(Not) Writing and Reading

I just got a book in the mail from my friend Steve. It is a book about reading poetry, and I haven't read it yet, but when I looked at it I wondered if it would be like reading the long letters he used to write when we were in high school. He would tend to write to me about things he had read or music he was listening to, and have a fairly long analysis of them. Now that's one part of his career- literary criticism (he is also a poet).

I used to write equally long letters back. I don't know what was in them anymore, because I wrote those letters with a pen, so I don't have them in my Sent box or some such. But I started to wonder – and wonder if he wondered- how his long letters segued neatly into his life's work, and mine clearly did not.

I wrote poetry and essays as a teenager, and seemingly endless volumes in journal form. And I read a lot. And at some point all of the writing turned in on myself; the journal writing didn't help me but instead expanded upon thoughts that were not comfortable to begin with. Perhaps my thoughts were about troubles, and certainly they were about trying to do things, imagining doing things, when I wasn't actually getting out of my head to do them.

At the same time, I stopped being able to read. I can read a lot and fast, if I  am interested in it. I don't even now what that means, really; I have to start reading something and see if it goes. Then I finish a book too fast and I'm sad it is gone. Otherwise, I read sentences over and over and forget what they say midstream. I don't know exactly when that started, though I know that by junior year of high school, I was doing poorly in classes where I had to read dry text books. I loved taking the essay test to get into AP US History, which seemed almost a perverse thing to love,  but then got taken out of it because I couldn't read the text.

At least now I understand I can't read under some circumstances, and I am not required to do so. Back then I would simply start panicking and feel horrible. Now I just put the book down. But now, I wonder what might have been if I knew what I know now; if I had teachers and family who could help engage me, knew to keep exercising and could take medication so I could read something I would love.