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My Patron Saint Of Selves

I wasn’t meant for reality, but life came and found me. ― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet 
My poetry is written by 3 different poets and a songwriter. If it sounds strange, it really isn't.

I started writing short stories when I was 12. I knew then that I had an obligation to write. I didn't know at the time how relentless and unforgiving the obligation was. But I digress....

When I entered the 8th grade my English teacher, with whom I would become  life time friends with, suggested I try to write poetry after reading a story I had written. I was reading Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf at the time and my own writing had what we jokingly called  'steppes' to it.  Maybe it was the weed we were smoking....

I had bought Steppenwolf from the book club and it is one of the few books I kept when I decided to become a minimalist 5 to 7 years ago and downsize from hundreds of books to just a handful.

I started to write poetry - and together we and a few other non-conforming students started our own newspaper which we titled Backstage. It sold more copies than the official school paper so it was in the best interest of the school to shut us down and it did.

A year after I started writing poetry the style of which would change from week to week, if not day to day, I read the entire works of Shakespeare [yes at the seasoned age of 15] and I noticed a 3rd voice emerging from within me.

To look at me one would assume I was writing all of my poetry. You don't exactly shapeshift into one of your other selves which often have their own way of dressing and even living. But looks are deceiving and I knew inside that it was me and at least 3 others who were doing the writing I was claiming as my own with the convenience of  nom de plumes. In fact, one of my other selves surpassed Emily Dickenson's 1800 poem count several years ago.

My parents sent me to a psychiatrist because education wasn't free and I wasn't willing to pay for it with my mind  and after talking to each of them and me separately the Doctor told them to leave me alone and just let me be myself. If I were more than one person he would eventually meet them during our sessions except that my parents decided he was bat shit crazy and therefore could never be of any real help to them or me.

Let me just say I never actually told anyone I was harboring a few different personalities. I had only defended myself and my different writing styles when people insisted 3 different poems of mine were written by 3 different people and I was claiming all of them as my own. I also need to note here that these different writing styles developed because they were imaginary and I was able to define them. I didn't just sit down one day and tell myself I was going to write like someone else - although many times I wished I had done just that.

In high school I kept all of my known writing beat and free-spirited and always had quite an audience when I would read one of my poems out loud in study hall. This was and is the poet I am most familiar with.  I wasn't writing Haikus, poems that rhymed or poems from the 15th century then. In fact I did not know what Haikus were and rhyming poems were just songs without music.

High school was a drag. I hated it. And didn't even show up for the first 45 days. 3 months later my parents would escort me into the school to sign my walking papers and later that day enroll me in a private art school because I was painting a lot and had already gotten rave reviews for a backdrop I did for one of the theater troupes they belonged to and acted in. According to the top critic in town my backdrop and the set construction was one of the only good things about the play.

One day, quite by accident - or maybe it wasn't really an accident as much as it was destiny - I was browsing the shelves in a University library and came across The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. I sat down and read several chapters before I decided to look him up in the Encyclopedias - which was the only internet available at the time.

And for the first time in my young teenage life I finally understood the existence of my 3 distinct writing styles and why I had given them different names and even biographies different from my own and I chose from that day on to call them my heteronyms too. I have often said Fernando Pessoa kept me from killing myself too soon. 

And to this day he is my Patron Saint of Selves.   Even though everything published on Unscripted Continuation is just signed Jobe it might sometimes be obvious that my heteronyms are still very much alive and writing. It does not cause me angst to acknowledge them in the same blog but they do not really interact with each other and I have grown tired of saying well this is my poem but so and so wrote this one and one of my other 2 inventions wrote this one. 

Fernando Pessoa is a great poet and writer - among other things - to have graced the earth and if you haven't yet read him you should at least read The Book of Disquiet.  He will speak to you in a language you've never quite heard before. And you will have grown because of it.

You can read and or download 35 Sonnets by Fernando Pessoa here → 🔗