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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.

八九岁时,我写了生平第一首诗。
那时,父亲是派拉蒙电影制片厂的厂长,母亲从事文化事业。
母亲读完这首小诗后喊道:“巴蒂,你绝对写不出来这么美、这么棒的诗的!”
我结结巴巴地说是我写的。她大大地表扬了我一番。天啊,这首诗简直是天才之作!
我脸上发光。“爸爸什么时候回来?”我问道,我迫不及待地想给他看看。
整个下午的大部分时间我都在为父亲的回来做准备。我先用花体字抄写了一遍,然后用彩色笔画了一圈精美的花边儿,让它与内容相配。当7点将近的时候,我满怀信心地把它放在餐桌上父亲的餐盘里。
但是7点钟父亲没有回来,我忍受不了悬念的折磨。我崇拜父亲,他是以作家的身份开始电影生涯的。他会比母亲更欣赏我那优美的诗。
这天晚上,父亲进家后,母亲开始说话了:“本,发生了一件了不起的事。巴蒂写了他的第一首诗,而且写得很好,绝对出乎意料——”
“如果你不介意,我想自己来判断。”父亲说。
他读诗时,我一直低垂着头,盯着盘子。短短十行诗似乎用了好几个小时,我记得当时不明白他为什么用了这么长的时间。我能听见父亲的呼吸,接着听见他把诗放回到桌子上,到了下结论的时候了。
“我认为写得很糟,”他说。
我抬不起头来,两眼开始湿润了。
“本,有时,我真不理解你,”母亲说道,“他只是个小孩子。这是他平生写的第一首诗,他需要鼓励。”
“我不明白为什么。”父亲仍坚持自己的观点,“难道世界上这样糟糕的诗还不多吗?没有法律说巴蒂非成为诗人不可。”
他们为此争吵起来,我再也无法忍受了,哭着跑出餐厅,到楼上我的房间,扑在床上抽泣起来。
这件事情好像就这么过去了,但是它对我的深远意义却没有终结。像往常一样,家庭的创伤已经愈合,母亲又开始与父亲说话了,我也继续写诗,但是我没敢拿给父亲看。
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。
但是直到多年以后,我才渐渐明白“第一首诗”的痛苦经历的真正意义。当我成为一名专业作家以后,我才越来越明白自己曾多么幸运。我有一位说“巴蒂,这当真是你写的吗?我觉得写得真棒”的母亲,还有一位摇头否定说“我认为写得很糟”使我流泪的父亲。一个作家——实际上我们生活中的每个人——都需要爱的力量作为创作的源泉,但是仅仅有爱的力量是不完整的,甚至是误导的,平衡的爱应该是告诫对方“观察、倾听、总结、提高。”
有时你会遭遇来自同事、朋友及所爱的人的相互冲突的影响,但是最终你必须自己平衡这种对立意见:首先要满怀信心向前走,去做该做的事情,成就你想成就的事;其次,调节你的自满情绪,冷静地、现实地评价自己。
那些儿时听到的对立而又互补的声音多年以来一直在我耳畔回响——妙极了……糟透了……妙极了……糟透了,它们好像两股对立的风吹打在我身上。我努力驾驶着我的航船,不让它被任何一股风颠覆。
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  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