Do you have a tool chest? That box where you keep screwdrivers and wrenches and all those things you can choose from to help you get the job done, whether it be simple, such as hanging a picture or tightening a loose hinge—or complicated like installing new cabinetry. Most likely you do and possibly, like me, you let the better half take care of it.
But as writers of poetry or prose, we also have our stash of tools that we can turn to in order to create the mood, the voice, the emotional response we want in our work. One of these involves picking the point of view or “person” that we will write in: first, second or third.
To give you an example without risking copyright infringement, allow me to use a couple of fragments from my own poetry, all centered on the same topic—death—in order that you can sense how that choice creates an overall effect:
And I Will Die
…On that morning
light will slip through gauzy curtains
while dust motes dance, abandoned
to the whisperings of April’s breath…
On that morning
in the first kiss of dawn,
I will die.
As You Lie Dying
As you lie dying,
the shadow of a palm
outside your window
peeps in, enters,
slips across the comforter,
nestles in its folds,
covers your pain…
…Outside the window now
a murder of crows descends to feed.
The Dead Woman Listens
The woman, dead, listens,
hears the sounds of falling
snow on marble or is it
alabaster? She cannot
recall the stone she chose,
cold, pure, unforgiving to
assaults of elements, to
words accusatory or de-
riding. Impervious is she
to all of these as she lies
wondering why they bother
to pretend to care.
Use of the first person in “And I Will Die” creates a greater sense of emotional intimacy because it is the poet, in her imagination, allowing insight into her experience. There is also a bit of a dreamy quality because the event has not yet occurred.
In the excerpt using second person, the writer is a witness to the event, although she is still emotionally involved. This allows her to relate it with a bit more objectivity, still using images from nature. The ending is harsher than in the first, imagined poem.
Finally, in the third person example, there is a certain detachment. The reader can assume that the dead woman isn’t even known to the poet and is clearly a product of her imagination. (This is an example of Marvin Bell’s Dead Man Poetry that may sneak into a future prompt, if I remember).
For today’s prompt, I would like you to write a poem using the first person–an apparent first person. Perhaps you will leave your reader wondering if you are actually the “person” of if this is a fictional character. I’d like to see you bring an event that may or may not be true. I even challenge you to assume an alter ego and to write a poem in the first person of someone whose point of view and life experience is diametrically opposed to your own. In this way, this will become an exercise, not only in use of the first person to create an intimate portrait of the character, but also a means to stretch your story-telling imagination.
Perhaps the first name in first person poetry is Walt Whitman. For inspiration here’s an excerpt from “Song of Myself.”
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun
Here’s how to join us:
• 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.
For further inspiration, you may want to take the time to read Whitman’s poem in its entirety. It is not short, as you most likely know. You can find it here.
For dVerse, Meeting the Bar, this is Victoria. I look forward to reading your work.