It’s not necessarily about me

Shortly after the poem about my mother’s cooking appeared in Carousel, my sister said she still hadn’t seen my poem about Drew. It gave me a bit of a start, because I hadn’t published a poem about him as far as I could recall.

It turns out she meant “A sonnet for my love on the eve of the zombie apocalypse,” which appeared late last year in Caesura. As it contained the words “my love,” she’d assumed it was about my partner. It’s not.

It could be, in the abstract way that poems of this type could be about anyone, but I hadn’t intended it to be specifically about us. For one thing, we don’t own shotguns, and, all in all, we’re woefully unprepared for such a scenario, unlike the characters in my poem. I think of this as my zombie poem, not as a poem about Drew.

And that’s the crux of it. Many of my poems are personal, or contain elements from my personal life, because I’m writing them from my person, but equally as many are not. They contain fictional characters, sometimes designated by “I” or “she” or other abstract terms, but they’re not necessarily about me, even as I write them, even as I (sometimes) identify with them.

It’s an ironic truism that people will read personal details into fiction, while distrusting memoir, but what of poetry, which often deliberately blurs the lines between the two? For my part, I abide by Hassan-i Sabbah’s maxim: Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

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4 thoughts on “It’s not necessarily about me

  1. I find with family that I always have to explain to them that what I write isn’t biographical. Any poetry or fiction coming out of me has biographical elements, but I create works outside of myself. Personal reader interpretation is where the magic occurs.

    1. Yeah, my problem is, most of the poems that my family have seen that have been published have been autobiographical to some extent, because those are the ones I knew would resonate with them.

      But with Facebook and this blog (my family doesn’t follow Twitter), they see announcements for published stuff that doesn’t relate back to me or them, and just extrapolate based on titles. Which, for me, can be jarring, as I have no idea what they’re talking about when they talk about things I’ve written.

      It’s a funny thing.

  2. Well, all I had to go with was the title of the poem. I won’t know what it is even about until I read it. Which I still haven’t.

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