Poem: Without a Name (A Response to Angsty Heartbreak Poems)


I don’t always agree with with Past-Me. She made some stupid choices, and she thought some stupid things. (Like 5ive being better than the Backstreet Boys. She probably based that opinion more on her own hormonal response than on musical acumen.)

But she seemed just as unmoved by angsty emotional expression as Present-Me is. I’m sure Past-Me had plenty of angst, of her own. It’s a teenage thing. Along with the arrogant belief that nobody can possibly understand them. I would have had that one, too.

But my heartstrings aren’t easily pulled, and even now, I’m more likely to view attempts to do so as devious manipulation, rather than a call for compassion.

An adolescent who likes to write creatively will tend to seek the company of the like-minded; of other adolescents who like to write creatively. Unfortunately, this resulted in my seeing a lot of poetry about…nothing. Lots of heartbroken nothings, ostensibly about bleak colours and silent screams, but ultimately a vacuous verse hugging its pillow. It had me picturing the writer gazing skyward past layers of eyeliner, clutching the air under their neck, and wailing at a pitch that only other eye-lined wailers can hear.

Heartbreak feels pretty serious, at the time. I understand that. I understood it then, too. So Past-Me understood that such events easily lend themselves to the poetically inclined. But it just got a bit much. Those people seeking sympathies, and complaining about nobody caring, were the same people who were inadvertently preventing it with their monotonous two-dimensional cookie-cut expressions.

So in 2004, at the barely-out-of-my-teens age of twenty, and after about my 500th eye-roll, I responded in a way that those angsty poets seemed more likely to understand.

In a poem.

Pain, remorse, death, anguish, shame—rhyme in angst is all the same.
   The themes outdone;
      the lines clichéd.
         The real thing’s without a name.
Nondescript emotion lies garnished in its gaudy guise:
   ‘A broken heart’;
      ‘A darkened soul’…
         So then the silent meaning dies.
Mournful song and painted prose spin a tale of coloured woes—
   black metaphors;
      red imagery;
         But in the end no one knows.
The shrouded touch you feel there shows its face through telltale tear.
   But dub it not
      lest it invoke
         yet another listless care.

That was the long form.

The short version would go something like this:

Sure, it hurts.
   Now shut up.


(4) Comments

  • Deborah Makarios
    18 Mar 2017

    Urgh, angst. I remember Paul Simon saying he doesn’t put angsty depressing suffering stuff in his songs, because how can you ask people to spend their hard-earned money on an hour of you singing about how hard your life is and how misunderstood you are? Except, of course, being Paul Simon, he put it better.

    • Eve
      18 Mar 2017

      That’s an unusual philanthropic perspective, from a songwriter. I would have guessed morose self-absorbed lyrics would be a guaranteed moneymaker, because people who like a particular song will tend to identify themselves with it; make it ‘their’ song. And most people seem to think their life, or some significant part of it, is worthy of some lyrical summation of sadness.

  • Leanne Knox
    21 Mar 2017

    Oh, Eve, you are truly my people!

    • Eve
      21 Mar 2017

      I’m glad I can give such feelings of camaraderie. 😊 I’m actually surprised the poem has received nothing but supportive agreement (so far), wherever it’s been posted. I’ve been expecting someone to censure me on the evils of compassionlessness and a callous attitude.

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