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The 19 Poems I Wrote for Homecoming

by Julianna Byrd 27 days ago in literature

Why I wrote them, what they mean to me, and what I want readers to know

The 19 Poems I Wrote for Homecoming
Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

Every morning for the past two weeks, I've been getting up with the sun and putting pen to paper before heading off to work for the day. I've mainly been writing poems about home and what it means to me for Vocal's Homecoming challenge. Over the last 16 days, I've written a total of 28 stories on Vocal, 19 of which have been poems for the challenge.

I'm impressed with my writing output as of late, but more than that, I'm proud of myself for finding the time to write each morning and committing to it with regularity and determination. If you're new to writing and not sure where to start, or frustrated that you can't seem to find the time to write, I would highly recommend trying first thing in the morning while the rest of the world is still quiet.

The challenge

On September first, Vocal opened the Homecoming challenge to Vocal+ creators. The prompt was simple:

Share a poem inspired by what “home” means to you.

In as few as 100 words (or as many as 2,000), participants were given a chance at a first-place prize of $5,000. Submissions remained open until September twenty-first and are currently under review. Winners will be announced in October.

For me, one difficult aspect of the challenge was meeting the word count requirement. I suppose that’s where the word challenge is appropriate. Two of my poems came in at exactly 100 words (after editing) with others varying slightly but dancing around the lower end of the range. Adding words to a poem that feels complete can feel like a daunting and annoying task, but overall I’m happy with how those particular pieces turned out.

Why I’ve been writing poetry

Poetry is an outlet; that’s what I love most about it. It’s limitless in its possible forms and structures, and anyone can write it. In college, one of my education classes turned into a debate about whether a note left on the counter by a wife to her husband about buying toilet paper classified as a poem. After an hour, we were still divided, and we never did end up coming to a conclusion...because who are we to decide?

That’s the beauty of it, I think.

I also love how subjective it is. I wouldn’t call myself a poet—or at least, not a great one—but in my mind the flip side is that other people are less likely to tell me I’m a terrible poet.

But, read on and see what you think for yourself.

My poems

Home Within Myself

My first and favorite entry, Home Within Myself documents my journey toward self-acceptance. So far, this is the only one of my poems I’ve put audio to, but I decided to record myself reading it aloud. I embedded the link after the story, so that readers aren’t distracted by it and the accompanying description, and so that they first read it with their own voice in mind.

My favorite stanza:

My restoration is the home I have created,

where I can bask in the light of living itself

and know that I am safe in the arms of someone who sees me,

who understands with grace and insight the things that don't add up to success;

and I have learned that here I can be unapologetically

myself.

I am (Home) Here

I didn’t give I am (Home) Here a happy ending. Instead, I included resources for those in need, because I’m passionate about mental health and suicide prevention, and because I know it’s possible someone reading it may be struggling.

I wrote this poem in an acrostic format using the phrase I am home here. The last stanza (the word “here”) sums up the feeling of this story.

My favorite stanza:

here I am, completely and wholeheartedly, this time,

even though some days I'd really

rather not have to face the demons, and

even though it's all temporary, anyway.

Home in New Beginnings

My first attempt at a haibun poem, and I must say I am not at all in love with this one. It did stretch me, though, so I suppose it was still worthwhile to write.

(I cannot promise you it will be worthwhile to read.)

My favorite haiku portion:

Like a seed buried

in the safety of soil,

I was born to grow.

Ask Me about Babysitting

I enjoyed writing this one on something dear to me that I spend most my days doing: hanging out with children. I went with a child-like ABC acrostic format for this one because it seemed fitting. I hope you enjoy its playful, simple nature and hearing why it is I feel at home when with kids.

My favorite line: the subtitle.

Where Young Hearts Abound

Where Young Hearts Abound is the first of my homecoming poems with rhyme. I typically don’t enjoy writing in a conventional rhyming pattern, but I played around with rhyme here and enjoyed it. My structure isn’t consistent throughout the poem; rather, I rhymed when it felt “right” to me.

My favorite stanza:

Home is where young hearts abound,

where laughter,

questions,

tears,

excitement,

and pure joy can always be found.

Your Office, a Haven

This one is dedicated to my amazing counselor. She doesn’t know I wrote it, but she will when I find the confidence to share it with her. I wrote Your Office, a Haven because I believe in the power of great therapy and want to be another voice helping to destigmatize getting help.

Everything in this poem is true, down to the details relating to the location of my therapist’s office (near the blue bridge on sixth street). Going to therapy is just another part of my week, something I do. And it’s more than worth it, as I sought to illustrate in this piece with the concept of her office feeling like a safe space—a haven.

My favorite stanza:

...I realize how blessed I am

by you and your office,

a haven

from that waiting room of smiles

masking

all the things we’re here for.

I Told Her She is Home Here

This entry was the most difficult to write. When I was in intensive day programming for anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, I began some inner child work. I’m still not totally sure what this process looks like, but for those who are curious, it’s essentially imagining your child self and saying the things you needed to hear at a young age. I’m learning to be who I needed then and didn’t have, but now as my adult self. It’s powerful and difficult work.

My favorite line:

I'm setting aside regret and resentment and self-hatred—

because she's little and she doesn't deserve it—

and giving a long-overdue apology for ever having asked her to carry those things for grown-up me.

Home is a Harbor

In writing Home is a Harbor, I built each stanza around a similar structure. Each stanza eludes to home being a place and a feeling, but I sought to stray away from the obvious or conventional answers to the challenge prompt and write a bit more abstractly.

My favorite line:

Home is the hope of a horizon, a place of acknowledgement

of what’s to come, even in the sadness that it isn’t

here yet.

It’s the feeling of contentedness with what is,

even when what I desire is

something better.

This is Home

I wrote This is Home on—as you may suspect—the beach. I really tried to focus in on my surroundings and the sensory experiences I encountered while taking it all in, with the hope that readers would be able to experience a part of it, too.

I spent most weekends at the beach this summer; it became one of those places I almost feel I could drive to with my eyes shut. The restful nature and familiarity of the beach began, over time, to feel like home to me, especially given that I grew up going to the same beach regularly.

A few of my favorite lines:

The day’s end marked by pastel streaks above a golden horizon;

thousands of grains of sand and treasures picked up carried into the night

and the memories of the day into the rest of life...

Sunward

Sunward is about a difficult journey to light from the depths of depression and severe anxiety and panic. Though this is my own journey, I wrote this poem using the second-person point of view. It may read as though I am speaking to you; in reality, I am speaking to us all. I refer to “demons” instead of anything more specific to be inclusive of the struggles we all face. I hope you can find something that you relate to or that speaks to you in this piece.

My favorite stanza:

Treading among your demons

you became so sure of the dark

and honey, I know you’re weary

but there’s one more journey on which to embark.

To Soar to a Brand New Home

I think it’s a relatively common human experience to question whether we’re really at home in this world. Longing for something I don’t currently have has been a pretty constant theme during this season of life, and I wanted to bring a voice to that experience.

My favorite stanza:

Walking to the beat of hope

along a sun-kissed shore,

I recognize it's possible for me

to find wings on which to soar

Home is You in Me

I recently wrote a poem called The Monster Within, to which I received many responses saying others can relate. This poem was sort of a follow-up to the first—a reflection on living with anxiety in me, making space for it without giving it attention it doesn’t deserve.

My favorite stanza:

So though I don't like you,

I'm telling you: you can stay;

you don't even need to keep

your grip on me at bay.

Home’s Rhythm

Home’s Rhythm is a short and sweet piece on home as a constant despite life’s changes. Home is in the waiting and the rebirths—I tried to reflect on spring to bring that concept to life, although I’m not quite sure I delivered a solid message in this one.

My favorite stanza:

There's a rhythm in growing older,

in knowing you have a longer way to travel

than how far you have come;

a sort of process to unravel.

For Ben

Around this point in my entries is where I personally start to see my quality decline, but For Ben—though it’s simple—is one I’m proud of. I accepted its simplicity for what it is after one draft with the intention of reading this to Ben, and his response was priceless. My hope is that this speaks to how children make me feel at home.

It’s hard to pick out just one line as they’re all so closely intertwined given the way I chose to format this piece. I’ll take it, though, because one fellow creator referred to the way I used the challenge prompt as “ingenious.” Just sayin’.

Home in 5-4-3-2-1

For this poem, I used the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique to describe my physical home in sensations. This turned out to be a very literal description of what home is to me. I can’t say I have a favorite line or stanza, although I do like the format/concept of this one. If you’re not sure what I mean by “the 5-4-3-2-1,” I linked a resource article I wrote at the end of the story.

An Alternate Home

I’ve been experience a lot of rejection lately, and it’s been defeating. I knew writing would help me process my feelings; what I didn’t foresee was this piece turning into another “home poem.” I like this one because it’s different, and because it shows a shift in my mindset at the end.

My favorite stanza:

Is it possible

for the feeling of rejection

to become so normal

it begins to feel like home?

*

Because I'm afraid that it has.

My Dawn

As the Homecoming challenge began to approach its end, I realized how at home I felt writing about home. Maybe that sounds silly, but this piece gives some insight. I began writing each morning for an hour, and it has changed the way I function during the day for the better. This is my new dawn.

My favorite stanza:

Home is my pen scrambling

across my notepad

at seven o‘clock,

releasing what it is I woke up holding

in my mind

and carrying

in my heart.

Not Leaving Home Behind

My second (and better, I think) attempt at a haibun. This is a reflection on the difficult seasons of life (winter) and the importance of sticking around for the promise of spring. It’s about having hope that the feeling of home will come again.

My favorite haiku portion:

The winter has gone

and sunrise, like belonging—

a warmth in its place.

A Home in Starbucks

This was my last entry, written at Starbucks as I took a break from writing this article. It’s another inspired by the acrostic structure (using the word “Starbucks”) and is littered with alliteration. Of all my entries, this easily ranks as one of my least favorite...but, it exists, so here it is anyway.

My favorite line:

so as I sit in the center of a spacious Starbucks singing with the studying of students and the scents of savory syrups and sandwiches, I see strong smaller me, occupying this same seat what seems like a century ago, and I say to her...

My recommendations

The poems of mine I would most recommend and why

If this challenge were just me competing against myself, I might be bold enough to imply that I would place.

Fortunately for all of us, that isn’t the case. What I’m giving you here are my personal top favorites (it was supposed to be three, until something happened...*insert eye roll here*). If you feel compelled to read some of my work for this challenge, this is the direction I would point you in.

My top attempts, according to myself, at writing poetry about what “home” means to me:

4. An Alternate Home: This one on rejection didn’t make the list until I became emotional while recording myself reading it. It feels like it deserves a place here for that. Consider it a bonus. Now onto my personal “real” top three:

3. Sunward: I love the sentiment of this one; the idea of journeying onward even when it’s difficult. Dear reader, this one is for you, from all the people cheering you on (even when it feels there’s no one in your corner).

2. For Ben: The reason this poem means so much to me is in part because of Ben’s response to it. I’m one of his favorite people (and he’s quick to tell me that), and he’s one of mine. I learn so much from him every time I see him and I’m truly not sure what my life would look like without him in it. So For Ben ranks just under what’s still my first and favorite entry:

1. Home Within Myself: Since its publication over two weeks ago now, I have been honored to have roughly 100 strangers read this poem and to hear how it has resonated with some of them. It’s deeply personal to me (sharing that I used to self-harm on the bathroom floor? Not my favorite pastime), but a story that’s also, I think, worth telling.

The poems by other creators I would most recommend and why:

If I were judging this contest (again, I’m not, and I’m so thankful that’s the case because I’ve seen so many wonderful submissions), these are the winners I would choose merely based on personal preference and the emotional impact they had on me. Obviously, I have not read all the poems out there, and I think we’ve already established that I’m no professional poet. Please keep in mind that there are hundreds—maybe thousands—of wonderful submissions to read!

My three favorites, which I would recommend over my own any day:

3. Homesick: Kelly Fowler takes her readers on an exquisite, reminiscent journey in her piece Homesick. With a captivating image and a voice that carries with you, she brings her reader back to feelings and places of home that are beautifully and heartbreakingly relatable. The ending will leave you feeling all the feelings; I highly recommend (no—urge) that you visit her page to take a look for yourself.

2. Home Is Not A Place: From the cover image to the first line to the word “quietude,” this entry had me captivated from the very start, all the way through. E.K. Daniels writes with elegance and insight; the simplicity of the poem’s structure and the depth of the message are, in my opinion, equally compelling. This poem comes in at a satisfying 101 words (I had to check—I just knew it was close!)

1. All I want is to be home: This one by Jack Anderson Keane has stuck with me most. His work is rhythmic and relatable, and he speaks from a place of such vulnerability that I can’t help but to be drawn in to every word. I don’t want to spoil anything because I really want for you to read it and fall in love with it on your own.

A note to the judges

Thank you for doing what you do! I’ve read so many brilliant submissions, and I don’t covet your seat at the judging table. For what it’s worth, I appreciate you!

Now that the challenge is over...

Never do I ever conclude my articles with a formal conclusion. I’d like to stand by that, if I can.

But I also want to thank you for taking the time to get this far. Your read and support truly means the world. One read at a time, I’m beginning to find my home here on Vocal.

(Shoot, that would’ve been a great concept had it occurred to me three days ago...)

Any time spent reading my entries is much appreciated, as is each and every “heart” on this story. I’ll be back to writing my usual mental health content, poetry, and other random musings, so be sure to subscribe for more if you like what you see!

JB

literature

Julianna Byrd

Passionate teacher | avid coffee-drinker | determined joy-seeker | for-fun writer hoping to show up and make some sense out of the messiness—and beauty—of life.

Twitter: @writerjulianna

I'm working on myself, for myself, but not by myself.

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