The lines that stood out to me the most in Skyward were the ones that were on the theme of the fluctuating idea of ‘self’ and what it means to have and be in control of one’s identity. In ‘Launch’ he states “Unmake yourself year by year / Your urge surges in your ear.” It almost sounds like a positive command, to undo all of the restrictions you have put on yourself. A way of letting go of trying to force yourself into the kind of person you thought you were supposed to be or have been trying to make yourself be, in order to progress and improve and just simply be. Arguably one of his more cliché lines, in ‘Twin,’ he says “How can we speak of ordinary things when my blank chapter / is still out there somewhere unaware and unwritten” because now suddenly not having that clear definition of who you are, when faced with it, is actually quite scary. This is a common metaphor that pops up again and again, a blank page, unwritten chapters of one’s life—everyone can relate. Once you let go of the idea of who you think you are and what limitations you have set for yourself, based on nothing at all, things get a little confusing, and the path of what to do and where to go next gets overwhelming. The theme comes up again in ‘Autobiography’ when he states “begin at the earliest hour / is there a self.” This touches on the instability of self, and if it is ever something you can latch on to. It’s elusive and always changing. At the “earliest hour” is there a self? Before the day has begun, before you can remember exactly what you have already done or need to do, while still in that state between dreams and reality. At the beginning of every day you have the whole day to make choices, do whatever you want, you could completely change your life at any moment for better (if you want get cheesy and cliché) or for worse.
This also relates to the parts in ‘Ticket’ where he says, “Intent on escape I never noticed there was no wall.” and the final line “All the prisons and pockets, the graves in which I bury myself.” It becomes very reflective on ones personal barriers and self-destructive tendencies. Being so caught up in the small world that you built for yourself it’s easy to forget that you were the one who built it—and so long ago too, that you’re bound to outgrow it. In the poem ‘Rapture’ he asks, “In the battle to own yourself / whom do you fight” which is a good question. There is so much struggle there, but the work all has to happen internally. The fight is with your previous self. This question is interesting because it recognizes how hard it is to accept yourself to get to the point of feeling like you have some control, but the phrasing of ownership and fighting seems almost a little barbaric, an act of violence for the trade of ownership—the concept is a little dated (although of course still in practice). A person shouldn’t be owned, I guess you could argue unless it’s by oneself, and the idea that there needs to be some sort of fight for this property ownership to occur seems a little aggressive and insensitive to the fact that accepting oneself takes time and is a constant struggle. Unless of course it is getting at the idea that it’s easy to want that quick fix, someone to point one’s anger at—someone to blame.