Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Invented Person

The poet Stephen Dunn speaks of the invented person in the notebook he keeps, as sited in The Poet's Notebook. Of course fiction writers invent persons all the time but where do people in poems come from?

Dunn's invented person(s) are made up, "from everything I am, or could be. For many years I was more desire than fact. When I stop becoming, that's when I worry."

I recall talking with someone a while back who said they never liked writing poetry in first person. They did not elaborate on why, but I could think of reasons, though they might not be what caused them to dislike first person.

I know all too well that people tend to see first person poems as all about the poet. To some degree that person could reflect certain attributes or desires of the poet, even if not autobiographical. But I think fiction writers have to get inside the heads of their characters too and there is I believe little difference then between the two trades and the nature of the inventiveness necessary to carry off a good piece of writing.

I take it that Dunn's invented person is always changing. Sometimes I find that aspect of the inventiveness the most difficult to control. It is not uncommon for my "first Person" in one poem to seem very much like one in the next. That is a challenge that requires me much more energy as well as courage to free myself from self imposed limits. You can create this shell of a person, but you have to be willing to step into that shell with the persona that is the right fit. If I'm an axe murderer, it's going to take a lot of tweaking of my personality to imagine what that must be like.

Dunn says these people are "borrowed from the real- abstracted... the person we finally know."

*photo credit -

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