I have two small metal file-boxes where I keep all my old writings-- from the handful of English exercises I preserved (how I loved English class!) to the few poems and articles I had published (many in obscure or college publications).
I also kept my poetry manuscripts, which I accumulated over years. I wrote poetry almost every day for years. When I was in my late teens, I worked on individual poems over periods of days. Later, I wrote a poem a day, which wasn't a good idea.
Oh, the effort I put in! And the heartbreak! Labouring (and failing) to have my poetry published in little magazines that had no interest in traditional verse, and that nobody bought or read anyway! All the patronizing rejection letters from snooty modernist editors! I remember I submitted one poem about the death of an old man who is the last veteran of a war. The point of the poem is that this is the day the war finally ends. It wasn't that good a poem, but I was working up to the last line, which I still remember and I think isn't bad:
Disappeared like an echo in silence, or smoke in the air.
The editor rejecting it wrote something like: "It's quite good apart from the last line." Of course. What could be more vulgar than striving for an effect?
To be fair, I have also had my poetry rejected by magazines that are more hospitable to traditional verse (like About Larkin, the Philip Larkin Society magazine, and the conservative First Things magazine), and even by one (The Literary Review) that had a monthly competition explicitly dedicated to verse that rhymes, scans and makes sense. Oh well. Who knows?
Anyway, I was going through some of my old poems and thinking they weren't bad. Here is one-- originally entitled Prayer to the Sun, but then, I wrote it as an agnostic/atheist. It also shows a Larkin-esque dislike for children, which I no longer suffer from.
Ode to the Sun
Oh father of flies and sweat
Creator of loud, litter-making crowds.
God knows I'm in your debt
And love you just as most men love a debtor.
Preserve a decent covering of clouds--
The less you show, the better.
But there are times
I love you more than any pale sunbather
Or screaming child, or ice-cream-filled parader.
A cold white sky
That makes the crowds disperse, and insects die,
And sends the rowdy off to warmer climes--
Oh, then I see your beauty, veiled and shy
As all true beauty is; high and aloof,
Its warmest smile a look of soft reproof.
Come cloaked in cloud, and I will come beneath your roof.