I Got the Persona!

In my last post, I wrote about having to write a “persona poem” for this week’s poetry class. My classmates received it very positively, as did the instructor. The poem is below; then, I’ll go over some of the comments I received.

Unrelenting

I am the thing you wish to ignore;
The monkey on your back,
The elephant in the room.

You think if you ignore me
I’ll give up trying,
I’ll mind my own business.

Your business is my business.
My nose will be in it;
My ears will be attuned.

You think denial will obscure me,
That if you turn your back
On me, I’ll go away.

Monster beneath the bed,
Boogeyman in the closet,
Ghost face in the mirror–

You think they are imagined.
I am real, ever so real,
And I am unrelenting.

~~~

Everyone agreed it was a persona poem, even if it was unclear who, or what, the “I” was. Some thought I should provide more clues (details) so the “I” could be identified; others liked the fact it was amorphous. They liked the strong voice and thought even though I used some cliches (monkey on the back, elephant in the room, monster under the bed, etc.) I had given them new meaning. As for that, I considered them tropes more than cliches, but that didn’t come across.

So, now the edit. What will I/should I change? Frankly, I don’t want to include details so the “I” becomes defined–because I don’t know who–or what–the “I” is. As I wrote this poem, I didn’t have anything concrete in mind; I wanted the persona to be undefined. I wanted the persona to be a little scary and ominous. One classmate referred to the persona as an “invisible bully.” Yeah, I rather like that. What I would change is the final stanza, based on a classmate’s comments about inserting a “they” after all those “yous” and “I’s.” The antecedents of “they” are the things mentioned in the penultimate stanza: monster, boogeyman, ghost-face. However, as grammatically correct as that line might be, it’s also passive voice. So, how about this change:

You think you have imagined that.
I am real, ever so real,
And I am unrelenting.

or

You think you have imagined us.
We are real, ever so real,
And we are unrelenting.

Hmm. I don’t know about either change. I’ll have to give it some more thought. What do you think? Comments? Suggestions?

Oh, and I learned a new poetry term–tercet, which is a stanza of three lines.

Poetry Class Update

I’ve had three sessions of the poetry class I signed up for at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, VA. Time is flying, and I am having fun. I’ve received some great and helpful feedback on the two poems I’ve workshopped, enough to make me want to write more poetry.

The second poem was the one I wrote for #FullMoonSocial2014, and the suggested edits were spot on. However, Jeff Schwaner, who came up with the idea of #FullMoonSocial2014, had asked if he could include my poem, “Web of Fate,” in an anthology he was putting together of the poems written for that social media paean to the moon. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the edited poem to him in time, so he went with the original. If you’re interested in seeing the anthology and reading the other poems, you can download a copy for free by clicking here.

“Web of Fate” was actually my fall-back poem. I wrote a sonnet (fourteen lines in three quatrains and a couplet, where every other line rhymes, as does the closing rhyming couplet. I have a friend who is terminal with kidney failure, and I intended it to honor her; but I think I bit off more than I could chew. I wanted to work on it some more (a lot more!) before I workshopped it, so “Web of Fate” stepped up as the designated hitter.

For this week’s class, we had to write a persona poem–terminology which sent me to the Google for a definition and some examples. A persona poem is defined as “a poem written from the point of view of the object or person being written about.”* Sounds easy, right? Frankly, I was stymied, but a line came to me during our weekly SWAG Writers’ write-in on Monday: “I am the thing you wish to ignore, and I am unrelenting.” I found that line intriguing, especially when I split the sentence and made “I am the thing you wish to ignore” the opening line and “And I am unrelenting” the last line.

We’ll see on Thursday if those and the sixteen lines in between actually do constitute a persona poem.

*Willow Hambrick – Educator, Literacy Coach, Writing Coordinator, Royal Spring Middle School