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Monday, July 08, 2013

How Personal Do You Get In Your Poetry?

I've just been participating in an interesting discussion on this topic, instituted by Brian Miller at dVerse Poets Pub. As usual, Brian raises questions which make me think, and I make discoveries about myself. This is what I said this time, in part responding to things others said:

Fascinating to read everyone’s responses! As for me, it must be clear to anyone who reads my stuff that I’m essentially a confessional poet, letting it all hang out.

I think there are two issues here: what do you write, and what do you post? In the writing, I am committed to being truthful – my truth, the truth of my feelings and observations; not necessarily the same thing as objective fact. When it comes to the possibility of hurting or embarrassing someone, I can choose to refrain from posting something to my blog, or even from submitting to a lit mag or anthology (though that would have less chance of being seen by the wrong eyes, so I might risk it). But I think the original writing must be authentic.

That being said, I do sometimes write fiction in verse too, which I guess can be confusing for readers. And I sometimes write of myself in the third person, as a literary experiment rather than a disguise. What I think I am doing is creating art – so it would be ideal if the poems could be received as themselves, as works of art, without reference to the personal (except insofar as they strike chords in readers relating to their own experiences). That is probably impossible, though, in the blogosphere where we get to know the people along with their poetry – and it’s nice to get the personal comments too. I just have to accept the necessity of sometimes explaining: ‘That’s not about me’.

I don’t think there is any word or subject that is not fair game for poetry. But I do think they must be used for good reason – because the word is the absolutely right one in that context; or the subject is one which demands that you write of it.

People have different ideas on religion and politics. I write from my personal truth in those matters too. I don’t set out to offend anyone, but if anyone is offended simply because I express opinions different from theirs, well as far as I’m concerned that’s their problem.

Above all, I bow to the demands of the poem.

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