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My First Poem|我的第一首诗

I was eight or nine years old, when I wrote my first poem.
At that time my father was head of Paramount Studios. My mother was involved in various intellectual projects.
My mother read the little poem and began to cry. “Buddy, you didn’t really write this beautiful, beautiful poem!"
I stammered1 that I had. She poured out her praise. Why, this poem was nothing short of genius!
I glowed2.“What time will Father be home?”I asked. I could hardly wait to show him.
I spent the best part of that afternoon preparing for his arrival. First, I wrote the poem out in my finest flourish3. Then I crayoned4 an elaborate5 border around it that would do justice to its brilliant content. As seven o’clock drew near, I confidently placed it on my father’s plate on the dining-room table.
But my father did not return at seven, I could hardly stand the suspense. I admired my father. He had begun his motion-picture career as a writer. He would be able to appreciate this wonderful poem of mine even more than my mother.
This evening when my father came in, my mother began to tell him,“Ben, a wonderful thing has happened. Buddy has written his first poem! And it’s beautiful, absolutely amazing—”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to decide for myself,” Father said.
I kept my face lowered to my plate as he read that poem. It was only ten lines. But it seemed to take hours. I remember wondering why it was taking so long. I could hear my father breathing. Then I could hear him dropping the poem back on the table. Now came the moment of decision.
“I think it’s lousy6,” he said,
I couldn’t look up. My eyes were getting wet.
“Ben, sometimes I don’t understand you,” my mother was saying.“This is just a little boy. These are the first lines of poetry he’s ever written. He needs encouragement.”
“I don’t know why.” My father held his ground.“Isn’t there enough lousy poetry in the world already? No law says Buddy has to become a poet.”
They quarreled over it. I couldn’t stand it another second. I ran from the dining room bawling7. Up in my room I threw myself on the bed and sobbed.
That may have been the end of the anecdote8, but not of its significance for me. Inevitably the family wounds healed. My mother began talking to my father again. I even began writing poetry again, though I dared not expose it to my father.
A few years later I took a second look at that first poem; it was a pretty lousy poem. After a whiler, I worked up the courage to show him something new, a short story. My father thought it was overwritten but not hopeless. I was learning to rewrite. And my mother was learning that she could criticize me without crushing me. You might say we were all learning. I was going on 12.
But it wasn’t until years later that the true meaning of that painful “first poem” experience dawned on me. As I became a professional write, it became clearer and clearer to me how fortunate I had been, I had a mother who said,“Buddy, did you really write this? I think it’s wonderful!” and a father who shook his head no and drove me to tears with “I think it’s lousy.” A writer—in fact everyone of us in life—needs that loving force from which all creation flows. Yet alone that force is incomplete, even misleading, balance of the force that cautions9, “Watch. Listen. Review. Improve.”
Sometimes you find these opposing forces in associates’ friends, loved ones, but finally you must balance these opposites within yourself; first, the confidence to go forward, to do, to become; second, the tempering of self-approval with hard-headed, realistic self-appraisal.
Those conflicting but complementary10 voices of my childhood echo down through the years—wonderful...lousy... wonderful... lousy—like two opposing winds battering11 me. I try to navigate my craft so as not to capsize12 before either.

几年以后,当我再读我的第一首诗时,发现它的确写得很糟糕。过了一阵子,我鼓起勇气给他看一篇新作—— 一篇短篇小说。父亲认为写得太累赘,但并不是一无是处。我学着修改写的东西。母亲也开始懂得批评并不会把我打垮。你可以说我们仨都有进步。我那时快12岁了。



1. stammer   v. (由于激动、害怕等)结结巴巴地说
2. glow  v. 发红,容光焕发
3. flourish    n.  花体字
4. crayon    v. 用蜡笔画
5. elaborate   adj. 精致的,精巧的
6. lousy   adj. 糟糕的,劣等的
7. bawl   v. 大喊,大叫
8. anecdote   n. 轶事
9. caution  v. 告诫
10. complementary    adj. 互补的
11. batter   v. 接连重击
12. capsize    v. (使)倾覆,(使)翻转