My First Journal (And Why I Won’t Burn It)

I read an article, or conversation, in the last issue of Poets and Writers I received. It was three poets discussing the freedom of destroying old journals and why they had destroyed their own. As I read the article, I felt so sad. I was sad because they had destroyed all their keepsakes from another age, and I was even sadder because I felt that I had to hang on to mine to remember. I don’t go back to them often, I’m not some disturbed narcissist with nothing better to do than read old journals, but I like knowing they are there, that I have a record of my life outside of Facebook or Instagram. They are tangible and knowing they are there comforts me when I feel like the rest of my life is fleeting. It’s this collection that allows me to put hand and eye on my very first works as a writer.

Last week I wrote about my overcrowded bookshelf. Along with the weird books I have not read (or I am afraid to read) I have shelves full of old journals that go back to the 1st or 2nd grade. I started actively saving them after I read Anne Frank, because I wanted to leave something behind if and when I died. I thought that maybe I, too, could become posthumously famous.

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A lot of my journals around that time are written for an outside audience. Because of this, they are bizarre in their notations of historical moments, dates, names and places. It took a long time to grow out of thinking that the public was going to one day read what I was writing privately. Once I did, I was well past puberty and just complaining a lot. Thankfully, my current journals are almost exactly the same in content with the first one I kept when I was 7 or 8: they are solely for my work.

To the right is my very first journal. My mother bought it for me after my teacher told her that I had a way with words and I told her that I thought writing was fun. At some point I went through some anti-poetry phase and crossed out my cover, but if you look beneath the marker it reads: “My Poetry Book by Amanda Kusek”. I like remembering that the reason I have tortured myself for years with pens and pencils and keyboards is because I once thought it was fun. (And sometimes still do.) For the first few years I only wrote poetry. My very first recorded poem is called “Sunshine”.

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Every summer I
go outside
the sunshine
it is so beautiful
when it shines
in my eye.
I swing and
listen to the
birds even they
shine somehow.

My mother served as my very first editor, teaching me how to spell along the way, and my father was my first fan, hanging favorites in his office at work. I almost wonder if I could convince both of them to reclaim their roles and read some of the much dryer pieces I’m working on, but their roles have changed just my writing has. I just interviewed my father for an essay, so I can say he now serves as my personal historian, filling in spots in my memory.

My poems stay somewhat Robert Frost-like (flowers, birds, nature, weather) until my mother introduces me to Emily Dickinson and I am then obsessed with the macabre. The last poem is written in a hurry and features death as a grand theme.  Please see my obvious nod to “A Bird, came down the Walk” below.
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Blackbird Blackbird look at your
self don’t cross the road don’t

Blackbird Blackbird look at your
self don’t eat that worm. Ick.

Blackbird Blackbird don’t cross the road
Blackbird Blackbird now I know
your in heaven!

It may not be a complete Wednesday Adams moment, but it’s still pretty bleak for a kid. I’ve always been interested in the dark, the weird, and the creepy. There’s something there, something about acknowledging what we were always told not to, that thrills me.

Even though little Amanda wanted these posted in a museum somewhere for other young girls to admire, this blog post will have to do. She always wanted to be published and never dreamed of a tool that would one day exist for her to do it on her own.

Gone are my poems from my father’s office and my school bulletin board, but here they may be read by the trolls of the internet. Decent trade. I was hurt that those poets were able to burn their journals and never look back. It first made me feel deficient for hanging on to mine, but just like my bookshelf, I’ve realized that there are some things I’m not ready to part with and they’re the things that make me freaky and weird.

Despite this post being slightly navel gaze-y, I am feeling invigorated to write without fear and with a jar of gold glitter nearby. Maybe I can try one about the sun again.

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