Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Poetry of Amy Jeppsen: An Anthology
Vol. I The Early Years

Brady has been actively promoting National Poetry Month over on his blog and in real life, and since I have some sort of interesting relationship with poetry, I've considered taking the bait for a couple weeks now and writing my own National Poetry Month blog. So before April is over, here it is, in three installments

While I've been writing for as long as I can remember, I can't say that's necessarily true about poetry. When I was young, I struggled to come up with good rhymes, so I stayed away from even trying. Realizing that poetry didn't have to rhyme was a bit of a breakthrough for me, but it felt a bit like cheating, so it remained a very small breakthrough.

The real beginning of my poetry career came in my 12th grade AP English Literature class, but that's for tomorrow. In Vol. I, I present three earlier attempts at poetry (though two are not much earlier). Of course there is commentary.

I. Eyes in the Night
Year unknown

As I walk in the darkness of night, two eyes stare out at me!
I shake and shiver and tremble with fright, tow glowing eyes stare at me!
It could be a goblin, a monster, or worse, it could be a vampire or ghost!
It could be the man I saw driving the hearse, it could be some cyclopses, two at the most!
There’s a scream in my throat, but I won’t let it out, I have to be quiet and still.
I cannot run or scream or shout, I feel so afraid…


This is the earliest surviving record of my poetry, and I have reproduced it complete with original grammar, punctuation (notice my sophisticated use of exclamation marks, culminating in the double exclamation mark in line seven), and spelling errors. I am also including the original poem and illustration, because you lose the full effect otherwise.

II. lost

the first two years were dark
with tiny pinpoint stars
like hazy dreams
the lassie music playing
and running across
a black and white field
with the steam blowing train
echoing the whistled tune

in the middle of the city
on a sidewalk
briefcase in hand
and a daughter
breathless with adventure

memories stored in the wrong place
a part of the mind
reserved for dreams
and distorted over time
like an ancient movie left to gather dust
the film flaking
labels lost
and missing frames filled
with whatever is available at the time

a collage telling nothing
but nice to look at all the same

You will notice that this poem, written some years after the first, is much more sophisticated. You can tell because I use no punctuation or capitalization. This poem won me an award and $50 from the Lions Club. I got to recite the poem in front of a bunch of adults, and then explain the poem to them. The poem is about one of my earliest memories, of riding the train into Chicago with my dad to accompany him to work when I was two. The memory is all my own - I mentioned it some twelve or thirteen years after the fact and my parents were surprised that I remembered it. But the memory is distorted by time, and the poem is my reflection on this distortion.

III. Sinfonía

Primero llegaron los indios
Indios americanos
Antes de existir la palabra “América”,
Indios californianos
Antes de existir California,
Habitantes del Nuevo Mundo
Cuyo mundo era viejo.
Los Pescadores,
Los agricultores,
Los cazadores,
Cada uno con sus propias costumbres,
Sus propias culturas,
Sus propias maneras,
Sus propias lenguas
Ahora olvidadas.

Luego llegaron los españoles
En busca de riquezas,
De tierras,
De Dios.
Los soldados,
Los exploradores,
Los rancheros,
Los sacerdotes.
Unidos por una lengua,
Divididos por sus intenciones.
Después llagaron otros.
Llagaron los colonos,
En busca de tierra.
Llagaron los mineros,
En busca de oro.
Llagaron los chinos,
En busca de trabajo.
Llagaron los mexicanos,
En busca de vida.

Ahora los sonidos
De las diferentes lenguas
Se mezclan.
¿Una sinfonía?
¿O una discordancia?
Algunos dicen: -inglés
Y solo ingles, nada más-
Y no es más que un sueño.
Porque ¿Qué lengua es major?
¿O más bella?
¿O más práctica?

Ser un solista es un sueño
De todos los músicos.
¿Pero es el piano más bello
Que la flauta?
¿El violin más sugestivo
Que el clarinete?

En California no somos solístas.
Somos músicos
De una gran orquesta.
Y, aunque soñemos con ser solistas,
Necesitamos aprender a tocar
Nuestros instrumentos
Junto con los de los demás …
En armonía.

My apologies to non-Spanish speakers for the lack of translation. I'm already wasting enough time writing this post (and the next two). My Spanish teacher had us write poems for a contest sponsored by the Spanish Consulate of Los Angeles and the California Department of Education, and when I reread this poem I feel like I was totally pandering to the judges. But it won me first place among the no hispanohablantes, and I got a free daytrip to Sacramento with the hispanohablante high school winner, Alberto. I visited the consulate, recited my poem, returned to Los Angeles and recited my poem again (my dad got to be in attendance for that one), and received a stack of books en español, and a book in which all the winners and runners-up were published. This and "lost" (which got into the literary magazine for my high school) are my only two published poems.


Brady said...

Amy! I really like Sinfonia! Thanks for celebrating National Poetry Month with me.

Abominable's Main Squeeze said...

It's fun reliving the memories of those poems. The first is more at my level!

opticwalrus said...

That first poem reminded me of a line from Yellow Submarine:

Ringo: Look out! It's a cyclops!
George: But he's got two eyes, he does.
John: Must be a bicyclops.

Mike said...

Wow, pretty impressive Amy! There does seem to be a bit of pandering to the judges in the last one, but it is really good, so good job!