Welcome to dVerse. Tonight, I’m going to organise some introductions in the bar.

Frida Kahlo

A couple of years ago, I was having a discussion with my son about the internet, and the people he was engaging with there. I reminded him that you can’t really believe that anybody is who they say they are. They say they’re 14-year-old boys, but they could be 30-year-old women or 50-year-old men, I told him. I am a great parent.

He pointed out that I have online friends. “How do you know they’re poets, and not a bunch of 14 year old boys?”.

Well, thanks to Bjorn, I’m happy to report that I’ve seen some of you now – and heard your voices! Just before the summer break, Bjorn pulled together an online poetry meet-up/reading – and it was great. So many people from so many places – and time-zones. Some of us made a massive effort to be there (I’m looking at you, Sanaa).  

Rembrandt van Rijn

One of the great things about dVerse is that people write regularly. I feel I know many of you in a very special way, through your poetry. And equally,  I’ve told you things about myself – consciously and unconsciously – that I wouldn’t normally tell people, because that’s what poetry does. It opens us up.

For this prompt, I wanted to make that very explicit. I’d like to see some self-portraits.

Amrita Sher-Gil

If you look online, you can find self-portrait poem generators. You just fill in the boxes and make a poem. I know a few of you are teachers, and I’m sure you’ve done similar things with your pupils. I’ve definitely done similar exercises in workshops, but for this prompt, I want a little more.

If you were giving me a portrait of someone else, you might pull out one feature, or one incident, or start telling me about their eyebrows and head off somewhere completely different. I’d like a self-portrait that does something like that. By the end of this we might not know what colour your eyes are, but we might know what inspires you, or how you take your coffee.

Here are some self-portrait poems. I’ve ordered them so that they move from the more concrete to the more abstract:

Self-Portrait – Barri Armitage

Eyes, covered by thick glass, disguise the two,

four, a thousand parents who passed the blue

recessive gene by blue-hot touches in between

mending the plow or stirring the beans.

Mouth tries to perfect a closed design,

lips stretching since high school trying to hide

teeth that fought for space in a too-small chin

and practiced for hours natural grins.

Skin smooths over the face, guards a world

of feelings that pull and push to be heard:

of blood that rushes when the covers slip

when he takes off my glasses, presses open my lips.

Self-Portrait – A K Ramanujan

I resemble everyone
but myself, and sometimes see
in shop-windows
despite the well-known laws
of optics,
the portrait of a stranger,
date unknown,
often signed in a corner
by my father.

Self-Portrait – Eloisa Amezcua

I’m dangerous;      there’s little left
               inside this body —
that hasn’t wanted      not to subtract
               from the world.

I can divide a man      into men. This
               isn’t a warning
or confession.      Call me what
               you’d like;

in my own mind      I’m a mirror.
               I see everything
except myself.      This way I can’t
               lose: even when

broken, a polished      surface reflects
               whatever looks in.

What interests me is that even though Armitage gives a much more detailed physical description, I feel I learn more about Ramanujan and Amezcua from their less concrete poems.

Gwen John

So feel free to give me a detailed description of what you see in the mirror, or to use that as a springboard to head off in an unexpected direction. Give me a portrait of yourself as an extended metaphor – maybe you see yourself as a cat, or a jar of pickles. Tell me about an incident that sums you up, or made you wonder about your identity. Hog the limelight for a moment or two. Stand up on the bar and let’s have a look at you.

I’m sure you know what to do:

Write a poem and link it up to Mr Linky.

Please put a link back to this post in your post – it increases our traffic, and ultimately yours.

Read and comment – get to know your fellow barflies a little better!


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