09 April 2010

April Poem A Day Challenge Day 9

Writing about yourself probably seems the easiest thing in the world to do. After all, we know ourselves (somewhat) and know our own likes and dislikes (usually) so it would logically follow that a poem on our favorite subject (me!) would be a no-brainer. As they say "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear".

Poetic Asides: "For today's prompt, write a self-portrait poem. Other artists study themselves to create compositions (not all of them exactly flattering either), so it is only natural that poets, who are word artists, write self-portrait poems from time to time. In fact, some poets make self-portrait poetry "their main thing." For at least today, make it yours."
Self-portraits are some of the hardest things to do. How to be honest to your audience and honest to yourself without exposing everything to the cruel light of Other People. Ego has a say, for some, a bigger say than others. I think sometimes think artistic self-portraits to be easier than written self-portraits. . . but mostly, we tend to exaggerate our good features and downplay our bad - at least a little bit. For me the impulse in writing is to be a tad too honest on somethings, and too circumspect on others.

The challenge in self-portrait, confessional, any of the "I" type of poetry is to talk about yourself in a manner that doesn't make other people roll their eyes and walk away-or turn the page. Somehow you have to bring out the things in yourself the reader can identify with, enough so it pulls them through the poem. Empathy is far stronger than sympathy.

My poem for today came out shorter than I expected. After all, this was me I was waxing philosophical about. But the poem demanded to be short and to the point. So "Mid-Life Eval" ended up being five stanzas of three lines each. It insisted on ending with a question, which is something I don't like to do, but the question is theologically strange, so I can live with it. It wasn't as kind to myself as I'd hoped it would be, but that's the danger of letting the muse have free rein to your psyche.

Cadmus Sowing the Dragon's Teeth
by Maxfield Parrish


kathleen Cassen Mickelson said...

I wish you had posted your poem, although I can understand why you may not want to. (My curiosity is now officially killing me.) Dead-on in your assessment of how it is to write about self. I'll be thinking about this all day....and is there a possibility of over-thinking? Oh, yeah.

How often do you write about yourself in third person? That's my favorite way to tackle myself...and blend in with fictional selves.

Constance Brewer said...


I can send it to you in all its unedited glory. Just wanting to keep most unpublished for the time being.
You're right, over-thinking can produce crap, so finding the line between tight editing and just enough is crucial.

Third person? I try and flip poems from first to third to see if they come across better, sometimes the "I" is just a bit too intimate for my comfort level. Also, every "I" poem is not necessarily autobiographical. There is a place for the fictional selves. :)