On Juvenilia: A Decade of Short Writing

OUAM cover
Sooo deep… and look at that font!

Clearly I had yet to become a fan of Tolkien, but what strikes me is that a decade prior to co-founding a magazine of literary brevity I had already rallied to concision.

Just over a decade ago, a creative, ambitious, and “super deep” adolescent named Jordan Bolay self-published a book of poetry titled Once Upon a Mind. It’s about as abstract, angsty, and melodramatically poetic as the title suggests (complete with randomly capitalized nouns onto which I was trying to impose deeper meaning, a rejection of sensible punctuation, and a proto-hipster refusal to capitalize the pronoun “I”). I’d all but forgotten about the book until recently, when some friends busted out their copy at a house party, showed it to my partner, and had her read from it as they recorded a video, which they promptly sent to me so that I might experience the spectacle despite being in another province at the time.

A few weeks later I came across it again, this time in the archives of my hometown’s newspaper, which had written an article promoting the book’s launch (I won’t bore you with the odd chain of events and happenstance that lead to this rediscovery). It’s through this article that I realized I had just missed the publication’s 10th anniversary and that the date nearly coincided with antilang.’s inaugural issue launch. More to my delight, I read that when asked why I chose poetry as my medium, I had responded: “You write simply with a small amount of really powerful descriptive words. My favourite thing about poetry is you create a lot of imagery without writing 20 pages.”

Clearly I had yet to become a fan of Tolkien, but what strikes me is that a decade prior to co-founding a magazine of literary brevity I had already rallied to concision. Perhaps not to good writing, but to short writing. I was two-thirds of the way there, and while it took me a decade to find good short writing in others, I’m still not sure I’ve made it the last third of the way myself (I have, for instance, yet to publish another book, save in the role as co-editor of antilang.).

I leave you now, in an act of ultimate bravery (or perhaps just incurable folly), with a piece of juvenilia from Once Upon a Mind (I notice now that this short poem is very Kroetschian, another delightful surprise as Kroetsch is one of the subjects of my ongoing dissertation research):

As i wrote

As i wrote
more and more
i came to realize
two things
Firstly
that a lot of my poems
can hardly be
considered poetry
And secondly
that i like them
a lot better that way

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