Step Back

Posted: March 12, 2010 in Poetry

So I can be pretty hard on myself. That’s just the way it is. I have horrible self-confidence and self-esteem. Slam has been very good to me as it gives me a way to get feedback that I acutally believe since otherwise I would never take compliments at face value.

The flipside is that when I do poorly, I take it pretty hard.

Judging myself based on the results at a slam? Healthy?

Not so much, but at least I KNOW I do it, so I can try to mitigate the emotional swings.

However, scores aren’t the issue today. Last night I went to the Bill Brown 1-2-3 Slam. I had a new poem (Silly Putty) to do in the first round. It didn’t go over as well as I would have liked, but I still made the second round. I know full well that short poems are not my forte, so it is all good.

In the second round I did When I’m Gone and I massacred it. I started to stumble early but recovered. But then I hit a line and stopped dead with NO IDEA what came next. There was support from the crowd but I had lost it completely. Finally I said, “I’m going to let this go. Sorry.” and got off the stage.

(For the record: Living only digitally/With no breath only recall/Stand or fall on someone else’s grace/ )

It is the first time I have ever left a slam stage without finishing my poem.

Yeah. I am feeling awesome now.


CONTEXT: March, 2008

Back in the post for What is Art?, I talked about a show we did at the National Art Gallery. This is the second poem I wrote and performed for that show. This piece was inspired by Pavane by Jean Paul Riopelle.

For a while I have been trying to work out the best way to write about something that is very important to me… battling despair in youth. I had a lot of trouble when I was younger. I know that is true for a lot of people, but that isn’t a message that is at all helpful to those who are suffering. My problem comes in that I know exactly how I would have reacted if some 40-year old dude had told me he understood what I was going through.

Eventually I got some good advice from fellow poet Jill Binder. She said to just tell them what I went through, rather than tell them what they are going through. Good advice but it would be more than a year and a half from here that I implemented it.

The message here is still good, though better if you are standing in front of Pavane when you hear it. Click the link but be aware that seeing it like that instead of the massive canvas where you can actually see the texture of the paint is a whole different thing.

Note: When I performed it, the ‘questions’ section was read in a ’round’ behind me by Danielle K.L. Gregoire, Festrell and Queenie Tirone (and others? I can’t recall…)

    Step Back

Man, people in school have it so easy!
Nothing to worry about
And lives so orderly
With everything laid out for them.
Go to school
Pay attention
Study hard
Get good grades
And go to a good college
Get a good job, get married,
Have 2.1, get rich –
It’s all gravy.
No pressure at all.

But what if my marks aren’t
Good enough?
Who wants to go to college
What about that cute girl
In chemistry?
Are these shoes still cool?
Does this shirt make me
Look fat?
Nobody understands me.
Does this mean I’m gay?
Maybe it would be easier if I wan’t alive.
Should I eat meat?
Will they love me if I am who they want?
It’s cool to pick on the weak,
But what if that is me?


The paint on the canvas has
Peaks and valleys
Colours and hues
But no shapes.
Can there be function without
A field so wide it encompasses
Your whole world.
What does red mean?
Or black?
What does a ridge of paint
Say to me?

And then I step back.
I can see colours
Meeting one another.
I can see a ridge
Give way to a valley.

I step back again
And again.
There are patterns
I couldn’t see

I may not know what
They mean,
But they are there.
Colours that move in
Waves, flowing across
A static sea.
The paint ebbs and flows
Along unseen pathways
Until I know that a pebble
Dropped in this ocean
Will twirl the dance of
Light and dark in a
Whole new direction.

There are strings tying everything
Cause and effect,
Action and reaction.
There is no chaos,
Only patterns on such a large scale
That they are not discernible to
Close examination.

There is purpose in mayhem.
You may not understand what it is, but it’s
There to discover and the journey
Is worth more than the destination.
Don’t hurry to the reward thinking
That a goal is all that is worth having.

The confusion, pain, love, madness –
That is the GOOD STUFF!

And when it gets to be too much,
Step back and look again.


Next up is a poem I wrote while helping Danielle at one of her poetry workshops. The secret word is: walrus.

  1. […] to let them know it gets better – how could I do that? I tried a little bit with I Wanna and Step Back, but I wasn’t […]

  2. […] was a lot of fun. The pieces I did were Step Back and What is […]

  3. […] by BGL. The other was ‘Pavane’ by Jen Paul Riopelle. The poem I wrote was called Step Back and the sentiment in it matches what I feel about this book at times. Kind […]

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