Poems up!

Check out my three poems up on PANK Magazine & listen to me READ them too!

The draft processes for “Daphne as a Housewife” and “Persephone Writes to Her Mother” are here and here.

“Size” (which I unfortunately don’t have the draft process for) is a departure from my normal style. I usually avoid confessional-sounding narratives, mostly for the sake that I like developing emotional truths through fictionalized personas and scenarios. While I love and highly respect certain “confessional-style” poets (Sharon Olds comes strongly to mind), I feel uncomfortable writing in that style. It’s as if I feel more naked, more vulnerable; the wife in the poem “could” be me, and my readers “could” think that it is me, even though many of my confessional poems, like this one, are not about my real life and are still told through a fictionalized persona. “Size” is also only the second “confessional-style” poem I’ve ever had accepted for publication (the first being the first ever poem I had accepted for publication!).

Leading up to its publication, I found myself bugging my husband, “Are you sure you’re okay with it going up? People might think it’s really you.”

“But it’s not.”

“But they might think that.”

“So?” (I am blessed to have a husband like this.)

I still found myself worrying, but this is the nature of writing. Sometimes, we have to push outside of our comfort zone. Confessional-style writing for me is way outside of my comfort zone. It’s both an interesting exercise in creating closeness and in navigating how it feels to put something on the page that doesn’t have the obvious distance of fiction (for example, if I was writing from the perspective of a man, an ape, etc., some speaker that couldn’t be easily attributed to me).

How do you all feel about this?

13 thoughts on “Poems up!

  1. lovely work, i loved the persephone poem especially!

    i too have trouble with feeling too vulnerable in my poetry–there are some things about my family that i want to write about but they feel too personal to write about. maybe i should try tackling them through persona…

    1. Thank you! That’s how I’ve written about some personal things. I usually write a “framework” of sorts, but give it an emotional truth I can relate to. For example, I have some grief about __________, so I write a poem about a girl who loses her father. My grief isn’t about losing my father, but I get the chance to write about my grief and explore it, but I give it to this persona. That helps me focus more on the emotional truth, instead of the physical details (this happened where, to whom, etc.).

  2. I tend to read poetry as personal confession when, as you have pointed out, I really shouldn’t. In the only fictional confession poems I have written, the narrator is addressing a third person, rather than the reader, which worked out rather well. On another note, being older and far removed from the creative writing program of my youth, I appreciate your providing a glimpse into your writing and the process. I was in the program at Memphis before they had a MFA!

    1. Thanks for the your comment! Were you in the program when it was an MA?

      In “Size,” the narrator is addressing a third person, but uses the “I” pronoun instead of “he/she” or “you.” What pronoun did you use for your poems? Why did you choose one over the other? Did you find that created or lessened distance?

      1. But you don’t say who you are addressing in “Size”, so a reader assumes the poet is speaking to him. You are confiding in the reader, no? In the poems I mentioned, a son addresses his dead father directly, “Dad . . .” The reader is really just listening in. (The poems are online in the Summer 2011 Tidal Basin Review, pages 85 and 86, should you want to check them out.) These came out of failed attempts at a short story.

        Anyway, to answer your question, yes, in my day all you could get was the MA at Memphis. I finished mine in 1985. (!) Stay busy at your craft because time goes by fast!

  3. All three are amazing and it was great to hear your reading voice as well.

    Great exploration of persona in your comment above as well. We are driven to write b/c of these emotional truths, but we are afraid of revealing too much. Enter persona! Love it.

    1. Thank you kindly! That’s the first time I’ve read for a recording, so it was a totally different experience.

      Your comments about persona in the past have been helpful too, especially in how you keep your personal life with C. separate from what’s overtly on the page. Gotta protect those great husbands, huh?

  4. Absolutely, it is a concern for writers when writing in a narrative style. It’s a tricky business whether you are writing about yourself or not. It takes courage to write it and share it either way because when someone reads it, they will assume it to be real in someway. I am a poet also, but I think I read more than I write, and I have to admit that instead of referring to the voice as “the narrator” in the poem, I sometimes end up saying “the poet” while discussing a piece, especially when reading personal blogs.

    I still think that the choice of subject, voice, and theme of fiction still says a lot about the character and psychology of the writer. It’s undeniable to me that you can somehow find the writer in his work.

    1. A lot of people say “the poet” when discussing a piece, and I even did it for a long time myself. When I started writing more persona-style poems, I was really uncomfortable when people said, “When /you/ did such and such in this poem,” so I’d correct them and say, “Not /me/, the /speaker/,” and I harp on that today in the writing workshops I teach.

      I also agree with your latter comment. While I don’t live in the worlds of each of the characters in my poems, I definitely write things of a similar vein over and over again because I’m obsessed with them. Birds, shells, violence, family relationships–all reoccur a lot in my work. That says something about me and how I view life. Do you find yourself writing things over and over again?

      1. Shells, check! Family, check! Relationships, check!

        Can we possibly exclude relationships in our work, when everything in the world is relative?

        Everything is just human.

        Life inspires much of the writing, and I do notice the recurrent aspects in mine! I think my poems are in most cases either on things I absolutely hate, or absolutely love and they giveaway my position on the subject I’m writing on as well.

        As for writing “over and over” again? Sometimes this is literal and I would hence challenge myself to write something without using particular words.

  5. Don’t be afraid of confessional poetry! I agree with your husband – so what if people think it’s real. Readers might wonder if it’s real, but isn’t that part of the fun?

    Great job on the recording. I would be so intimidated reading like that. I think I’d have to practice 100 times or more.

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