A critic in time

Dec 26, 2023 | Posts

Today I have been working on my website for a couple of hours. Even though the site is largely finished, there are still some details to be finessed and some content to be added.

A lot of words

Focussing on details for half an hour of so, I found it a tedious job, spellchecking, checking grammar, and so I switched to adding content. It’s in the Words section that the greatest amount of content needs to be added still. I’ve written quite a bit, when I was younger, prose, poetry, scripts & plays, stream of consciousness blogs. I created the scripts, poetry and blog sections on the site a while back, with the (historical) blog and scripts sections already completed, since these were finite in volume, and so were relatively easy to finish. The poetry section I had started working on, but I am far from finished, since I have written a lot of poems.

Luckily I have created a relatively organized digital archive of sorts for my poetry on Google Drive, so my main task is to go through each poem, there are about 350 in total, decide whether I want to include them on the site, copy the poem, make a post, paste, add the title and publish. Seems straightforward enough, right? Repetitive and again, a bit tedious, maybe, but not particularly hard to do. Except, deciding whether or not to include a poem is a bit more involved than I had anticipated at first.

The alcove

See, I was young when I wrote the bulk of these. I was in my early 20’s and I kept writing into my early 30’s. I wasn’t always sober when I wrote. I used to often write in a club in Nijmegen, called Diogenes. An alternative student organization, with an emphasis on alternative, rather than on student, it was open 365 days a year from early evening, if there was a cultural activity, until early in the morning, 6 am at the latest. There was an upper venue on the groundfloor, with a stage (where I have performed my poetry, music and theatrical creations many times), a large dancefloor, a large bar, but most of my time was spent in the basement, where there was a small dancefloor, a smaller bar, and all the way in the back, an alcove.

The photo in the header is the alcove where I used to write. There was no bow of branches normally, I guess they decorated it for a special occasion in this photo. I did not take these photos, I don’t know who did. They are taken from the Diogenes Facebook page.

The alcove was built into the wall, in a half circle, with a round standing table placed inside of it and tall barstools around the table. If you sat at the back, in the middle of the alcove at the table, you’d have the wall at your back, and the entire basement in front of you. A lookout spot almost. This was my spot. If I could, each night I would claim this spot and not move from it all night, except to order drinks, take a piss or shake my ass on the dancefloor. I had the table in front of me, between me and the rest of the basement and that table got used quite a bit.

I don’t think I brought paper with me, I may have done a couple of times, but I mostly remember using the backs of bearcoasters to write upon. At the end of the night I would have a stack of coasters in my pocket, with barely legible handwriting, getting progressively illegible as the THC- and alcohol levels in my blood rose during the night. So I sat there, in my alcove at the back of the venue, looking at the world, or you know, a basement filled with students in the early 00’s, feeling my feelings, thinking my thoughts, messing up my consciousness with substances. And writing whatever came to mind.

Critiquing myself

Back to the present, I’m in my late 40’s now, and I find myself in the strange position to have to curate the works of that young poet, well, I don’t know if I feel comfortable calling myself, or him, a poet, but for lack of a word more suited to my self-image, let’s go with that. Reading these poems is strange. Not in the least because it brings back memories, but stranger still, sometimes it doesn’t. There are poems I don’t recall writing. The meaning of the words sometimes is not clear to me at all, even though the language is quite trivial. Many of these are just bad poetry. They go in the NO folder. Others are classics, written in a moment of inspiration, with the divine wordmonster shooting its’ inspiration straight into my brain and into my fingers. Ok, I’m slightly exaggerating, but there is some really good stuff in there too. These go on the site and into the DONE folder.

Where it gets a bit strange is the big pile inbetween the obvious trash and the glowing golden nuggets of poetic genius. I feel strange, being myself a later version of this author, critiquing my own work, sometimes even editing some lines to make them fit better in the flow of the poem, or make them make me cringe less hard. I feel the gulf of time between him (me) and me, and all that that entails. The awareness of the passing of the years. The remembrance of the moments of joy, frustration, elation, lust, camaraderie, inebriation, already so long ago now. So remote. The drive to write, the need, the urge, the desperation to get some of what was going through my mind onto paper, or beercoasters, as was the case. I still feel some of that. Not as urgently or intensely, because I’ve become jaded and more realistic, and lazy and… Not the time!

This, doing this today, makes me feel like a more experienced, seasoned professional, going through the work of a young talent, whose work is hit and miss, having to be strict in my rejection of bad poetry, but fair and yielding to some of this youthful experimentation and these all too sincere feelings, trying not to be too embarrassed by it, and embracing it as true expression of who I once was. I’m glad he wrote. I’m glad I wrote. I should write again. As it stands, I’m not at all done selecting and adding all the poems. I’ll have many opportunities yet to look back, critique myself and hopefully, embrace that young poet’s words.

If you care to, go read some poems by a young poet, he would appreciate it!



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A critic in time

Today I spent some time selecting poems I wrote in my early 20’s for the website. It feels strange to critique myself and my poetry 20-some years later.

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