I’m Ashamed of my Poetry Collection

Originally published on my previous blog on 31.07.2018

I’ve been thinking a lot about my poetry collection. I’m still so proud to have been published, that anybody would take a shot on me, and holding it in my hands for the first time was just the craziest thing. I still get breathless thinking about it.

But do you know what I feel hardest when I think about Wishing For Birds?

Shame.

Real, hot, horrible shame.

I feel shame because I know it is not a very good collection. I’m not saying this to try to gain sympathy or have people be lovely and try to persuade me otherwise. I mean objectively, it is not a good collection. There are several poems in there I’m really goddamn proud of, but there are a great many more intensely average ones. Some well below average. Some that should never have been published, ever.

This all makes me very ashamed. I put a product out there that I knew at the time was not good enough, and that knowing has only solidified inside me as time goes on. Whenever I see a new review on Goodreads or get another ask saying someone has picked it up, whilst part of me is grateful, the other part is cringing defensively, dreading what they’ll say. Because I know I deserve the kind of criticism I get. (And the weirdest thing is that I don’t get this criticism very often. It should be every review, and instead it’s one in six or seven. My readers are far too good to me.)

I knew nothing about form. I knew very little about lyricism. Occasionally I came up with something good, but then I crushed it between overflowery prose and random line breaks.

I don’t feel this collection is the best possible representation of me as a poet, and it shames me to know that it is the only one out there.

Honestly, my shame is the main reason I struggle with poetry these days. I can’t get a thing down for fear of it being terrible. I’m trying to work my way back up with mixed poetry and prose chapbooks like Come the Devil (there are many more hidden in cupboards), but I don’t know if I’ll ever have the courage to get back out there with poetry.

As I said, I’m so grateful to anyone who’s ever bought Wishing For Birds, to the little press that took a shot with me (I should have done better for them if nobody else), to the reviewers and onlookers who have said such lovely things. You have all been better than I deserve.

All I can do is promise to try harder from here on out. To put out only work that I am proud of to the max. To never, ever allow publication of something I know in my heart is not up to the standards I set for myself.

Here’s to better. I’m aiming for it as hard as I can.

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2 Comments

  1. September 22, 2018 / 6:32 am

    I feel the same way when I look back at things I’ve written a few years ago. It’s like embarassment, it’s cringey. Whenever I read a cliche rhyme I wrote AND posted I want to vomit. But if anything, these feelings of shame and embarassment are active proof that when we are growing as poets, we are growing for the better.

    • elisabethhewer
      Author
      September 22, 2018 / 2:11 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting, Sequoya! I totally agree – if we weren’t improving, we wouldn’t have these feelings. It’s still hard to set that shame aside though! Hopefully all I can do is strive to keep improving and never submit anything I’m not proud of again.

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