Last Saturday for Poetics, Fred Rutherford invited us to write first person narrative poetry, so today I’d like follow suit and explore the second person.
As you know, second person point of view uses the pronoun “you” and its variants to address the protagonist, the reader or a specific person or object.
Point of view is an important consideration for writers of prose. In my experience, first person point of view allows intimate insight into the mind and emotion of the protagonist but limits the same for secondary and minor characters. It also confines the writer to a specific time and place.
Third person, on the other hand, presents the story from the writer’s point of view, allowing her or him to comment on the story and giving omniscience into all the players. A downside is that it restrains the reader from a deeper emotional connection with the protagonist whose reactions always seem just a bit beyond our reach.
As for second person point of view in fiction, there are authors such as William Faulkner who may include short sections or chapters in the second person, but I can’t remember reading an entire novel in this voice, although I suspect it has been done. A few years back, an MFA student in my writing critique group wrote quite effective short stories in the second person. Her stories gave me the impression, as expected, that she was speaking directly to me and, at times, instructing me.
It isn’t rare to encounter poetry in the second person. As poets, we love to address our audience, celebrity figures, other poets or teachers who have an influence on us, people we love (or hate), God, mythological figures, people from our past or lovers for whom we are still waiting. It can even be an object or an aspect of nature.
Consider this poem by the well-known 17th Century poet, Robert Herrick:
Gather Ye Rosebuds while Ye May
By Robert Herrick
(1591 – 1674)
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of Heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run.
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.
(This poem is part of the Public Domain)
The poem is written in the imperative form, instructive to the reader or listener. I read it recently under the title “To Young Virgins,” which gives a sense of his intended audience, though his underlying message applies to everyone, reminding us that time passes quickly.
Another example, this one by Walt Whitman, addresses the city of Manhattan:
City of Orgies
City of orgies, walks and joys,
City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one day make
Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your
spectacles, repay me,
Not the interminable rows of your houses, nor the ships at the wharves,
Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows with
goods in them,
Nor to converse with learn’d persons, or bear my share in the soiree
Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and swift flash
of eyes offering me love,
Offering response to my own–these repay me,
Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.
(Walt Whitman, Public Domain)
For today’s prompt, I invite you to write a poem in the second person. Many of you do this routinely, so I challenge (not confine you) you to a more specific prompt.
• Your favorite poet, one who has influenced your own writing;
• A celebrity you would invite to dinner if you had a choice;
• An inanimate object;
• An entity such as time, a holiday, an event from history;
• Rewriting one of your own poems from 1st or 3rd person into second.
• Write your poem and post it on your blog or website;
• Access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post and add your name and the direct URL to your submission;
• Spend time enjoying and commenting on the work of your fellow pubsters, especially those who have taken the time to do so for you.
• Enjoy your time writing and reading poetry.
When we first began dVerse, Meeting the Bar was intended as an opportunity for peer critique. That aspect has slipped into oblivion—for myself, perhaps because I’m not comfortable with my skills, having had only a one-semester class in poetry in undergraduate school. I suggest you revisit Critique Guidelines as presented by the talented (and well-educated) Luke Prater (you will need to scroll to the end of the post which initially deals with redundant phrasing.) Many of us used to be a part of his on-line critique group and miss this opportunity. For those who would like to receive a critique of your post, just ask for it it in your post, then those of you who are comfortable, jump in and offer your suggestions.
For dVerse Meeting the Bar, this is Victoria C. Slotto inviting you to check out my novel, Winter is Past, at http://victoriacslotto.com/ Happy Holidays to all of you.