The First Poem I Ever Wrote, For National Poetry Day

Yesterday was Teachers’ Day. Today is National Poetry Day. These two things have been interwoven in my life for many years, and both are important to me, so I thought I’d write a quick post about them.

I wrote my first poem when I was twelve, and I wrote it because of a teacher. We were in English class, and I was in a new school in a new country and wasn’t settling in very well. I was looking for a way to distract myself from life, and while I had the school library to keep me going, I wanted something more actively creative as well – a new string to my bow.

We were doing Shakespeare, because they like making you do Shakespeare in English classes in England. The theme was ‘Romeo & Juliet’ (because obviously they’re great role models for 12-13-year-olds *eyeroll*) and we were tasked with writing a poem about young love.

some of the notebooks I've been filling with poems since 2001
some of the notebooks I’ve been filling with poems since 2001

I picked up my pen and wrote the following:

How do I love you?
I cannot say
For you have taken
Your love away.

When we were younger
On love’s light wings
We glided and drifted
Through all other things.

Through space, through the sunset,
Through earth and the stars,
Through barriers, through distance,
Through hate’s iron bars.

We stuck to each other
Through thick and thin
But now you have another,
For you’ve given in.

But here I now promise
I never shall drift
Away from you, my love,
Back into the rift.

Though you are unfaithful
I still love you dear
And my heart is with you
Though you are not here.

I put down my pen and looked up. Everyone else was still writing, except the kids in the back row, who were flicking things across the room and giggling.

The teacher glanced up from her desk and noticed me gazing around. She came over to where I was sitting and asked if I was stuck.

“No, miss,” I said, “I’m finished.”

She read the poem. She asked if I’d written it just then. I said I had. She gave me another topic to write about and stood watching as I put pen to paper and the words flowed.

Granted, the poems I wrote when I was twelve weren’t exactly accomplished. The rhyming structures were simplistic, the wording a bit odd. But she seemed to think I had potential, and she encouraged me to keep writing.

So I did. And throughout my teenage years I continued writing poems and sending them off places, and getting them published.

And now I still write. Sometimes I take a break from it for a while, but it always comes back to just me, a pen and a piece of paper. Poetry flowing. Telling me how life is going, how I’m feeling, what I think of the world. Because sometimes I don’t know that myself until I’ve seen it written down.

I’m glad that poetry entered my life – thank you, Mrs. Holmwood – and I’m glad I’ve kept it up.

If you’ve never tried writing poetry, give it a go! It’s fun! And if you’re not up for that, at least try reading someone else’s. There’s something about words having been arranged in a specific way – about knowing that someone has chosen to precisely place words exactly *there* on a page – that gives them an even more magical quality than most other books, in my opinion.

It’s why I take a notebook and pen everywhere with me, and why I travel with an emergency book of poetry – because what if I end up in a country that somehow doesn’t have poems?!

They all do, though. Because poetry runs through the fabric of human life; and while it’s running, it’s describing. And while it’s describing, it’s transporting and explaining and making magic all at once.

You can read more of my poems on Hello Poetry.

Happy National Poetry Day.

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