- By Allen Jesson
- Published 03/23/2008
When I look back at my life and see how it has changed in the last ten years, I, for one, can see the power in poetry (and the enormous power that is released when someone follows their dreams). Ten years ago, I was the typically lost 35 year old. I had a young family to raise and was struggling to hold down a high-powered job in the logistics industry. The pay was good and I worked very hard. I’d come home at night very weary but I still had trouble sleeping. My addictions (to gambling, nicotine and alcohol) were increasing in magnitude and my soul was becoming less than happy with the direction my life was taking. Sure, I had the nice house, attractive wife and beautiful children, high-paying job, good holidays and everything else that goes with a “successful” career. But I was not happy. In truth, I was stressed to buggery and on Monday mornings my heart was heavy. Friday nights I felt better but the week had taken it’s toll and it was not until Sunday afternoon that I started to feel “normal” once again, but then the whole weekly cycle would start all over again … And then things started to change, and all it took was one poem. At school I found writing poetry remarkably easy. I was always quite creative growing up but I think most kids are. As you know, no one can make a living out of poetry :o) so that is why I found a career in logistics. As a consequence I did not write again for 20 years. At a management course we were encouraged to get in touch with our artistic side. That inspired “What If?” a few months later, the rest followed. For me, this period demonstrated the absolute life changing power of poetry. For the record, this was it, a questioning look at those middle-aged tremors that I was experiencing. What If ? What if my hair falls out and I end up bald as a coot? What if I do not make budget and he hires a smarter suit? What if I get so fat, I can no longer touch my toes? What if my wife left me, for a younger man she chose? What if my boy is gay and likes the look of a bum? What if my girl is also that way and never becomes a Mum? What if I saw my doctor? And he said “You have got the big C”, and what if I was run over, walking out of his surgery? What if they pressed the button, on every mortal soul? What if there was hell on earth, when Bush played his final role? What if there is no heaven and it’s all been a big bluff? What if there is a heaven and I was not good enough? What if it’s all been for nothing, but to procreate? Well, I have had such a lovely time, I will just put my trust in fate … A few months prior to writing this I’d put myself on a leadership course, where I had learned many skills to get me through my increasingly hectic days. They included time and stress management, negotiation, team building etc. Most importantly, in a revealing couple of days they got us to question ourselves, and I mean really question ourselves. Who are you? Where are you going? What are you really good at? What are your artistic leanings? It was that last question that reawakened the poet and artist within me. I remembered at school being quite handy at putting a rhyme or two together, but once the homework assignment had finished I quickly put the poetic pen down. In truth, I did not pick it up for another twenty years and ‘What If?’ was the result. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised with the result but I had no idea I had taken the stopper out of the bottle, the bottle that contained over 1,000 poems (written in the next 10 years). I showed that poem to a few friends and family and was surprised by the encouragement I received. So much so, that I started to get the pen out more often and probably had about 30 poems down by the end of that first year. They were generally about life. I’d pick up a few ideas and then start to create a story poem around it. But as most budding poets can experience (sooner or later) I found that I was running out of things to say. Call it writer’s block, call it lack of inspiration, call it what you will, it stopped me writing. It was at this time I was the least productive (at least in terms of writing) and I got on with my corporate life. A Soldiers Fortune “… At the end of a Summers day, all too soon, the bugler sadly blows, it is a mournful tune, it’s too sad and hopelessly, it is a melody that everybody knows. The notes hang on in the air so still, as the tears roll down a caring face, for they too wish they were born for a different reason, they too wish they were born in another place.
And the memory of
the tune lives on, and like a brave soldier, it can never truly die, but it too leaves an empty feeling, and a simple wish for a time gone by …” A couple of job changes led me to a quieter backwater, more money and less stress. I thought I’d got it made but there was still this restlessness within me, I guess my soul was still speaking (but I was not listening). I’d still occasionally write but there was no real drive. No need. But I was still restless within. In 1997 I started to recognize the power that the Internet was gathering and I thought this was something I should know about. So I purchased a book “How to build a web-site in less than 24 hours” and THREE MONTHS later I had my first (very shaky) web-site built. For no other reason than to populate the site with some sort of content I started to put my poems on the web. Of course, I expected thousands of visitors to come by and find me (and I did not really know what to expect after that). But reality is so often different to wild expectation. After a couple of months and some serious cobwebs on my hit counter I realized I still had a lot to learn. However, my dreams were starting to unfold because I had found two things that I really enjoyed doing. One, I really enjoyed writing poetry. Two, I also liked being involved with the web. However, there appeared no possible pathway from a lucrative corporate job (with big bills and an even bigger mortgage) to becoming someone who really enjoyed his day to day existence, doing what he loved. Still, who knows the power of dreams? Dreams create thought, thought generates action, action creates dreams. If you do not dream, you can’t create them, or to take a line from a Harry Chapin song: “If you only dream when you’re asleep, how on earth can those dreams come true?” So, with no genuine long-term objectives, I started to research what is called “Search Engine Positioning” or in layman’s terms; “how do you get to the top of the results when someone types in “anniversary poem” into Google?” I figured that if I could find some answers here then at least I could get some visitors to my site. At about the same time I also struck on the idea of writing poems for other people. I’d already written a few for friends and family for their weddings and birthdays so I thought the idea at least had some merit. Of course, I had no intention of charging for my services but I thought I would at least ask them to pledge something to their favourite charity. The other purely selfish motive here was to get my site listed on the “Free” sites, those sites (which were very popular in the early days of the Internet) who offered links to sites where you could get things for “free”. Miracle Child “… There was definitely a presence in that room, and maybe you had an unseen helping hand, but it was your presence of mind that saved the day, when things did not exactly go as planned. January 8th will always be a magical day, because you not only saved a son, we gained a lifelong friend, and I will be eternally grateful to you, until my journey’s end. And the photo of you and Tyler, tells the story without the need of narration; Tyler looking at you with gratitude, and what can only be described as admiration. I want to thank you Doctor Mattson, for not only your remarkable daring, but I want to thank you for being the man that you are, personable, loving and very caring …” As luck would have it (or was it destiny, that powerful force that gets unleashed when someone follows their dreams?) I got accepted by one of the most popular free sites on the web. I was literally flooded with “orders” overnight. I’ll always remember that feeling, SOMEONE wants my work. It did not matter that I was not being paid, because all those people gave me the one thing that I needed – PRACTICE. Over time, I also built confidence in my ability as a poet. Now when I look back at some of that early work, I must admit it was not very good. But I was learning my trade, customers got something for nothing (I never had a system to make sure they followed through with their pledge) and things had started to happen. Now, I was not following a grand plan and I was trying to fit all this in while holding down a 60-70 hour a week job and still trying to make time for family and friends. That was a strain, but nevertheless, I still felt I was on the right path. It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work and determination. In truth, there a lot of good and great poets out there but, sadly, poetry is rarely commercially valued. It takes more than just words to get recognized. In my case, it was just effort. Lots of it. There was also a degree of stubbornness involved, especially when my friends and family told me it couldn’t be done.
I used that pessimism as “wind in my sails”. There were also some key moments when I thought it was all too hard and I was about to give up. It was then that someone came along and said the right thing and that got me going again. There are a few people who I owe particular thanks to and they know who they are. Never underestimate the power of commitment too, it seems at times I have had some “unseen” helping hands.