Essence of An Age: A Collection of Poetry and Prose by Lydia Redwine explores the depths of the heart, mind, and soul during the years where one is finding that they are growing up. Its emotional imagery will sweep readers into a world as real as their own, a world dealing with the dualities of life. The salt and sugar. All that is experienced in love and growth.
I like to consider the purpose of poetry as something to be perceived by each individual. That, as the poets, we are to demonstrate with metaphor and other devices our meanings and feelings, but that in the end, the meaning of a poem is derived from the reader’s reaction to it. In saying all that, I don’t like to tell people straight up what one of my poems is about. Or who it is about. In fact, I generally like to read poetry without knowing who the author is.
But, since I wrote this collection for myself and from a very personal place, it feels natural to tell everything. Why I wrote it. When, where, how. The whole thing. I would recommend that you read the collection first, especially if you are growing into an adult or have already been through it. Let your own perception of your experiences meld with the words. That way, the poems aren’t about me or my experiences or what I think. It’s about you. And then, you can read this and it can be all about me lol.
In December of 2016, I published a novel called Spirit Followers which has since then been republished with its sequel Keepers of the Crown to be released soon after. Following Spirit Followers original publication in 2016, I went into what I would now call “writer’s depression.” The lack of support and excitement that I had built expectations up about surrounding my first book’s release left me feeling doubtful, torn, and rejected. I knew that rejection in this art was inevitable, but I never imagined that the friends and people in my life who said they were excited about the book would never read it or buy it or anything. To this day, my siblings have not read my fantasy novels. Few people in my family have read these books. And a couple of my closest friends since I was young have never completed Spirit Followers. These are all people I am close with today, that know me better than anyone, and yet they have still to read the parts of my soul I have put onto paper. (But maybe if you’re reading this long after this post has been published, they have.) Honestly, this hurt for a long time. Over the course of 2017, I had quite a few meltdowns about the fact that I had put the rawest parts of myself onto paper, and the people I loved most couldn’t see that and didn’t bother to understand it. Now, part of it is my fault because I didn’t like…TELL them I was hurting. It still hurts, in a way, but more importantly, it has forced me to write for myself and my relationship with God before I write for other people.
I fell out of love with reading, writing, and more specifically, Spirit Followers and the sequels I had planned. They all felt like far-off, unattainable dreams. I didn’t know what to do. I was unmotivated and uninspired. I was frustrated constantly which caused me to develop workaholic tendencies. I would spend hours at work, come home and try to read, try to write and nothing ever felt like enough. Writing didn’t seem worth it if I wasn’t going to get recognition from the people I loved or money from strangers.
Come that school year, I took a Shakespeare and Poetry class where I discovered my love for writing all over again. Before I was ever writing novels, I was writing song lyrics. I had a friend in high school, actually, that I wrote songs with every single day. And because I started writing with songs, writing poetry reconnected my love for writing in general. I wrote poetry because I had to and then found that I was slacking on my other subjects to write poetry because I wanted to. I spent hours on youtube watching slam poetry and developing a passion for speaking on things that made me frustrated.
Over the course of that school year, I wrote the following poems: youth, a human wants, plucked petrified poisoned, and wild honey all of which can be found in my collection. In December of 2017, I submitted these and a few other poems to a local high school creative writing competition. I did not win, but the feedback I received from a kind judge encouraged me to keep at it. Soon enough, I had a list of concepts and title ideas (I tend to come up with titles before I write a full poem) enough to create a collection.
It hit me then, that I should write a collection. For myself. And write about the things that I was dealing with. Because that had happened, I thought, “Let’s try writing about other things I need to get over.” Like a friend from high school that no longer really cared about me. About the pains of growing up. About the intense yearning I had for a new chapter and for change. About how I hated my birthday and wished my best friends cared more. About the guy in my life who couldn’t decide how he felt about me. etc.
These ideas unraveled from me in the most natural way. I knew I wanted them compiled into a book just so I could have a physical manifestation of my own thoughts and feelings. And I wanted it to have my own pictures. I asked two of my best friends to go to an art museum with me and model. We had a blast, and I published the book a week later in September of 2018. The start of 2018 and the beginning of this idea that these poems would be a collection, allowed me to learn more about myself and God for the remainder of 2018. And for what I have had so far of this year.
Over the summer, I learned how to be quiet and still. I learned how to listen to myself and to God. I started reading my Bible and praying every day. Not because I had to, but because I felt an intense need and joy to do so. I read my Bible all the time. I’m actually laughing right now at the idea that there was a point in my life where I didn’t really want to do that. I learned that I set expectations way too high for myself and that they were often the reason I found myself hurt. I learned to look at words I have known for a long time in a new light. Words like acceptance and transcendence. I have set new standards for myself as a result. Writing Essence of An Age allowed me to be honest with myself in a way I had never been before.
This growth surprised me. What surprised me even more, were the reviews left by both friends and strangers. People have told me they find my poetry emotional, raw, and hard-hitting. These were never words I thought to use to describe my poetry. I actually never thought of how I would describe it. Actually, haha, writing the synopsis was the hardest part.
Essence of An Age as a title was originally a concept about “growing up” that I had developed vaguely long before the poetry came about. I often do this with my art. I have a vague idea of a concept paired with a title and perhaps a visual representation of it. Then I wait for feeling, experience, and the story itself to come along. This particular concept was inspired by some random, scattered things such as Team by Lorde. And then Pure Heroine by Lorde. And then basically all the music Lorde puts out lol. (I’ll probably write my next collection at her concert.) It was also inspired by being barefoot, sunsets, walks in the forest, eating ice cream on the roof with a best friend, aesthetics, and people writing their own poetry on Tumblr. It wasn’t until I found a common thread in all of my poems, that of growing up and/or recognizing my youth, that this concept met its feeling, experience, and story. Essence of An Age is about growing up. But more importantly, it’s about change. The yearning for it paired with the pain.
Starting with concepts before feelings happened other times too. This was the case with the riot club, milk and honey, and youth. (Maybe one day I’ll make annotated copies that explain the stories and experiences behind each individual poem.)
I think the best part about this collection for me now, is that every time I read it, I find something new. In my own book! I find something that means something new to me. I learn about myself from myself. And it’s kinda mind-blowing. Instead of critiquing my own work and wondering if so and so will read it, it allows me to fall more in love with God and life.
So, I suppose this is all to say that if you’re struggling with loving something you use to love because you don’t feel understood, just be honest. Do it for yourself. The worst case scenario is that you learn a lot more about yourself than you thought you would and you have a new, aesthetic piece of art to keep. Spend hours on Pinterest and outside. Watch sunsets and learn to be alone. Learn to be grateful and to cherish those around you.
I closed out the collection with a poem that summarizes all I have just said. The pain, the learning, and the acceptance. It’s called epilogue and I’ll leave it below. If you want to check it out for yourself go here, and if you want to read some reviews go here.
But if nothing else, I hope this inspires you to make art. To be creative and to be more human.
it feels like I’m holding a gun to my head.
But the gun isn’t loaded.
It’s but a metaphor I wear as makeup.
I don’t even remember where I left the bullets…
tossed them into a wishing well,
buried them in my best friend’s backyard,
dropped them into my 3 a.m. concoction of sugar and sadness.
I’m killing time,
I’m killing all that was divine,
instilled within me,
but I bear bandaids in my pocket.
So as I am slipped under dusk’s dust laden tongue,
with a nearly dry ink pen and crumpled napkin,
I write what I have learned.
I have learned how to be alone
when I want arms around my waste,
when I want trust resting in my mouth to taste.
I’ve learned how to tune the static of the TV
to a song of a boy I haven’t seen in two years.
I’ve learned how to share my smile with the boy I saw two days ago when he says hello.
I’ve learned to harbor memories that sparkle like wine
but taste like vinegar.
I’ve learned how to laugh until my ribs ache more
than my heart sloshing in a cold cup of tea.
I’ve learned how to toss my broken ambitions
like old candy wrappers or sour blueberries
into the grass we’ve neglected to mow in weeks.
I’ve learned that my friends and I have been roaming
different paths in the same forest,
and now we walk together,
our palms pressing promises
we say we’ll keep forever.
I’ve learned how to keep the friend like broken pottery
as a package plea in a shoebox beneath my bed
midst the dust and paper monsters she’s wed.
I turn the napkin over.
I scramble for a new pen.
I write what I’ve found.
I find that I quite like a storm.
It tells me that there are wars waged outside my ribcage.
I find I still like to smear a firefly
on the pavement as much as like to pray.
I find that I still hate my birthday,
but I’ll still pop a balloon in my brother’s face
and throw a cake into my sister’s.
I’ll snap people like glow sticks to watch
their color bleed on my fingertips.
I find that I still feel flowers growing in my chest
at the sight of the sunrise
and a full garden
at the sight of the sunset.
I find there’s still a wishing well in my backyard,
but I hardly drop my constellations in it anymore.
I find that I still bear a bottle of lilac tears,
but now I wear those tears as diamonds beneath my eyes.
“What about the laundry lines?”
you may ask.
Yes, I see my mother folding my clothes
like she folds me in her arms.
And I fold the past four years like cardboard,
put them in shoeboxes beneath my bed,
and paint one word on my forehead:
The end of the growing pains
and the beginning of crossing the ocean,
the chasm I’ve built between myself and heaven.
it feels like I’m holding a gun to my head.
But the gun is made of glass
and the bullets of paper.
And all that is dead,
are only the things I’ve held onto for far too long.
— thank you.