Situated usually at the start to grab notice,
Undulating with the tone, a poem’s voice
Breaks in first, second or third but
Just so you know it is a mere toy, a ploy
Enacted to lull you into feeling. It
Can, based on timing, be real in
Telling what the poet’s being is dealing with.
Over the course of many hours of
Reading poetry with its personage deceiving
Oscillations of meaning occur, when
Both sides of the coin are considered.
Juxtaposing the “I” with you or “You” with the poet
Enhances the mirthful trouble of annotating
Convoluted thinking. The question, at last, I pose is:
Trust a poet’s biography or her verses?
Since I started writing poetry, which was when I was may be 7 or 8 and I composed a little rhyme about the change in animal activity when winter is approaching, I’d always written in first person. I had also always written from my personal life. This is ironic because that first poem, which went something like, “Mr. *something* and Mr. *something* are running here and there; We see the *something* collecting fruit and the fox behind the hare.” (yes, I have forgotten that rhyme and my cousin helped me with it), was written during my vacation in the boiling heat of coastal southern India. It seems that my very first ditty had nothing to do with my actual life. From then on, however, I wrote from what I was experiencing and my voice was always a defiant “I”. It was also how I interpreted others’ poetry. An “I” is always the person who wrote the poem.
Over the last few weeks my judgement has changed drastically. I now know that the voice of a poem is a “speaker” employed by the poet. It may be the poet’s actual being but in many cases it a fictional amorphic voice that a poet inhabits to speak of his/her experience as objectively as possible. It has helped me find better expression, delve deeper into my own psyche and importantly get my message on paper without the block that I face when trying to articulate my fears. There are of course many great confessional poets (Sylvia Plath for example) who have the tremendous talent and courage to paint their difficulties in true colours without having to rise above it. (I don’t think Sylvia Plath had a choice in that matter.)
My “I” is changing in its subject and its objectification. It’s allowing to me make characters out of my speaker, to approach poetry with an eye of fiction. I am also approaching my prose with an eye of a poet. I am used to cross-disciplinary scientific research and I’m surprised to have never considered such crossovers to occur also in the literature. (D’Uh!) Right now I am imagining you wonderful writers (who have learnt “how to write”) reading this post and smiling and shaking your head in a kind parental way. I am growing up. I am standing right now at the door frame of deliberate writing, next to my growth chart, and there is a new notch being added…I have grown an entire inch! How exciting!
However I think I’ll find that my family members will always be perturbed by any personal pronoun in an even mildly troubling poem. (Literary device? What is that? Is that something you can use to call us for free?) I suppose I would have to tag my poems as “fiction” as and when required to avoid some anxious messages from my mother. (I love you mom. I miss you.)