Me, Myself & I; or on Using First Person in Lyric Poetry & Novel Writing

Girls in the Grass Arranging a Bouquet (Fillette couchée sur l'herbe et jeune fille arrangeant un bouquet)

  • In response to an interview question “Is there a poem you are a little embarrassed to like?” Kathleen Flenniken, formerly Poet Laureate of Washington State, said:

“Not so much a particular poem, but I feel defensive about one genre of poems that still speaks to me—the first person lyric grounded in everyday experience. It’s unfashionable, but it’s what brought me to writing.”

Poet Judy Kronenfeld knows the feeling,

“I admit to a similar impulse, at times, to the instinctive or deliberate use of “you,” “she,” “they,” or even “we,” as opposed to “I,” or the avoidance of pronouns altogether. I also admit to related impulses such as connecting the personal to history and politics, or writing by means of the portrayal of objects, without persons at all—which can make a poem feel, well, more “objective.” These impulses stem—at least in part—from an unease similar to the one that seems to lie behind Kathleen Flenniken’s statement.”

“…when a gatekeeper encounters a first-person manuscript, it goes without saying that a little red light goes on (from his/her past experiences) that chances are pretty good this mss came from a… less seasoned writer. And, it’s just a fact of life and the business of writing that the newer the writer, the less likely the mss will be of publishable quality.”

However, the good news is that

“If it’s a book that should have been written in first rather than third, and it’s written well and is of publishable quality, no problem. Any good editor or agent will be able to tell within a couple of pages if it’s written well or not, no matter what POV stance the author has elected.”

  • Do you use first person in your writing? Do you opt for third person because of the notion that it makes your writing “more objective”? Are you fond of reading/writing lyric poetry “grounded in everyday experience”?

Share in the comments. And if you’ve enjoyed the post, press “like” and “share” buttons — thank you.

Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Girls in the Grass Arranging a Bouquet (Fillette couchée sur l’herbe et jeune fille arrangeant un bouquet), c. 1890. Oil on canvas, Overall: 12 13/16 x 16 9/16 in. (32.5 x 42 cm). BF155. Public Domain.

 

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On April Poem-A-Day Challenge & Free Speech for All, Including Poets

Poetic Asides Blog by Robert Lee Brewer

Got any plans for April?

2018  April Poem-A-Day (PAD) Challenge will be here before you know it.

Check out the guidelines,  and note the interaction that took place in the comments. Here’s an excerpt from it:

Kateland
March 6, 2018 at 12:47 pm
“Well, there are very wide interpretations of “hateful” nowadays. …
Perhaps a set of rules on what themes are considered “hateful” or “intolerable”…

Robert Lee Brewer Post author
March 7, 2018 at 12:50 pm
“I believe in diversity as far as the form and content of poems–expressing a wide range of opinions. As long as it is done respectfully.

I know for a fact that we have poets from around the world, of various faiths, of various political parties and slants, genders, ages, etc.”

Now, if you’re new to the challenge, Poetic Asides is not a political forum — it’s a poetry blog. However, it’s very refreshing to see its commitment to remain a place of free expression. We should not be afraid to voice our opinions.

Write poetry, be respectful while exercising free speech, don’t be a troll — that’s what PA is about. So, flex your poetry muscles!

Have you participated in PAD challenges? Are you in for the poem-a-day this April? Share in the comments.

If you’ve enjoyed the post, press “like” and “share” buttons — thank you.

 

The Voice of Silence vs. Performance Art, or Is Poetry Meant to Be Read Out Loud?

In Vaudeville: Acrobatic Male Dancer with Top Hat

Here’s what Philip Larkin said in his 1982 interview with The Paris Review (“Art of Poetry” series):

  • “Hearing a poem, as opposed to reading it on the page, means you miss so much—the shape, the punctuation, the italics, even knowing how far you are from the end. Reading it on the page means you can go your own pace, taking it in properly; hearing it means you’re dragged along at the speaker’s own rate, missing things, not taking it in, confusing “there” and “their” and things like that. And the speaker may interpose his own personality between you and the poem, for better or worse. For that matter, so may the audience. I don’t like hearing things in public, even music. In fact, I think poetry readings grew up on a false analogy with music: the text is the “score” that doesn’t “come to life” until it’s “performed.” It’s false because people can read words, whereas they can’t read music. When you write a poem, you put everything into it that’s needed: the reader should “hear” it just as clearly as if you were in the room saying it to him. And of course this fashion for poetry readings has led to a kind of poetry that you can understand first go: easy rhythms, easy emotions, easy syntax. I don’t think it stands up on the page.” 

Earlier this month Jim Moonan echoed Larkin on Eratosphere:

  • “…to my ears, poetry is the voice of silence speaking to me. To break the silence by hearing a poem recited out loud – especially if I’m not familiar with it beforehand – is inevitably underwhelming to my senses. At worst, it drowns out my own interior voice. It’s a fine line. On the one hand, the assonance and rhythms and rhymes of a piece of poetry are supremely important. And all auditory. On the other hand, the catch for me is that I have to discover those sounds inside my own head by reading it, sometimes out loud, most times silently, always repeatedly, sometimes stopping to dwell, then starting over… A sonnet can take me an hour to read from beginning to end.”

He drew the samealbeit not harsh analogy between performing music and reading poetry out loud, prompted by a poem that was written to reflect the characteristic style of Morton Feldman, composer:

  • “It is a poem I would love to hear read aloud in a way that echoes the music. Performance art. Is it fair to compare a poetry reading to a live performance of music?”

Here’s more on Poets as Performers and the art of performing a poem.

What say you? Do you enjoy hearing poetry read out loud, or do you prefer hearing it in your own head? Do you think SLAM poetry “stands up on the page”? Do you attend poetry readings?

Share in the comments.

If you’ve enjoyed the post, press the “like” and “share” buttons thank you.

Image: Charles Demuth. In Vaudeville: Acrobatic Male Dancer with Top Hat, 1920. Watercolor, graphite, and charcoal on wove paper, Overall: 13 x 8 in. (33 x 20.3 cm). BF1199. Public Domain.

 

The “Catcher Cult”, or the Ambiguity of a Familiar Quote

Children Playing Ball (Enfants jouant à la balle)

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

These great lines pull you in, and you cannot help thinking: Holden really knows something, maybe even the meaning of it all, and yes, wouldn’t it be nice to be like him, to be the catcher in the rye?

Perhaps, we already are like Holden, even if we don’t fully realize it.

“Brad Gooch, the author of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, argues that O’Connor’s issue with Holden Caulfield is “the naiveté of his savior complex.” … Holden is at the center of his own world, and everything revolves around him. … Under the edgy surface of his coolness, Holden is a selfish boy who can’t see himself as he really is.”

So, what is the iconic quote from “The Catcher” about?

  • A selfless desire to serve others?
  • Man’s selfish refusal to acknowledge his own brokenness?
  • The dangers of human beings positioning themselves as saviors?

All of the above?

What does Salinger say to you?

Share in the comments. And if you’ve enjoyed the post, do press “like” and “share” buttons — thank you.

 

Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Children Playing Ball (Enfants jouant à la balle), c. 1900. Lithograph in color on laid paper, Overall: 28 7/8 x 24 in. (73.3 x 60.9 cm)Image: 23 5/8 x 20 1/16 in. (60 x 51 cm). BF493. Public Domain.

 

Does “Write What You Want to Read” Equal “Never Get Published”?

Cup of Chocolate (La Tasse de chocolat)

  • We’ve heard “Write what you know.” We’ve also heard: “Write what you want to read.” Whichever path you follow, the idea is that it will (may, might) lead you to publication. So, it’s publishing advice. Or is it?

“We need books we can sell, not just books we love.” — Janet Reid, NYC literary agent

  • Is it worth it to write something “not you” but sellable?

Sometimes it may be a long but successful road to publishing “the book of your heart.” Here’s what Janet Reid says about Jeff Somers and his book CHUM:

“What Jeff did was smart: he kept writing. He got published. He waited for his agent to get the book into the right hands, at the right time.”

  • You might choose to write “domestic suspense” (or whatever is the go-to category at the moment) for the sake of (some distant day) publishing your “not high-concept enough” novel. But will you have peace along the way?

“I always figured the ‘write what you want to read’ isn’t publishing advice, it was writing advice. Getting published would be a dream, but that’s not the reason I write. I write because I want to tell a story — a story that, yes, is one I would want to read,” says Bethany Elizabeth, technical writer/editor, blogger

What say you? Share in the comments.

If you enjoyed the post, press “like” and “share” buttons — thank you.

Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Cup of Chocolate (La Tasse de chocolat), c. 1914. Oil on canvas, Overall: 22 15/16 x 19 7/16 in. (58.3 x 49.4 cm). BF40. Public Domain.