(See earlier post the present poetic)
I took the “Catless […]” poem to the writing group last night to see if I could get any more ideas about the relationship in poetry between present tense and first person.
Discussion certainly ensued, but there were no definitive answers. (So I’ll be able to go on discussing it here as often as I want, and at whatever length seems appropriate!)
There did, however, seem to be a mild consensus that the third person version read more as a prose anecdote than a first person version would.
Coincidentally, I came across a radio programme about Aristotle’s Poetics. The following quote from Angela Hobbs, Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Warwick, seems relevant:
Aristotle agrees that poetry can be a great moral educator; […] a better moral educator than history, because poetry deals with the universal, whereas history just deals with the particular.
I think this backs up my desire to use the ‘atemporal present’ when I’m writing poetry.
It may sound pretentious, but when I write poetry, I’m usually trying – though probably seldom succeed – to say something that can be read on a deeper level than a simple anecdotal narrative. Both the present tense and the first person are techniques that liberate me from limitations of specifics and yet don’t seem to make the writing unnecessarily vague or abstract.
I think it’s a good thing to question writing habits, though, as many of us have a tendency to get in a rut with style and techniques. While I’m sensitised to this, I think I should probably go and read some more rather than just writing.