What Should We Do When Our Old Poems No Longer Feel True?

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Recently, I was looking at some poetry that I wrote quite a while back, maybe two years ago. I had never shared these poems with anyone, but I was proud of them at the time, and upon reading them again I felt that they were still fairly solid poems.

Something about them, though, kept me from wanting to share them: They didn’t feel true anymore.

These poems in particular were written about some strong emotions that I was feeling at the time. Feelings that I no longer have. But they were written in the present tense, in the midst of the emotions that drove me to try and write a poem in the first place. Which made me ask myself, if I shared them now, as they are, would I essentially be sharing a lie?

Maybe I am overthinking this. After all, people write love poems all the time, and we know that that love doesn’t always last. And yet, the poems go on, freezing that feeling in time forever.

Still, something about sharing a poem that no longer reflects how I truly feel right now seems disingenuous. If I had shared them at the time and then later felt differently, that would be one thing. But to share them now even though the feelings expressed in them no longer hold true doesn’t feel right.

An option would be to rework the content of the poem so that it better reflects my feelings now. Though I’m not sure how well that would work, or if I would like the reworked poem as much as I liked the original.

Then there is always that possibility that if I rewrote those poems, I would find myself a year or two or three or more down the line and realize that my feelings had changed completely once again.

To be honest, I haven’t come up with an answer yet. Part of me wants to share these poems as they are, even if they don’t feel “true” anymore. The other part of me thinks they are better off tucked away, where only I can see the emotions that I’ve frozen in time.

So I want to pass the question along to you: Have you ever gone back to something that you have written, particularly poetry, only to find that it didn’t feel true to you anymore? What did you do?

Grace Carlson is a writer from Washington. She writes about travel, mental health, writing, and books. Sometimes she’s funny, or at least that’s what her mom says. Follow her on twitter @gracieawriter

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Writer. I talk about travel, mental health, and writing. Sometimes I’m funny, or at least that’s what my mom says. Visit: APassportAndAPencil.com

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