Poetism Commentary: "Accepting Denial"

The poem in question: Accepting Denial

This is the last in the series of poems coming from assignments in my freshman English class. Unlike Aftermath and Achievment, I remember the details of the assignment leading to Accepting Denial.

Each member of the class was given five note cards with a word on them, and we were to take those words and incorporate them into our poem. I distinctly remember wanting something “paradoxical,” and I imagine this was because I was still taken with Thomas Covenant and all the discussion of the “paradox of white gold” found within. I remember mentioning the desire for paradox to Mr. Williams, and I also remember a note scribbled from him on my final copy: “I like the paradoxical title!” I suspect he was just humoring me, but I guess we’ll never know for sure.

I am going to dig around some more for the original copy of this poem, because I think some of the wording changed a few years later as I went through a revisionism period. I also want to see if I can find out what my five words were, because I can’t remember, and that bothers me. My best guess is that they included some form of “tattered,” “loathed,” and “denial.”

Now, thus far in my commentaries, I haven’t really touched on what the poems were about. This one, fairly obviously I would imagine, is about being a teenager (or not, but I was teen-age when I wrote this, though it isn’t autobiographical), feeling like you don’t belong, and trying to cover up who you really are to fit in. Of course, often when people do that, others can see right through them, and the acceptance-seekers end up feeling even more unbelonging. In this way, it is also hilarious that the poem was written on Valentine’s Day.

So, they feel like they have “little to lose,” by pretending, but in reality have even “less to gain.” One unforunate part of this poem, though, is that they are “Loathed by many, / Rejected outright by all, save one.” It makes more sense to me now for it to read the other way around: “Rejected outright by many, / Loathed by all, save one.” It seems more fitting that everyone would loathe these people (though “loathe” seems too strong a word), but that there would be some who exercised enough compassion, or at least restraint, not to reject them outright.

I like to think that the one who accepted these tattered youths is God, who I believe loves us as we are, no matter where we may be in our lives, and no matter who in the world doesn’t love us. Unfortunately, the poem feels unfinished from that perspective, as I also believe that God would have some sage advice for these kids, and the fact that is left unoffered strikes me as un-Godlike. Still, I could not then and cannot now pretend that I have all the answers, and will leave it at that.

As a postscript, I am still taken with Thomas Covenant. The Chronicles and Second Chronicles are among my favorite books that I have ever read. I greatly anticipate the concluding books of the Last Chronicles, something I anticipate (ha!) doing for the next several years until they are published.

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