When I read your poetry, I shake my head at your unfortunate phrasing. I was glad when you recognized that to speak on universals, you needed to find strange and new ways of expression. But I winced when you went over the top. Your Vortex on a String poem was particularly difficult to stomach.
You have to be really careful about using such brutal and aggressive words. “A cavalcade of anger and fear”? “Five years in Sweden dying for you”? “My days are like a burning fuselage”? Too much; too heavy-handed.
Alas, I cannot help that I am cynical and overly critical. I am too weak to be better than that.
Boys and girls, be beautiful. And be unashamed. Be better than me; be like John Darnielle of Mountain Goats. If I had found a lyric like “a cavalcade of anger and fear” in my old journals, I would have cringed, and perhaps even scratched it out. But that is because I am too weak and impure, too lacking in beautiful sincerity to pull it off. When Darnielle sings lines like that, you can see and hear how invested he is in them; he makes you believe that it truly was a cavalcade of anger and fear. What does it matter if haters don’t like the expression? He’s telling you how it was.
Earnestness is a beautiful quality. Mean what you say. Sell out to it. Live to what you’ve attained.
It is common for children to be beaten by their fathers. It is common for men to be left utterly alone. It is common for men to despair. Speak to those common things in a way that acknowledges how huge and terrible they are. They might happen to every man, but that makes them no less immense. And the salvation that comes to men is no less immense. Offer it sincerely, and earnestly. Find and express the beauty in it, caring nothing for the fact that millions before you have voiced the same thing.
Don’t be cool. Be beautiful. Be true. Be good.