Self and the Poetic Voice: Thursday Thoughts

24 May

8:12 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello, all. Listening to Harry Chapin and thinking about an early second cup of coffee. Below is what I wrote on Tuesday, planning to start with it and then give you a prompt. You know the length of the prompt. Can you imagine if this were tacked on?! Mmmm, Neil Diamond…

I have been delighted by the poems that have appeared in response to the collection of statements on self. If you haven’t had a chance to read them, be sure to visit. We have quite a diversity, all of them making thought-provoking points, including the seemingly ‘lighter’ ones.

8:11 a.m. — Atlanta –Tuesday, 22 May

Hi, everyone. Have you ever had a serendipitous moment that is creepy because of its serendipitousness? I had one yesterday while zooming around the poetrysphere.

Last Saturday, I wrote the draft of what you will read below [if I don’t for something like this, I take hours to compose on the day]. Yesterday [that’s Monday], through following links, I arrived at Khara House’s blog, Our Lost Jungle, where, to my astonishment, she is discussing the same thing [visit the post before, as well], in an exquisitely articulate post. I tend to inarticulateness. While I would love to have you continue reading my discourse, I am not going to deprive you of Khara’s. Read hers and come back, or read mine and visit hers.

As an actor creates a persona to speak words, share an experience, convey an attitude, or point of view, so a poet creates a speaker. The speaker acts as a buffer between poets and their audiences. Unless a writer says, ‘This is completely autobiographical’ [and even then, given memory…], we, as readers, can never be sure what the writer tweaked to make the poem work.

My mentor tells the story of an acquaintance approaching him to offer condolences for the death of his father. As he was alive and well, Jack was a little startled. It turned out that the man had read a poem of Jack’s, written in first person, about his father. Everything in the poem was true, except one little thing: for the poem to work well, his father had to die. We cannot assume that any poem is about the poet, especially first person poems.

Many of you might say, ‘But, all my poems are about myself and I don’t pretend otherwise’. That nudges us into the territory of whom we are writing for: audience. That’s a whole ‘nother discourse.

The speaker allows us a measure of freedom. Through a speaker, we can offer points of view that may not be ours, but about which we wish to write, because we feel the topic is important; or, we can show something better by presenting it from another viewpoint; or, we want to play devil’s advocate. The more we are able to present other points of view, the more flexible we become as writers.

The creation of a speaker with her own tone of voice and persona, is easier and clearer, if we are confident in our own definition of self, if we have a strong sense of where we came from and where we are, as a person. A strong sense of self acts much in the way a strong sense of place does, giving us a base, a platform, from which to speak.

At my first rehearsal as a community actor, the cast was told to create a history for their parts. I had to decide what family my part had, her education level, her religion, her hobbies, her fears, her tastes… the more I knew, the more truthfully I could portray her. It’s the same with our writing. The more we know ourselves, the stronger and clearer our poetic voice.

I may, while we investigate prompts to do with self, seem either insufferably nosy, or irritatingly pushy, because this is a personal focus. Therefore, I have caveats, disclaimers, and buts.

First, the why, is outlined above.

Second, the what. No matter what I ask in a self prompt, the choice is yours irrevocably [as it is with any prompt]. You may decide you have no problem with any of the prompts, or with writing about what I ask and sharing it.

You may decide to work at the prompts, but not share the results. Understandable. I have dark corners I would prefer stay dark, even to myself, although I have begun to let in some light. The corners will go back to darkness, but I’m a little more accepting of their contents, with my more adult [alright, aging] perspective. My voice has become stronger in my writing; I can hear it. I also investigate paths I might not have before.

You may decide you want to share with this group, but not the wider readership of your own blog. You can post the poem in comments, as others have before.

You might take a sliver of truth and make the rest up and have your own caveat when you post: “This is not me, but I liked the prompt, so I created a persona” or “I based this on something in my life, but changed a number of things”.

You may completely skip a prompt, or adapt it to suit you and what you want to do.

Third, why now? We have a pretty solid group, at this point. I think we know each other well enough to know how much we can, or want, to share, how safe we feel. That’s important.

Oh yes. I did reread and tweak this. After all, two days have gone by since I typed it. You have written poems and commented. Of course, comment and discuss. We do that well here, don’t we!

I shall see you tomorrow for the roundup; Tuesday for an image prompt — I have been collecting; and next Thursday for any announcements you may have, or a discourse on a topic you want to put before the group. You can leave announcements and topics in comments, or email them to me. If your announcement is time-sensitive, be sure to tell me. Ah… Jimmy Buffett. I do love music clouds.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 24/05/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , ,

35 responses to “Self and the Poetic Voice: Thursday Thoughts

  1. whimsygizmo

    24/05/2012 at 10:09 am

    Finally got Tuesday’s prompt done. I guess that puts today’s prompt at about…the weekend? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Looking forward to exploring persona…


    • margo roby

      24/05/2012 at 10:23 am

      de, you’re safe: no prompt. Tuesday is prompt day but I wanted to lead into it with the discourse on self [I know: Hello? Last Thursday?]. When I got through discoursing, the post was too long to add the prompt, so I kept the prompt where it belonged and shifted the discourse to today. Confused yet?

  2. barbara_

    24/05/2012 at 10:29 am

    On the rare occasion that I write something I’d rather not have glaring at my relatives, I turn off facebook sharing on my blog. (There’s a difference between speaking in the common and speaking in your own space.)
    Then, too, when I write something that sounds absurd from a 64-year-old fat woman, I give it to Nelle. She’s been quiet lately, but now and then she has a burst and starts talking about loins, or God.

    • margo roby

      24/05/2012 at 10:40 am

      Barbara, I am fortunate in that my only FB relatives are husband and children, all of whom have an amazing capacity for whatever I do. I had not thought about the FB factor when people want to publish in my comments because it’s too ‘personal’. That’s cleared up.

      See, that’s the problem with the rest of the world: you don’t have a ’64-year-old fat’ brain, if I may use your words [I know, I did]. Nothing should be absurd coming from us. In fact, the older we get the more we should be able to talk about ‘loins, or God’. The lord knows, we have a whole lot more knowledge than clamouring youth.

  3. Annette Mickelson

    24/05/2012 at 11:13 am

    It is so interesting that you wrote about speaker voice. I haven’t, historically, done much with a speaker but lately I’ve played with it. …and last night I posted a piece where I used a speaker. How bizarre is that (in a wonderful way of course)? I really love being part of your community of poetry bloggers, the prompts, the comments, the support — you’ve created a wonderful corner of the bloggersphere for us. (I refer to you as my professor when talking to family about my poetry – hope you don’t mind).

    • margo roby

      24/05/2012 at 11:39 am

      Annette, my reaction when I read your last sentence: HAHAHAHA out loud. I love that you refer to me that way.

      Serendipity is a little creepy and a lot wonderful.

      Thank you for your comments on our community. We do have some great people, don’t we. I love being part of it to. Now to read your poem. I’m curious to see what happened in our airport.

      • tmhHoover

        24/05/2012 at 10:36 pm

        FYI- My husband knows you just as Margo. We are to the point that by Friday he asks, “Well, what prompt did you ignore from Margo this week?”

        He is a funny guy.

        • margo roby

          25/05/2012 at 7:23 am

          I love it. Give your husband my regards, please.

    • tmhHoover

      24/05/2012 at 10:28 pm

      Annette- Your characters do come alive in this piece- I especially liked “Her lips offer a wooden smile…” People at airports or any public space are so intriguing.

      As you know I have been following/participating Margo’s prompt about self this week. I am thankful to have written my pieces rather quickly. It was time for me to go ahead and define myself (“ornery as a metal fence” and all). And, Margo you may like this, for the first time ever, I will entertain the possibility of what it means to write from another personae. Maybe.

      • margo roby

        25/05/2012 at 7:22 am

        Teri! I have it in writing, now. A couple of the prompts will help you.

        In writing, she said gleefully!

  4. julespaige

    24/05/2012 at 11:27 am

    Courageous Script?

    Am I a coward, I donโ€™t think so.
    With some reassurance and a hug –
    After carefully wording my exit,
    I cleaned out my locker.
    I will not be waiting two weeks…

    I am human, with longing and regret
    I am torn by both grief and elation

    Am I a coward for not wanting visit hell?
    So I would have gotten paid –
    Would it have been enough to compincate
    for the drugs I would need to cope
    When returning to my sanctuary?

    I am mightier than the sword
    I am a survivor and now I can breath easier

    Am I a coward, I donโ€™t think so.
    I am creative, loving, a sensitive poet
    Carefully constructing words
    That are sometimes opinions, sometimes floral,
    Humorous, and fictitious, but they are always real


    Process note: How do you spell โ€˜reliefโ€™. Moving on with or continuing with โ€˜meโ€™. I guess the rest is self-explanatory. I do believe this fits the theme/prompt. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • margo roby

      25/05/2012 at 7:12 am

      Jules, it does indeed fit!. You can have fun with upcoming prompts and apply them to the self you are returning to!

  5. wordsandthoughtspjs

    24/05/2012 at 7:28 pm

    Margo, I love the community you have created here. I only wish I had more time to contribute on a regular basis. I am still working on the “self” prompt, and I believe I will be linking soon possibly over the weekend. I enjoyed this discourse as it is helping me shape my piece more. Thanks.


    • margo roby

      25/05/2012 at 7:14 am

      Pamela, Selfishly, I wish you had more time, too. I miss your regular visits. But, I’ll take whatever time you have to give. I like that you stop by to say hello!


  6. Mary

    24/05/2012 at 10:05 pm

    Doggone, Margo, I was hoping that I would find a ‘self’ poem written by you here today. I am definitely enjoying the discussion!

    • margo roby

      25/05/2012 at 7:16 am

      Mary, I’m enjoying it too! What, you thought I would come out and play? I’m here, in my corner, enjoying all of you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • tmhHoover

      25/05/2012 at 9:28 am

      I am with you Mary….

      • margo roby

        25/05/2012 at 9:37 am

        Ganging up on me! It might work. Excuse me while I go look at quotes on self.

  7. vivinfrance

    25/05/2012 at 2:33 am

    ‘Create a history for the persona’ is something I have done (to the nth degree, down to height, weight, education etc) when writing fiction, and I can see how this would work in writing a persona poem. I shall read, mark, learn and inwardly digest your fascinating advice, professor! In my first persona poem I wrote as an osprey, and in another as a tree, so I must have absorbed the lesson from fiction writing.

    Thank you for the link to Lost Jungle – another born teacher like you.

    • margo roby

      25/05/2012 at 7:18 am

      ViV, I did/do worry that some of the prompts on self will have been done to death by some of you. Do feel free to rewrite a prompt so it’s either more fun, or somewhat new, for you. Professor, indeed. I may have just snorted.

      • vivinfrance

        25/05/2012 at 8:28 am

        It’s the challenge and the struggle that makes responding to your prompts such fun. Why would I want to change that?

        • margo roby

          25/05/2012 at 8:31 am

          Good point, ViV. If you’re having fun then have at it!

  8. Hannah Gosselin

    26/05/2012 at 12:49 am

    Your prompts always cause a deeper gazing inward or outward or upon. I don’t think I’ve ever written to one and not felt that I’d gained a bit more poetical depth! I really enjoyed this and need to break away to get some time to get around and read some of the others too.

    I do the same thing with my “personal” poems as Barb, does and turn of the facebook publicity. Seems to work okay for now.

    Thank you for this posting and for the link to Khara! Smiles~Hannah

    • margo roby

      26/05/2012 at 7:47 am

      Hannah, thank you. Your words are so lovely. Although, you may laugh this summer, when I start posting prompts lite because people are all over the place. I’ll have to see if I can put a thoughtful twist to them. I wish there were some electronic way of taking a count each week, pre-posting! I had some fun prompts last summer and no one was there.

      Khara is a find, isn’t she!

      Now, I am off to Missouri for the weekend.

      • Hannah Gosselin

        26/05/2012 at 10:34 am

        Lite is good too, and befitting for the season! I look forward to them, Margo!

        Is there a way to pre-post? That would be great for the people who can only get to their computer at a certain time…they could catch the “germ, ” and then be affected by it and post when they could!

        Great thoughts this week. Saturday smiles to you!

        • margo roby

          29/05/2012 at 12:11 pm

          Well, now, that’s odd, Hannah. I sent a response right after you commented. It was from my phone [first, and now last, time], so, possibly, the ether tossed it.

          ‘splain to me pre-posting. Wait, you mean, write the post at another time and calendar it, so it comes out a little earlier in the 24 hour day? My problem with that is I would feel odd writing a post that comes out at a different time from when I write it. I would have to be a whole day ahead, so I can write in the morning. It’s psychological, I know, but when I write, i feel you all are right there, even though many don’t see the post until later. What would be the advantage, given I have no due date for the poems?

          I hope you had a lovely weekend. Starting a week on Tuesday makes me feel rushed!


          • Hannah Gosselin

            29/05/2012 at 4:02 pm

            Oh, well I thought people missing the posts was because they were away from desk and I thought what you meant by pre-post was to have sort of a list of your “lites,” so that people would gather the ideas and work on them and get around to posting them whenever they were able. Is that what you meant?

            I like the feeling and truth that in fact we are right here and in real time when you post as you do opting not to schedule posts in advance. It does make for a more in the “now-moment” feel to what you offer that I value.

            Smiles to you, Margo, I hope you’re having a great day!

            • margo roby

              29/05/2012 at 5:27 pm

              Uh oh, Hannah. I said pre-post? Help! I shall trawl back through my posts… hang on… well, nuts. I did a quick skim and remember talking about summer posting but [because I am trying to find it] can’t find my own post. I shall go through more slowly and get back to you.

              Your idea for a little summer chaos is interesting. I have made a note to consider that and whether it would work. I may throw the idea open to the group and see what kind of response comes back.. Summer is so different, it might work well.

              So glad we had this cross-pre-post conversation. Yes, I am smiling.

              My brain is officially marshmallow. We only flew an hour and a half away!

  9. markwindham

    29/05/2012 at 9:23 am

    ok, so I am a bad student. I just now got around to reading this. This subject has come up with my wife on occasion. She will read something of mine and I will get that sideways glance and raised eyebrow. This is when I have to remind her that just because it has the word ‘I” in it does not mean it is not fiction. Her response is ‘while that may be true, there is a lot more of yourself in there than you might realize.’ Fiction/non can become blurred.

    I have run across the situation you describe above where people are offering condolences (or similar statements) on many occasions. I typically let it go without correcting/explaining and consider it a compliment. If they felt it to be real, then I felt good about the result.

    Hope MO was fun. Ozarks? Branson?

    • margo roby

      29/05/2012 at 10:42 am

      Just now?! WELL!

      Okay, that’s my grin for the day. My mentor when he talked about this I stuff asked if we really believed that even an autobiography is truthful… he has a point. But we can’t help but inhabit our poems, I wouldn’t think. Perceptive, your wife and an eyebrow raiser. That’s a keeper.

      MO was fun. The MO-ians are super friendly and have a tremendous sense of humour, all tongue in cheek, usually about others’ perceptions of the Ozarks and its inhabitants. Branson is hysterical. The airport is an airplane shed with the inside gotten up like the country bear jamboree [definitely poking fun at the visitors]. There is nothing that doesn’t happen in, or come through, Branson. I haven’t quite figured out why.

      Skip’s 94 year old aunt is a pip. His cousin gave us a delightful evening with seven or eight wines from the Loire Valley to check out [he’s a connoisseur, bless him]. We enjoyed ourselves mightily.

      • markwindham

        29/05/2012 at 1:39 pm

        Sounds like fun, we have talked about a Branson trip. I like the Country Bear Jamboree! Was my mom’s favorite thing at Disney.

  10. Khara House

    29/05/2012 at 3:45 pm

    I’m sorry I’m just seeing this! Thanks much for the links. I love the way you’ve engaged the discussion of poetic voice and engaging the self through a character/persona/speaker! Very well put, and fun to read! ๐Ÿ™‚


    • margo roby

      29/05/2012 at 3:56 pm

      My pleasure, Khara. I love your concise, articulate style and loved that we were writing about the same sorts of thing at the same time ๐Ÿ™‚



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