What is an “I” in poetry?

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?

unnamed
Day 3: Prompt-Trust; Form-Acrostic; Device-Internal rhyme

 

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 Β *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 byΒ any personal pronoun in an even mildly troubling poem. (Literary device? What is that? Is that something you can use toΒ 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.)

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23 thoughts on “What is an “I” in poetry?”

  1. Its weird I never thought of this concept in this aspect. I mean “I” write about thoughts, dreams, life of others , etc…but I guess your right how many times do we write about me. Love the acrostic by the way and now you have me thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sam, you spoke my mind exactly! I think that’s the best thing about writing- we keep on growing an inch everyday. Just like you, a lot of times, my pronouns are merely a reflection of a fictional character i try to put myself into. I realised writing in first person, i tend to feel more in tune with the poetic character, haha (if that makes sense).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow… This has a lot of thinking and too much to decipher.
    Thank you for sharing this, and everything you write ..
    There is that particular “standard” when it comes to your writings,
    And hoping to read much more wonderful writings πŸ™‚
    Keep the pace going πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Samjoth. What a wonderful compliment! I am worried now that I have a “standard”. πŸ˜‰ I didn’t think that readers would expect some “level” from me. I will break it soon with some really trashy post. It’s coming! πŸ˜‰ hehehe
      Thank you for all your support and your lovely comments across this blog. It means a lot to me. I will keep going.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Write your mind !! Speak your heart !!
        And you are completely free to “break it soon” πŸ˜€ πŸ˜›
        We would still be hovering around .. he he πŸ™‚
        Keep writing Sam …
        Would love to read you more.. πŸ™‚
        Best wishes ..!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Curse you Sam! Now you’ve gone and made me think! Made me think about why I choose the person for the poem, made me think about why I choose the tense I use.
    At this rate, you will have me spend my day thinking instead of writing! Now I have to go back and reevaluate my choices…

    Also, I have been on the receiving end of many “Dear, is there time thing you need to tell me?” calls from mom. Although I don’t particularly care to explain that “No,mom, I’m not a heroin addict.” at least I know she reads and cares. It’s good to have at least one fan with unconditional positive regard. Even if she does complain that I made her go out and buy a dictionary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have filled me with such glee, Andy! Curse away friend for I too cursed my poetry class instructor when he brought up this discussion. It’s a very important point and I never thought about it before. It doesn’t change what I have written but will affect what I’ll write. I do think now a lot more than write and I read more than I think (poetry that is). That’s why I am doing these prompts, something to get me to write.

      “Even if she does complain that I made her go out and buy a dictionary”- EXACTLY! (times 100) I hear the same thing from her and another cousin who’s kind enough to venture into these murky waters. My mother-in-law on the other hand is very happy using her dictionaries and translators; she even has a folder with my poems printed out (bless her!). We are the lucky ones.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Thank you Derrick.
      Yes, I am. I am surprised as well. The forms so far have been much easier compared to what is being taught in the Stanford course and so funnily enough I have never tried these (at least the last two forms). 7 more days to go and I wonder how far they’ll push it.
      And now am off to read some intense free verse poetry for my other course.
      It’s all very exciting!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I liked this, I liked that you shared that little bit of insight into your writing journey. You started pretty young in this writing thing. Congratulations on that inch of growth. I can’t wait to witness the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I started young and wrote without any idea of what that meant in terms of craft. I have started learning about it and it’s helping me (I suppose).
      It’s good for me to write down these things somewhere. I’ll do a post when my poetry classes end to collect the wisdom gained. Thank you for being in my cheer section. I’m flattered!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha you’re welcome. It’s good that you just wrote. I am technically a useless writer, I’m having to learn so much, I’m wresting with short stories. When the poetry course is over I’m hoping to finish the other blogging U I’m half way through. Lol I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on the growth.

        Liked by 1 person

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