure EVERYONE has stuff like that from high school, but Mommy’s is still safely packed away somewhere…

  2. Swistle says:


  3. raincheckmom says:

    I recently found a painting I did in high school. It looked like it belonged on the cover of a Stephen King novel or hanging in the “Museum of Bad Art” (http://museumofbadart.org/).

    I couldn’t throw it away fast enough! Then I went to breakfast with my best friend from high school and she said “Remember that painting you did of the doll on the chair…?” OMG if only I could erase the memories of it! It may haunt me forever!

  4. Robyn says:

    i have some old journals from high school and early college. my husband found them and started reading them out loud to me. talk about embarrassing! still, i couldn’t bring myself to throw them away…it’s funny to read them and laugh at myself.

    • bebehblog says:

      Somewhere in a tub we DIDN’T open is a pink journal I hope no one ever sees ever ever. And yet if I did find it I totally couldn’t throw it away either.

  5. LB says:

    I have an entire journal of neatly hand-written stories and poems that I wrote in middle school through high school. I used to show it to boys I liked to demonstrate that I was intellectual and deep with just the right amount of humor (strangely, that actually worked more than once). Throwing it out would be like denying the nerd girl I once was.

  6. Audrey says:

    omg I had the exact same experience when I was going through my parents’ attic in January. I came across some folders with fictions I’d written and the only remaining mouse nibbled copy of a fictional essay I wrote for a commemoration at the local battlefield. I did not bring them home, sadly, as we were out of car space. But I will in April!!

  7. “The whole experience was very educational as well as enjoyable.” = I am expecting an A please.

  8. http://www.sapphyr.net/largegems/afterawhile.htm => I’m pretty sure that’s the exact website you would have visited in 1998! What a digital age gem! :)

  9. “I hope it isn’t going to make me fail the assignment” = PLLEEAAASSEE give me an A!!! Pretty Please!!!!!

  10. MKP says:

    omgomgomg those explanations. Amazing. I did a similar compilation, probably lost to the sands of time, but all the poetry except one had to be original. I think the one I included was not by William Blake but was from a children’s book about William Blake. We also had to decorate a cutout of jeans to embody our souls and mine were orange and covered in peace signs.

  11. THIS? is the best blog post ever. I want to drive home and get out my box of high school stuff just so i can let you know that:
    you are not alone.
    i am here with you.
    though we’re far apart,
    you’re always in my heart.

    See? song lyrics as poetry.

  12. Anne says:

    I had to do that too!!!! Awesome! My two poems were Simon and Garfunkel songs that I probably didn’t understand. Of course back then we didn’t have fancy laser printers with different fonts — I had to type mine up on a typewriter.

  13. This is just what I needed this morning. SO AWESOME. I have a box of horrors from jr high somewhere as well as my “poetry” zine from college. I was SO ANGRY. If screaming in with capslock had been invented when I was in college, I would have been known as Ol’ Capsy.

    Plus, I’ll give you some credit for your ABCB rhyme scheme. That shows some restraint right there.

  14. Jessica says:

    first of all, your favorite poem EVAR? was my favorite poem EVAR in high school too (and i’m pretty sure i’m a few years older than you at least, so that does attest to it’s ama-zing-ness to last FOR ALL TIME) and we are definitely meant to be friends.
    second- pretty sure i originally saw it on a nike ad in seventeen magazine or something like that – which means it really was TIMELESS.
    hahaha thanks for the laughs and memories.

  15. TheNextMartha says:

    A few years ago I threw out a whole box of notes that I had kept. I had read a few of them and thought “NO WAY do I need reminders of those awkward years.” Gah.

  16. Leah says:

    I once fancied that I would start another blog devoted to horrible teenage poetry/angst art. I managed about two posts before I realized that I suck at maintaining the blog I already have and gave up. But still, wouldn’t STFU, Teenage Poets make an awesome outsourced blog?

  17. Brittany says:

    My old journals and notebooks are safely boxed up, because I don’t think I can face that crap yet. A while back I read through an old high school journal and nearly upchucked from how absolutely stupid I was. I fear looking back on my attempts at “poetry.”

  18. Other Erin says:

    Please tell me there will be future posts “from the attic box.”

  19. Desi says:

    My best friend passed away November 5th, 2011. She too hung onto loads and loads of “junk” from highschool and beyond. These things turned into such amazing memories for all of her family, friends, boyfriend of 10+ years, and for me. So…I hold a special place in my heart for all memories of this kind. So, I hope you hold onto them too. I especially loved the poem you linked too. Its what made me think of my friend when reading your post.

    • bebehblog says:

      I’m so sorry about your best friend. I guess I never thought that to someone else my high school papers could end up being treasures. Maybe I’ll keep just one box of stuff so my kids can make fun of me some day too.

  20. Brigid Keely says:

    I kept my high school stuff _in a suitcase._ A suitcase that I stuck a label on, saying “suitcase of memories”. It was stored in a basement, and when I opened it a few months ago, I had an asthma attack from the basement-y-ness of it, and then another one from the cloud of angst that flew up.

  21. Kimberly says:

    As an English teacher (I guess former English teacher- it’s been a few years), I would love to have had you in my class. I’m a big fan of scrapbook paper and clip art. That always = A :)

  22. molly says:

    Girlfriend, you and I are gonna get along just fine. After reading this post, I am now quite sure of it.

    We should swap English class projects when we meet in August. We will burn many calories laughing our asses off :)

  23. Emmie Bee says:

    “This poem is about my favorite poem of all time” I lol’d for real. Don’t worry- I’m gonna go unearth my very similar poetry anthology to share with you. So ridiculous! I have saved every note from a friend, every card from my husband, every poem I wrote since Jr high. It’s a ridiculous amount of crap but is always good for a laugh when I clean the attic.

    I love the hope I won’t fail part- because OBVIOUSLY THIS IS THE BEST WRITING THE TEACHER AHS EVER READ EVERRRRR & there is no way you’d fail. :)

  24. Kendra says:

    AAAAAA!! This is hilarious, and hits way too close to home. I know for a fact that I have a poetry collection from a college class in my basement, but I’m too chicken to even read it. Oh, the eye-rolling!

  25. Londonmum says:

    ha ha ha brilliant. Total respect to you for sharing this I love it. In London they run this special poetry evening where you can/have to stand up and read extracts for the journal you kept as a teenager. I personally can’t imagine anything worse but it is surprisingly popular because of its mix of therapy and hilarity in equal measures.

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