Sunday, April 8, 2012

Context/POV in my poems

I'm tired, I'm not sure that I am correct in calling this problem 'context' or not and it isn't important enough at this moment to research the correct term. But one of the things I have trouble with in my poetry is worrying that people will assume, correctly or incorrectly, that my work is about me. I don't seem to have an issue with this in any of the stories I write, I guess because they are longer and fleshed out more, maybe? Anyway, this is one of the things that makes me hesitate most often when it comes to sharing my poems.

In a lot of my writing I draw on material from my personal life, but in high school I didn't want anyone to know that (let's be honest I still don't want people to know that!), so I would try and make the poems more universal. Usually I would do this by adding in extra lines or stanzas that fit with the rest of the poem but were about situations that were obviously not my own. Here's an example from one such poem:

'Instead, I worry
how drunk my dad will be,
if my friends will notice the bruises on my back,
or if my boss will fire me
when he finds out
I am only fifteen
or that I am illegal.'

Anyone who would've read or heard this poem in my English class would know that at least two of these did not fit me, so I felt it would be unlikely for them to assume any of the rest of the poem was personal to me.

Another way I found around this was remaining gender neutral (well, back then I thought it was gender neutral, now I see that some of it could've been taken as a comment on my sexual orientation) by saying things like "my girlfriend or boyfriend", "my football coach", "my prom dress" all in the same poem. And I have several poems that are in second or third person instead of first person POV.

Even with all the work I put in to disguising the poems, I was still terrified someone would guess that some part of it was relative to me, even if only in a small way. I don't even know what I thought might happen-I kept to myself but wasn't picked on, I doubt I would become the subject of ridicule or anything.

I own several textbooks and handbooks that discuss this, and even though they explain it logically and I have heard people assure me that I worry for no reason, I still get nervous when my poems are read. If you happen to have a tip on getting over this, or if you do the same thing and want to share how you handle it in your work I would appreciate it!

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