Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Poet's I, The Poet's Eye

Lately, as I think I've mentioned, I've been playing with poetry. "Playing" is the best word for it. There's something quite freeing about it, as if I'm more fully tapped into that mysterious voice out in the ether that seems to inhabit the writer's brain at the best moments. It feels like a more open, more direct conduit to the universal subconscious well of imagination.

Which brings me to the poet's "I" and the poet's eye. The eye through which I look at my words and my world when I have staked my flag in the territory of the poet is an eye that looks for strange juxtapositions, words and images that don't normally cohabitate, that take your brain in the direction of the other, of a dimension that has no words but finds its way through the sounds and shape and jostle of words. For me, it's not always the eye of personal experience. It's another entity, another brain, one that lives in another dimension and travels between worlds with an unself-conscious ease.

As a result, the poet's "I" is also different. Some poems come forth in the voice of "I." That doesn't mean it is my voice - the voice of my personal experience of emotions. I try to banish the fear of how readers who know me might interpret these poems. I am not the one speaking through the "I" of my poetry. Somebody else is making their feelings and experience known, or reaching out to another "I" that is a reader.

When I write fictional prose in first person, I am very conscious of my choice of point of view. I choose it inentionally, and my reader knows it is fiction. If they choose to confuse the narrative "I" of my protagonist with the "I" of me, the author, that's on them, but at least we all know there is, at minimum, a pretense of division between the two.

Writing poetry, I don't feel as if I can count on that assumed caveat. People see poetry as more personal and immediate. Will they assume the poet's "I" is also the author's eye? That I am speaking directly through my poems? I think I am, as a reader, guilty of that assumption. Yet, as a writer of poetry, I see it is false. Some poems simply speak, and they speak in first person, and yet they speak a story I know I haven't lived, but I still feel completely certain of the words.

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