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rebuilding of a young mad poet (revised)

by niteowl


i.

when i was younger and bold as mars,
i danced on the head of a pin,
words dripping from my scrambled-egg mind
like they meant more than the rain.

"don't touch the sun, you'll only burn"
they warned. i listened instead
to the angels calling me
to fly, fly, fly
into glittering fantasies
and vapor dreams of heaven.

but in ferocious extremes,
my life was claimed by forces from beyond,
and i died on the ides of march.
ii.

i thought i was headed to heaven,
but now i'm told that the angels lied.

the sparrows in the oak tree
try to sing me to sleep,
but if i sleep, i will forget
the words that built up inside of me
like snow in the winter.

i imagine the walls are fields of lavender,
the tiles are grass and dirt,
and the pills are marigolds and orchids,
all growing under the sunshine of fluorescent lights.

as i fall out of heaven,
i wonder which angels betrayed me.

my mind is still dancing in the sky
when the birds sing farewell
to send me back into reality.

iii.

Leaving is easy--
it's coming back that's hard.

as i walk home, it is a battle
between my body and the next step.

i can only fight
when someone suggests
i might be more than worthless.

my map is all wrong,
and i do not want to be part of the universe
as long as i am in it.

iv.

i want to believe
that god or the planets or something
watches over me
and cares about my fate.

but i know better,
for all i can offer
are unfinished stories
and words that never say anything right.

love is just another symptom;
my world revolves around nothing.

v.

i cycle over and over
between sleepless nights
and trans-siberian railways of thought
(oh body, please be tired, it's not that hard)
and dreams of death that startle me awake
and make me hate myself for breathing.
(oh brain, please re-balance, is that so hard?)

i only succeed at giving up
or exploding like an alkali metal
dropped in water.

vi.

in the bitter light of day,
my body rebuilds
from the pieces broken by lightning.

it hurts to know that i have lost
a million fragments
to the rain that reminds me
that spring is here.

but maybe the pain means i'm healing,
for we can't rise again until we die.

vii.

after all the cycles of flying and falling,
i am aching, worn, scared.
but in the end, i wake up
in spite of my anxieties
and learn to love myself more
with every breath.

i can't look back and see perfection,
the great journey of my youthful dreams,
but i am here today,
and for now, all is well.



A/N: Revised from https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/niteowl/rebuilding-of-a-young-mad-poet-146454. Hopefully this draft is a little more cohesive and the weirdness a bit more manageable.


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Tue Mar 31, 2020 11:23 am
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Gravitem wrote a review...



I will make this as short as possible for thy convenience, honourable poet!

I loved this poem. A very well cluster of organized ideas that seemed all like russian dolls with the amount of interpretations as vast as a black hole sucking up light.

I found the beauty of your poem well in comparision to the beauty I'd find if it were possible to retireve all beauty that has ever been destroyed. Pardon the vague nature of this review but the long and the short of it is, that your efforts in making this poem are revealed in every line I've read.

Of course, it isn't evident like you'd find a black spot on a parchment that is white. But on analyzing each line, I see a well polished peice and I also see that in your processes of drafting you have left the main ideas of the poem unhindered.

My favourite parts were;

"i only succeed at giving up
or exploding like an alkali metal
dropped in water."

and

"i can't look back and see perfection,
the great journey of my youthful dreams,
but i am here today,
and for now, all is well."

Of course, both these lines were conclusions to verses - one of them being the concluding of the poem itself. You have an excellent style of concluding and by itself has made this poem a mind complexing piece of writing. Of course your starts and continuations are also on a different level. For example,
"scrambled-egg mind" you say and I assume you mean a broken up or confused mind. This was the way I interpreted this part and I couldn't help but relate to it.

I really loved your writing and it makes me love the decision of joining YWS as your poem are among the lot - of writing - that I have read and loved and have been inspired by.

Please keep writing, and I hope you master your talent on the way.




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Fri Mar 27, 2020 3:31 am
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niteowl says...



As promised, my reply to @Em16's excellent points.

Specific Comments:
Section 1, Stanza 1, Line 3: I was a little confused by the phrase “scrambled-egg mind”. It just seems really weird. What do you mean this phrase? Is there another comparison that would work?
-Hm...perhaps it doesn't actually fit. I originally built this poem on a bunch of fragments from NaPo poems past. I found this line in a 2008 poem and loved it, but maybe it's not right. This part is supposed to describe the manic mind, something all scrambled and scattered and senseless and yet the words just keep coming.

Section 1, Stanza 2, Line 3: Why does the speaker die on “the ides of march”? That comparison makes me think of Julius Caesar, and I don’t think this poem is about a political assassination. Did the speaker experience a traumatic experience on March 15? Is it a connection back to the first line of the poem, where the speaker says, “when i was younger and bold as mars”, since March is the month of Mars?

I actually did get hospitalized on the Ides of March. I remember the nurse asking me if I knew what day it was (they ask you things like your name and date/year to see how lucid you are), and when I realized it was the 15th, I thought it was hilarious that the world (well my world anyway) was ending on that date. I legit didn't realize the tie back to "young and bold as mars" (different fragment from a different poem), but I love that connection.

Section 3: I wish there was more detail in this stanza. I’d like to know more about the journey home, and about how it made the speaker feel. You have a lot of beautiful imagery in section 2, and I think you should apply some of that imagery to section 3.

Hm...you have a good point here. Weirdly enough, I think this bit is less literal than section 2, because even though section 2 is more out there, it's grounded in the very real experience of me in the hospital. This section is less about the literal journey home and more of the intermittent depression. Perhaps I need a transition section from the sort of high of being released and feeling like I had this under control to realizing I very much did not have this under control. But maybe that would make the poem too long, I don't know.


Section 4, Stanza 3: This is an interesting idea. Love is devalued as just another “symptom” of illness. Could you elaborate on this? Why does the speaker think love is just a “symptom”? Did they have an experience with a loved one that scarred them?

Oh goodness, that line could be a poem all by itself. Maybe I should axe it and give it its own poem. Basically, I have this tendency to "fall in love" when I'm manic, but it's more like this lust-fueled obsession than actual love. So when I like someone, I don't know if I actually like them or if it's just the mania talking.

Section 5, Stanza 1, Line 3: I was a little confused by the reference to “trans-siberian railways”. I get what you’re saying, that the speakers thoughts are long and complicated, but I didn’t know why you chose to use “trans-siberian railways”. “Trans-siberian railways” have connotations (Russia, snow) that don’t necessarily fit in the rest of the stanza.

Hm...didn't think of the additional connotations. This bit is from a fragment I wrote when I was manic "Mania is like the f***ing Trans-Siberian Railway of trains of thought". Basically, when I'm manic, my mind tends to get into this weird obsessive thought pattern that's light years away from what I'm supposed to be thinking about. Maybe there's a different metaphor that would make sense. I'll have to think about that one.

Section 5, Stanza 2: I don’t really understand what you’re saying here, probably because I’ve never seen an alkali metal dropped in water. I don’t think many people will understand what you mean by “alkali metal dropped in water”, so I would suggest changing it.

Okay, so quick chemistry lesson here. Alkali metals are the first column of the periodic table (sodium, potassium, etc). They're highly reactive and explode in water, as you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uixxJtJPVXk. I thought this was well-known because it's covered in high school (or even middle school) chemistry. Plus as a former chemist, I love a good science reference, so it stays. :P

Section 6, Stanza 2: You lost me with this comparison. The first part of the stanza is pretty sad, deploring the pieces lost. But then it says the pieces have been lost to the rain of spring, which I would think is a good thing. Spring would represent recovery. I was just unsure whether the tone of this stanza was lamenting or celebrating. I would suggest breaking it up into two separate stanzas to make the distinction clearer.

Hm...so you know how you said Section 3 felt like it was missing something? Maybe this bit would make more sense there. Like when I got out of the hospital, it was April and I was trying to remember it was spring, but I still felt so confused and lost and unsure of the future. If you look at the first draft (see sidebar since the link above doesn't work), you can tell there was a lot of cut and paste to move things around. Perhaps I need to do that some more.

Section 6, Stanza 2: I like that you return here to the “youthful dreams” and “glittering fantasies” mentioned in stanza 1. It’s a very powerful idea, that life isn’t exactly what you expect, but nonetheless “all is well”. However, I still felt like there was something missing in the last stanza. It didn’t tie together the way I thought it would. It just felt like there was some symbolic or metaphorical element that was missing. One possibility would be to mention something about the angels of sections 1 and 2, and how they are now on the speaker’s side, or at least not opposed to them anymore.

Hm...I actually had the angels metaphor more heavily in the first draft to try to tie the sections together, but when I divided into smaller sections, I dropped it because it felt forced. I do like the idea of bringing them back in at the end. I do agree that there is something missing in this section, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to fix it.

Thank you for all the comments! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I will definitely keep your suggestions in mind when I'm ready to revisit this. :D




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Tue Mar 24, 2020 6:01 pm
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Em16 wrote a review...



Specific Comments:
Section 1, Stanza 1, Line 3: I was a little confused by the phrase “scrambled-egg mind”. It just seems really weird. What do you mean this phrase? Is there another comparison that would work?
Section 1, Stanza 2, Line 3: Why does the speaker die on “the ides of march”? That comparison makes me think of Julius Caesar, and I don’t think this poem is about a political assassination. Did the speaker experience a traumatic experience on March 15? Is it a connection back to the first line of the poem, where the speaker says, “when i was younger and bold as mars”, since March is the month of Mars?
Section 2, Stanza 2: I love this stanza. The descriptions here are amazing. I especially like the comparison of words to “snow in winter”. That’s a really clear description, and it helps me imagine the mental state of the speaker.
Section 2, Stanza 3: I love how casually you mention “pills”. You don’t make a big deal out of it, but it subtly changes the meaning of the poem.
Section 3: I wish there was more detail in this stanza. I’d like to know more about the journey home, and about how it made the speaker feel. You have a lot of beautiful imagery in section 2, and I think you should apply some of that imagery to section 3.
Section 4, Stanza 3: This is an interesting idea. Love is devalued as just another “symptom” of illness. Could you elaborate on this? Why does the speaker think love is just a “symptom”? Did they have an experience with a loved one that scarred them?
Section 5, Stanza 1, Line 3: I was a little confused by the reference to “trans-siberian railways”. I get what you’re saying, that the speakers thoughts are long and complicated, but I didn’t know why you chose to use “trans-siberian railways”. “Trans-siberian railways” have connotations (Russia, snow) that don’t necessarily fit in the rest of the stanza.
Section 5, Stanza 1, Lines 4&7: I like the repeated exhortations to your brain. It lends a sense of urgency and failure to the poem.
Section 5, Stanza 2: I don’t really understand what you’re saying here, probably because I’ve never seen an alkali metal dropped in water. I don’t think many people will understand what you mean by “alkali metal dropped in water”, so I would suggest changing it.
Section 6, Stanza 2: You lost me with this comparison. The first part of the stanza is pretty sad, deploring the pieces lost. But then it says the pieces have been lost to the rain of spring, which I would think is a good thing. Spring would represent recovery. I was just unsure whether the tone of this stanza was lamenting or celebrating. I would suggest breaking it up into two separate stanzas to make the distinction clearer.
Section 6, Stanza 2: I like that you return here to the “youthful dreams” and “glittering fantasies” mentioned in stanza 1. It’s a very powerful idea, that life isn’t exactly what you expect, but nonetheless “all is well”. However, I still felt like there was something missing in the last stanza. It didn’t tie together the way I thought it would. It just felt like there was some symbolic or metaphorical element that was missing. One possibility would be to mention something about the angels of sections 1 and 2, and how they are now on the speaker’s side, or at least not opposed to them anymore.

General Comments!
This was really good! I was impressed by the scope and the length of the poem and the way you manage to navigate a lot of topics and ideas. I had a really strong sense of imagery and theme in the first few sections. However, I felt it got a little lost in some of the later sections. You started to rely on telling a little more than showing, and so the poem lost some of its potency. Overall, though, great job! It was a little weird, but the weirdness was what made it so powerful.




niteowl says...


Thanks for the review! It's kind of hard to respond to a long review like this in this tiny text box, so I'll go ahead and comment up above. :D



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Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:52 pm
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StudentAH wrote a review...



Oh my god. I... wow. I love this. I can relate.

This is my take on the poem:

Its so difficult when you're young and have this burning passion, whether its for someone or something. Or both. For a life you really really want. You think fate is tying you to that thing, so you follow it. When people tell you not to, you think they just don't understand. Your passion is so fierce, you think "how could I be wrong? With this much passion I can achieve it!" You fly, fly, fly, not realizing that the heart isn't the only thing that's supposed to lead you.

Because once you get there, eventually it crumbles. Your dream just didn't work out. And you almost feel like fate lied to you.

Eventually you realize the others were right. You can't just chase with your heart, you also just need to navigate this confusing life that doesn't always line up with your emotions. Sometimes when we are raised in a household with very little communication, we never build the skill to recognize that other people feel differently from us. Thus we see the world as only ours. Just because you want something, doesn't mean its going to happen. There's a billion other people around. Its not fate, its all about choices.

But you desperately wish God had a plan for you. Its so hard to believe that you're just strewn about with nothing. But you look at all your broken hopes, all your re-attempts to attain all these different dreams, and they end the same way every time:

"for all i can offer
are unfinished stories
and words that never say anything right."

Interestingly enough, the rest of the poem elludes me. And perhaps its because I'm in the stage right now, in the middle, and I can't comprehend the rest. I can only understand it to a degree, because I have not yet healed myself.

I wonder what kinds of things you may have gone through. It seems you have pursued a dream and finally realized it wasn't right, but you built yourself back up again and you're ready for another one. But perhaps with more self love, you won't make the same mistake again.

Overall, wonderful poem. Some of it was a little confusing, yes, but I think all the imagery was for you to express yourself in how that felt.




niteowl says...


Thanks for the review! I like the way you were able to apply this to your own experiences, even though this was a very personal poem for me about my journey with mental illness and recovery. Some bits are, I think , very specific to my experience, which might be why they're confusing. Thanks again! :D



StudentAH says...


I can totally understand that; That's kind of something I see in my own writing. Some people might not get it but its because only I would get it XD

May you be well on your journey :)



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Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:16 am
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theescaper020 says...



Your poetry is amazing.The idea of the story is quite connecting to the minds of the readers.




niteowl says...


Thank you! :D




See, we could have been called The Shoes.
— Paul McCartney