Sunday, October 25, 2009

More about You


A while back I wrote about how Linda Hull's poems invite the reader and include a "you" in a poem.

When I write my poems, I don't know who the you is. If I write in second person, the you is often a disguise for I (me), but that isn't the same as a dialogue, of telling someone a story, of sharing something. I want to explore that sharing more.

Sure, you're writing a poem. You're spilling your guts or your thoughts on the page, but that isn't the same as sharing something or confiding in someone—and hear I want to steer clear of the idea of confessional poetry, which seems to be more like the guts spilling.

But maybe not having a specific you is the most confessional poetry—a broad guts-spilling to the world. Not that that's bad, but it might be trickier, because the more people you try to talk to, the more likely you are to dilute your message. And if you (I) talk only to yourself (myself), are you excluding everyone else?

I think I write a lot of my poems with my primary reader/reviewer in mind. That might be to please her or it might be because of what I've learned from her. Is she the you, or is the you me, or the me I will be when I read the poem later? That doesn't sound like much of a conversation, and it doesn't sound specific enough to inform the writing, to strengthen it.

With the you in Hull's poems, a we grows. It's that invitation. But do all my poems need to be written this way? I also don't want this to sound formulaic. I don't think it is. At least, I don't think it needs to be, but when I talk about Hull, I worry that it's sounding like a formula, and that isn't what I mean.

I think a lot about audience. I know that some poets don't think about audience at all, and write purely for themselves. That's a choice, but it isn't mine.

Back to that question of who is the you? Is it different in each poem (even if it's currently inexplicit), and if I'm writing in a series, is it the same for each poem in the series?

If I write the same poem but with a different you—general reader, sister, daughter, husband, one friend, another friend—how will that change the poem?

2 comments:

Michael said...

Joannie~ I continue to enjoy this line of thought. It's fascinating to me to see how others approach as well as view their writing.

T. Clear said...

Do you ever play at changing the subject of a poem? I find this to be a valuable exercise, and then I can look at it from a fresh perspective.