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Through Heavy Metal, I found poetry

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

I've heard that your favourite music from your formative teenage years leaves an indelible mark on your psyche, and to this day, I can listen to albums from the '80s and revisit the rose-tinted optimism of my youth. Of course, it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops, and the angst developing from hating school and being bullied directed me to heavy metal, in which I found solace in the form of powerful voices and loud instruments calling out the systems of control and hypocrisy that are arguably the hallmarks of 'civilised' society. I wasn't an anarchist, but I rebelled a bit - especially in school. Through heavy metal, I found poetry - poetry in practice - in some cases describing, criticising and lamenting events and situations deemed taboo; in others delving into historical events and religious and spiritual musings. The poetic and often epic lyrics of bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, Judas Priest...they got me looking at the Bible; I read encyclopedias, books on ancient history, epic poems - and then, perhaps inevitably, came my writing.

TV probably has to shoulder some blame, of course - shows like The A-Team and Airwolf, cartoons like Ulysses and Centurions...and then, into the 90s with Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was sold - I wanted action and spectacle, space and aliens and technology...but I also wanted depth, heart, philosophy, religion. When I discovered my passion for storytelling, I found myself. Truly.

Now, instead of relying on the artistry and expression of others to forestall my retreating into myself, I had my own cathartic medium. As the years went on, whenever retreat occurred, it was balanced by self-examination, channeled through literary expression, navigated by the journeys I took in my imagination - across fantasy lands and seas, on alien worlds illuminated by undiscovered stars and populated by creatures of wonder and terror. I explored my psyche by bringing it to life, vibrant characterisations and anthropomorphications of my aspirations and fears, my supporters and detractors.

30 years since I started writing, I still delight in returning to worlds I birthed in my mind and with the swift click-clack of my keyboard - I revisit old friends and places and I find the person I was weighed against the person I wished to become. When I'm not writing, I get very down, and sometimes echoes of that teenage angst emerges. I subdue it when I compose scenes and chapters, plots and characters arcs - I direct it, purposefully and productively. And often, while my keyboard is clicking away, you'll hear the powerful voices and loud instruments of the music that first brought me here, it's mark indelible.

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