June 21st: the first day of summer, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, my birthday. While the first three are debatable (follow this link to see why), the last certainly isn’t. I can also testify that it’s hot enough to be the first day of summer. Of course, I only know what’s it like in Northern California. I’ve been stewing in 107 degrees with only a “portable” AC unit a living room with an open-floor plan (our central AC unit broke and it’s going to take a lot of money to replace it). Other than that, it’s been a pretty good birthday. In honor of my birthday, the solstice, and the heat, I’ve decided to post another of my old poems, “Just to Set the Record Straight”.
Image retrieved from ExpressThis poem is a little different from the others. First of all, it’s longer. Second, it’s arguably funnier. Most importantly, it’s technically been published before. Over five years ago it, along with several other of my poems, were published on a blog for Northern Californian poets called Medusa’s Kitchen, which is run by Rattlesnake Press. Here’s the link to the original post if you want to read it. I recommend doing so since I can’t get the formatting right in this post.
Despite its publication, I’m not particularly proud of this poem. Why? I worry that it comes off as whiny in regards to the heat and people not understanding how hot it can get in NorCal. It’s also rather…I don’t want to say “crude” or “poorly-written” but, in hindsight, I feel as though I could’ve done better. Then again, I always feel that way so you should judge it for yourself:
Just to Set the Record Straight
Just to set the record straight,
“North” doesn’t always mean “cold,”
and “near mountains” doesn’t always mean “snowy,”
especially when you live in the Valley.
SoCal-ers seem to think NorCal is cold
and that we NorCal-ers have not clue about heat.
They’re the only experts.
Often over 100
just to escape our heat;
at least there
there’s something to do.
Even when it’s hot
the lake gets boring.
Still don’t believe me?
Still fooled by the mountains and the word “north?”
Then spend a week in NorCal
in the middle of July with no air conditioning
and watch it get to over 100
just inside the house
and eat cold tomato soup for dinner
and take icy showers every night
and take a drive every day
just to keep cool.
And sleep on the living room floor,
the fan set on high,
’cause your bed’s too hot to sleep in
(You won’t sleep anyway).
Do that and then answer me these:
Still think NorCal is cold?
Still think NorCal-ers don’t know heat?
Didn’t think so.
I just wanted to set the record straight.
Maybe you like it, maybe you don’t. My main point in posting this (aside from highlighting the heat I’m boiling in) is to show you that even after something is published you may not feel too good about it.
Another more famous example is Edgar Allen Poe. I’m not talking about “The Raven”, which he wrote to demonstrate what a “perfect poem” was to him. I’m talking about his ever-popular Gothic horror stories. He thought that they were low-brow and trash. However, he knew that they sold well and he had to pay the bills, so he wrote them and sold them. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.
And sometimes, as in my case, you think your work is great at the time. Then, as you grow as a writer and expand your reading horizons, you look back and are somewhat embarrassed by your old work. You may think that its publication should vindicate the work but, in your eyes, you’re just never sure if it’s actually any good or if someone had a lapse in judgment or took pity on you.
Rather than hiding from your old work, as I once did, you should embrace it. We are the product of everything we’ve ever done and encountered. To hide that would be to hide a part of ourselves, and we shouldn’t ever do that. We don’t have to go back to who we once were, as a person or as a writer, but we should still accept it and be as truthful about it as we are with any other part of our lives.
Any old work you’d like to share? Any stories about publications you wish had never happened? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Also, a moment of shameless plugging:
I’ve started a GoFundMe page to help raise the $9000 we need to replace our central AC unit plus the duct system. If you’d like to chip in–even just $5 would help–or would be kind enough to spread the word, here’s a link to the campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/air-conditioner-for-110degree-heat.
If you’d like to send some work my way instead of/in addition to, please look me up on Fiverr.