The Art of Early Poetry by Shane Kowalski



This year I’ve been picked to judge the high school poetry contest. These things always get me down.

I do not know what it is about teenage poetry. I like teenagers, they are interesting and have hectic hearts, but their poetry is always dark and depressed and violent.

Even the teen girls are working in this mode. Teen girls I find are the future but when it comes to their poetry they are scary. They fill their poetry up with ripe, engorged imagery of gouged eyes and suggestions of suicide and of something called “The Father Sodomy,” which I guess is a big term these days with the younger crowd.

Maybe I’ve just become soft and blubbery but I am wondering where the goofy plagiarisms of E.E. Cummings are. Where are the blissful odes to young kissing? The semi-sonnets of texting? Where have the beautiful, bloated moments of youthful and overindulgent language and selfish grammar gone to?

All I see in these poems are murder, rape, suicide, depression, sexualized violence, bad and peculiar uses of the word ‘fuck’ and ‘sorrow,’ etc. Teens are not shy or reserved about opening the parts of themselves up that have already decayed into adulthood. It is as if they are responding in their art to the brutishness they see approaching.

They say it is good for young people to be able to express themselves so vividly and not feel ashamed or embarrassed. I agree, but I doubt I will be able to finish reading these poems tonight. I want to go play with my niece. She has a new Easy Bake Oven and with it she says she wants to make something she has never eaten before, that nobody has ever eaten before in the history of the world. Her little arms reach above her as if that is where the world is, weightless and able to be handled simply. No matter if it’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted, I want to help her do this.

Shane Kowalski is a frequent contributor to Ohio Edit. He does Died Disappointed.