In the past 4 decades, writing poetry has always been a way for me to explore my creative side but it was also something I did to help me express my feelings (mainly to myself) – especially during my younger years.
My poems ranged from short rhymes to long stories with many stanzas and although I invariably tried to make them as interesting as possible via patterns or rhythm, entertainment was not the primary goal.
When formulating a poem it often forces oneself to consider the subject matter from multiple angles and this practice can be extremely therapeutic helping to cope when clarity of mind is waining particularly when one feels sad or stressed. Reading or writing poetry can also be a distraction or time passer under various circumstances and it's quite amazing how fast time can go by when you're deep diving into creative thought.
I collected my poems in an old black leather folder/diary with my initials MHV stamped in gold down the bottom right-hand corner. I received this book as a gift from my mother on my Confirmation Day (I had a Lutheran Church upbringing). The poems were a collection of handwritten pieces mostly on different types of paper including green Army message notebook (the small grid type) which I used in the field during my military service on exercises or operations.
As I got older I wrote less poetry. Hardly anything in the last 20 years… Perhaps getting married, having children, changing careers, developing a business, and life, in general, didn't give me enough spare time to quietly ponder and realise my thoughts onto paper.
Or, perhaps I just was content enough in my life that poetry wasn't needed as much.
Nevertheless, my own writing of poetry was still something I recalled fondly and about 12 months ago I decided to dust off my old handwritten leather poetry book and transcribe them to digital for safekeeping and possibly publishing online.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find my poetry book and after exhaustive searching, it seems all the handwritten poems that I had collected over the years must have been lost during a house move or just inadvertently thrown out. The folder was lost and with that, some of my deepest thoughts were gone forever too. [Edit – I found it! Details here]
Yes, it is a shame but I'm not going to cry over them because after all they were written for me, to begin with, and they served a special purpose at the time which really isn't needed anymore. I don't think so, anyway, at least, now that I've become more pragmatic and mature.
However, I do recall one of the poems (out of the lost collection) and it was my favourite so I thought I would recite it for you here on my blog and I hope you like it.
I wrote this poem whilst I was going through basic recruit training for the Army at Kapooka the "Home of the Soldier" in April 1987 – I had just turned 18 years old.
Buckles and boots
Your living hell…
by (Recruit) Mark Valencia
At the time, I had placed immense pressure on myself to make it through basic recruit training because a career in the Army meant everything to me. I had no backup plan.
Practically a high school drop out with one of the lowest TE scores in the State of Queensland, I set my heart on joining the Army in my early teens and this is all I ever wanted to do (at that stage).
The motivation for writing this poem came after I was punched in the chest by one of my Platoon Section Commanders who berated me for having a speck of dust on my bayonet during a snap room inspection. The force of the punch made the back of my head bounce against the brick hallway wall I was standing at attention against.
I never could or did find the "speck of dust" on my bayonet that this Corporal referred to, but I accepted my punishment of 1-day restriction of privileges (plus a consequently sore chest and head).
Hence the last line of the poem "Welcome to your living hell…"