Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Meanings and Persona in Poetry

I ran across this article on the The Guardian website:
Dear Ms Morgan: your guidance is a mini-syllabus on how to wreck poetry
In this piece, Michael Rosen is quite critical regarding how the guidance approaches teaching kids about poetry. Certain comments and criticisms made by Mr. Rosen got this poet thinking. I must say, I agree with much of what he says.
You cannot prescribe and measure children’s reaction to a poem, or confine it to exact or correct meanings
Indeed. Learned adults see varied meanings to poetry. Different adult readers often see different meanings in verse. Why would children, which their marvelous imaginations, be any different?

A fellow poet once told me he thought my poem "The Dark Host" about the Sluagh of Irish and Scottish folklore was actually about a plague. Even the editor who accepted the poem for publication thought it sounded almost like a symbolist piece. That wasn't really my conscious intent when I wrote the piece, but I was flattered that others read more into it than what I originally intended.
the examiner hasn’t noticed that it’s not “the poet” who is in this poem
Duh! I guess they've never heard of poets using personae. I've talked about this before (see my post "J. Bruce Fuller's Article about Persona"). The Poetry Archive site has a definition of persona.in its glossary. Poets have been known to use personae in their works. Poets don't always write poems about themselves. Poets aren't always the narrators of their own poems.

Being mostly a speculative poet who writes mainly science fiction, fantasy, and horror poems, I must say I'm rarely "in" my poems! I often use a persona in my works. Personae I've used include: a wandering ghost ("Souls Adrift"), a fairy looking to entrap mortal, ("An Invitation to Elfame") a homicidal artist ("My Final Masterpiece"), a demonic serpent, ("Serpent of Storms") a woman in love with an incubus ("The Incubus"), a human in love with an alien ("Marriage of Earth and Antares"), a life-draining vampiric entity ("Life is the Life"), a haunted isle ("The Haunted Isle"), a haunted castle ("The Haunted Castle"), and various victims of malevolent supernatural beings.

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