poetical preconceptions

Last night, not having very much new to take for discussion at the writers’ group, I took along the poem That certain feeling (included in last week’s post not enough poetry).

It is such an old piece that I didn’t think anyone in the group would have seen it, and although I don’t really expect to go back and re-write it, I thought it might provoke some discussion, particularly as it’s quite unlike the pieces I’ve taken to the meeting in recent months.

It did in fact provoke some interesting comments about line breaks and line length, as well as drawing my attention once more to the subject of narrators.

Usually I try to use line breaks to create double meanings or to guide the reader and help them understand how I intend a poem to be read. That often results in very tightly reined in texts with short lines. In this piece, though, the long lines help to create a momentum that my writing often deliberately avoids.

Despite the fact that I found these ideas interesting, I was slightly distracted by the way the others were talking about the poem.

One of my frequent complaints about poetry readers is that they assume a first person poem is written from the point of view of the writer, and during workshop sessions even other poets are liable to fall into the trap of saying “you” when they mean “the narrator”. Last night, though, as the other people round the table made their comments, they used phrases like “The way he feels about her” and asked questions starting “Why does he…”

Of course the narrator of the piece in question talks about a woman as if she were an ex lover. It seems that although the poets in the group may find it hard to control their tendency to confuse writer and narrator, this is over-ruled by their expectation of a heterosexual narrator.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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